If we’re said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times. 2020 has been hell! And not only this, but it doesn’t look like there’s any end in sight. Unfortunately, COVID isn’t going to go away the moment the clock strikes 2021. This means that swathes of people across the world are unable to spend their holiday season with family this year, whether that’s because of protecting their relatives, or because they are unable to travel.
With this, comes homesickness – especially if it’s something a person has been looking forward to. In short, homesickness is the distress caused by being away from home. Its cognitive hallmark is preoccupying thoughts of home and attachment objects. Sufferers typically report a combination of depressive and anxious symptoms, withdrawn behavior and difficulty focusing on topics unrelated to home.
We spoke to one reader, Annie* who told us her experience of homesickness this year…
Lockdown Made Things Worse
Annie is working a full-time job in London and cannot go back to her home country to see her family this year because of COVID. She has not seen her family for almost a year and usually this doesn’t affect her much – however, she believes lockdown and the isolation that came with it made the situation worse, and at this point she would be grateful for the extra support from her family.
Annie works in a very high-stress environment where working standards are extremely high: “I feel I am underperforming. I am also doing a diploma alongside my job which is giving me this constant stress at the back of my mind at all times,” she said, “In January there will be a change in shift pattern where I will have to do an overnight, on-call shift by myself (I am a pharmacist working at a very busy NHS trust) and I genuinely feel not ready and don’t want to make poor clinical decisions and this is definitely adding to my stress.”
Annie had a meeting with her tutor last week and broke down because she feels so low and at some points doesn’t know why she is still doing her job. However she admits that the program she is currently doing is extremely difficult to get into: “I feel like I cannot give up just yet.”
Missing Out On Family Life
“I miss my family everyday and I feel I miss them more especially around this time of year…”
“I miss my family everyday and I feel I miss them more especially around this time of year,” Annie said, “Whenever I think about them it just makes me very emotional because I genuinely don’t know why I am spending my time here but not with them.”
Annie always feels at the moment like she’s missing out, but feels this can’t be helped because she chose to stay in the UK to work: “It was my decision.” Annie also worries about her dogs back in her home country, as they are getting older and she feels like one of them doesn’t have much time left due to his health condition. “I feel fucking guilty that I never get to spend time with him and walk him (his favourite activity) as much as he would like to,” she said, “Previously when I was back home I focused my time on going out to meet my friends rather than spending time with him.” Because of this, Annie now imagines not being able to see him again and feels her heart break. I” am not religious but I have been praying for him every night for the past 4 months.”
Additionally, Annie feels bad for her parents because they still have to worry about her “even though I am a 26-year-old adult.” She tries not to tell them that she is suffering but her sadness and stress unfortunately just builds up.
Longing For Old Friendships
At the moment, Annie is spending more time alone rather than spending her time going out with friends she genuinely does not wish to see. This is because she doesn’t feel her friends here in the UK are as close as the ones she had in her home country. She feels that this attitude is “so bad” and is “further blocking me from the outside world”, but she feels like I can’t open up to them and they won’t understand.
“Sometimes I see my sisters having so much fun in my home country, and I get very sad and I wish to join them. I feel so FOMO but honestly there’s nothing I can do.”
Annie says that this year has been terrible for her financially. She changed her job which lead to a massive pay cut and on top of this, her pet rabbits have incurred huge vet bills . Additionally, her rent and bills mean that she can no longer afford things she likes to buy or even eat. “I feel so socially isolated and I can’t even rely on materialistic objects to cheer me up. I feel ashamed that I am still so financially unstable at this age.”
“I live on my own and honestly, it is very tiring. Just the cleaning, cooking, looking after the rabbits and myself gets very unbearable especially after work.”
Impact On Mental Health
“I feel extremely emotional and literally, I could cry everyday,” Annie said, “My mental health is extremely unstable and I could really do some family support. I know they are trying very hard to support me but obviously it is difficult to the extent they can help. Sometimes I just send some random messages in the family group just to remind them I’m there…”
It’s clear that being homesick can really seem into every aspect of a person’s life, and it’s very difficult to move past, especially at the moment. However, there’s a couple of tips that could potentially help:
#1 Flex your mental health muscle
Manage your anxiety and stress levels daily. Don’t just try to combat this when you’re feeling your worst. If you’re starting to feel sad, it’s time to act.
#2 Make a scheduled call
Having a scheduled Zoom or telephone call with the ones you are missing the most will really help. It’s something to look forward to, and something you can rely on when you need it.
y Imagehic#3 Distract yourself
You don’t need to start an entirely new hobby, but sitting and stewing about something you cannot change won’t help. If possible, take your mind off things. This can be as simple as starting a new boxset on Netflix if you fancy it!
#4 Reach out for help
Sometimes these things aren’t enough and you may need extra support. You can reach out to your GP for help, or contact a mental health helpline if you are really struggling.
Stay strong lovelies, this won’t last forever.