Moving Abroad With Depression, It's OK to be Scared

This September, I’ll be moving to Madrid, Spain a.k.a, the most multicultural, fast-paced, never-a-dull-moment city in Europe. Or so I’ve heard. Truthfully, I’ve never even visited the place. I have not even the slightest clue of where I’m going to live and I only know one person in Spain (aside from the legions of famous Spanish celebrities that I’m obsessed with…hello Yon González!) and that person is my Italki Spanish tutor. She lives in Barcelona, not Madrid. Moving abroad with depression is possible, although scary, and living abroad with depression does not have to define you, or your whole experience while abroad.

Photo by  Victor Garcia

Photo by Victor Garcia

Making friends has always been difficult for me, as a shy, black girl with a quiet voice and a tendency to fall back and let others start and control conversations.

When people ask me whether I’m nervous about taking this huge leap, I can only nod. I know how crazy it sounds to just randomly pack my bags from a place that I’ve lived in for fifteen years and move to a country where I know practically no one. Who knows all that could go wrong? Making friends has always been difficult for me, as a shy, black girl with a quiet voice and a tendency to fall back and let others start and control conversations. And while I plan to join clubs at the university I’ll be attending, join Meetup groups in Madrid, and attend the Las Morenas de España meetups and retreats (of course), there’s still a chance that I’ll struggle to make those deep, awe-inspiring friendships that I rely on so much. After all, it’s happened to me before.

Four years ago, a seventeen-year-old me packed my bags and booked it all the way from the western plains of Canada, to the East side of Canada, where I would study at the world-renowned University of Toronto. That move was the start of my journey into severe depression, as I struggled to make friends and develop meaningful relationships with my peers around me. I was the girl who avoided the dining halls just so I wouldn’t have to sit by myself and feel embarrassed. So, I understand when well-meaning friends and family ask: What will be different about this time? How do I know I won’t spiral into another deep depression? Is this just another one of my crazy whims? Maybe. But there’s something to be said about living an unpredictable life. One that grabs you by the reins and pulls you in directions that you’d never considered going in before. I’ve spent years of my life feeling purposeless, and now I live for these moments of exhilaration and uncertainty. Of not knowing where life is going to take me, but being ready with open arms to experience adventure.

Scared about moving abroad with depression? You’re not alone….

This trip will be hard. I’ll probably cry…a lot. As someone with chronic mental health issues, I know the first thing I need to do when I get to Madrid is find a good therapist and doctor. I don’t know how long I’ll be in Madrid…maybe six months, a year, or the rest of my life. But there’s something in me doesn’t want to let mental illness frighten me out of living the life I want to live. It isn’t going to stop me from being brave and living a fulfilling life filled with adventure and awe and mystery.

Yes, I have severe depression, but I also know how to manage it and I’ve been preparing myself. And depression is far from the only thing about me. I’m also crazily obsessed with Spanish TV shows (one of the main reasons I’m moving to Spain, if I’m honest) and Spanish culture, as well as the language—I mean, have you heard it? It’s crazy gorgeous. And while you can never truly be fully prepared for a move abroad, I’ve come as close as you can get. I’ve learned Spanish and gone from zero knowledge of the language to a B1-B2 level in ten months (yes, it can be done!), thanks to dozens of hours spent studying on a weekly basis. I’m also in the process of getting my Spanish visa.

Photo by  Eleni Afiontzi

So, whether this trip is a smashing success, or a laughable flop, it’ll be worthwhile. I’ll be saying to the universe that I’m following where it leads me, and that, my friends, is all it takes to live a life worth living.

See you in Madrid!

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Ever since watching Gran Hotel last year, Grace has a had a slight (okay, huge) obsession with Spanish TV shows. When she’s not writing for Divine Dark Skin, 21Ninety, HerCampus or Unwritten, you can find her watching La Casa De Papel, Las Chicas Del Cable, or Gran Hotel (for the hundredth time). In the rare moments that she’s not freelance writing or swooning over a tv romance, she’s probably reading a YA novel, petting a dog, or keeping up with juicy pop culture news. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies (Spanish ones, of course!), consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in English and Pre-Law.