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Moving abroad is full of ups and downs – like a roller coaster. While everyone’s emigration journey is unique, more often than not moving abroad (and returning to Ireland for that matter) can bring you on wild and unpredictable ride. To help you prepare for all emotional the highs and lows, we are launching our Roller Coaster series, where emigrants share their stories for the benefit of other global Irish.

Homesickness is a common experience among emigrants, but it affects everyone differently and at different moments. It is therefore tricky sometimes recognise the signs. In the first car of our series, Darren Jonathon of Average Joe Down Under reflects on his experiences of homesickness as an emigrant in Australia surfing rocky emotional waves and stresses the importance of looking after mental health.

Homesickness Roller Coaster

Homesickness is one of those things that creeps up on you if you do not recognise the signs. I am going to tell you about my experience, as it hasn’t been easy over the last 13 years but what I will say is that it gets easier when you can recognise the signs beforehand.

My homesickness never really kicked in until 2014, two years after I first arrived here. Other people never went through it, but I think it was mostly because they had made the decision to never return to their homeland. Those thoughts have never entered my mind and still to this day never do.

Homesickness took a long time to hit me, probably because I was studying back then for the first two years, busy and treating it like a holiday up until then. The moment I sort of decided I wanted to stay longer, it started. Like a flood, I felt like I was drowning in a sea of emotions that would change throughout the day. One minute I would be crying, the next  happy, then I would get this wave sickness like I was on a roller coaster. This would go on periodically for a period of time each year throughout the years until 2019.

From about 2014 until 2019 I think a big part of struggling with homesickness was that I neglected my mental health. In 2019, I decided to seek some assistance from a therapist who really helped me work through some of the core reasons that I felt this way and some life issues which I think was the root of the homesickness.

Ultimately, the beauty in homesickness is that it challenges you to cope, get to know yourself and really pushes you to your limits of what you think couldn’t be possible mentally.

It took a lot of therapy to see the signs clearly as you don’t often know what it is until you are too far down that spiral. Here are some of the signs before it happened each time:

  • Depressive Symptoms: Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness. I started to feel down (more than just a bad day) and cry often for no reason. This often caught me off guard as it felt like being adrift at sea
  • Anxiety: Increased worries, especially about things happening at home or things I was missing out on. The problem is when you actually check- nothing has changed at home
  • Obsessive Thinking: Constantly thinking or comparing the new environment to home. Sometimes this would also manifest in OCD habits such as checking plugs, thinking the room would go on fire if the plug was not turned off. Yeah, I know…crazy right!
  • Changes in Sleep Patterns: Difficulty sleeping, frequent waking during the night, having nightmares, or oversleeping which was common and left me feeling tired throughout the day
  • Physical Symptoms: I used to binge eat and, or at times, drink or sometimes eat too little depending on my mood
  • Social Withdrawal: Avoiding making new friends or participating in social activities, instead preferring to be alone, often staying in on nights when people were actually doing something and thinking they don’t want me to attend
  • Irritability: Getting annoyed or angry more easily
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Problems focusing on tasks or remembering things.
  • Desire to Return Home: Feeling an intense urge to go back home, even if it’s not in my best interest and often would look at flights everyday, multiple times per day.

Moving country is an exciting and rewarding experience, but there will still likely be days that you feel down, overwhelmed, or even homesick. It’s completely normal!

The key to getting through these times isn’t by powering through and hoping they go away but by actively feeling the emotions, working through it in a way that feels right to you and taking steps to try and limit bad days happening too often. This can be in the form of creating healthy habits for yourself, finding a supportive network of friends, just giving yourself a break or seeing a doctor or therapist. I’ve written a few blog posts on the site about homesickness and expat guilt that you can read on Average Joe Down Under, including a guide on how to deal with homesickness when living overseas and 7 top tips for good mental health as an expat.

About Darren and Average Joe Down Under

Darren Jonathon, founder of Average Joe Down Under, is a dual citizen who decided to move to Australia from Belfast over 12 years ago. Through his Average Joe Down Under blog, podcast, and Instagram, Darren shares tips and advice on everything living down under – from finding a job to navigating the healthcare system. In his ‘honest expat guide,’ shares his own experiences of living in Australia, from the highs to the lows and all the mistakes that cost him dearly, so others do not have to repeat them!

In addition to the links above, be sure to follow Average Joe Down Under on TikTok and YouTube. You can also join his moving to Australia Facebook group. He has also been featured on the greener fields podcast with Hannah Nash, among other outlets.

Darren blogging in Sydney for Average Joe Down Under

Support Resources

If you are struggling with homesickness, you are not alone. Our sincere thanks to Darren for sharing his experience to help others. Pay attention to your own feelings to learn your own signs of homesickness and ill mental health, as they could alert you to when you may need additional support.

For support, please visit our Minding Yourself page for resources or contact us. To find welfare organisations near you, browse our Irish Diaspora Directory.

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