My first international experience

When I was first diagnosed with Depersonalisation Desorder, I was three months away from taking off to study English in Ireland. The diagnosis was essential for my healing process, but I can’t really measure the impact it had in the outcome of my trip. What I know is that I left my homeland full of expectations and complete unaware of the real situation in Dublin.

As someone who had never travelled before, I decided to hire an agency to guide me through my year in Ireland. Big mistake! You count on pay them and they give you nothing back!

It was 2013, and the minimum wage in Ireland was EUR 8,65, but my agent assured me that, although it required some effort on my side to find the job, they usually paid around 12 euros per hour. It might have been true years ago, before any crisis reached Europe, but not only finding a job was much harder than I was told, I couldn’t find anything that paid a penny more than the minimum, if they paid the minimum.

My agent also told me that I could live with EUR 550 per month. Even bigger bullshit. With the rent prices in Dublin, you would be lucky to find a room for less than that.

Back then I was trying to build a life for myself in Dublin. I wanted my own place, I wanted eventually find a job in my area, and continue my studies. I also found weird to permanently share a room with a stranger. I needed my privacy. I know that for some people it’s just normal. But as someone who was never allowed to even bring friends over growing up, I found the idea of sleeping next to a stranger completely disturbing. A cousin of mine who had experience living in London also advised me to under no circumstance share a room. I later found it was solid advice.

Somehow I managed to spend an average of 450 euros per month during my entire stay in Ireland. But half of the time I was homeless. I crashed at friends’ places, and I lived in hostels, like many others did/do during the housing crisis in Dublin.

I had issues with roommates and flatmates. From messing with my stuff to being sexually inappropriate. I have been robbed and unpaid. On my second day of work in Temple Bar some dude left a 90 euro bill unpaid and I had to cover it from my empty pocket. At the time, I was completely broke and my tips were essential for me to keep paying for my hostel. It took me over a week to be able to repay the bar.

When I was completely broke, had destroyed my pseudo relationships because of my constant need of help, and I had no energy to keep fighting, I went back home. I am still not sure if I made the right decision at the time. I thought that time would tell, but I am still not sure.

The fact is, if I were mentally healthy, I would have found solutions for my issues, like normal people do. Shit happens to everyone, and very few people actually have it easy. The thing about people with issues, is that we don’t have healthy coping mechanisms. It is even worse when you don’t have a support system. Or when you have a family that leads you to believe that they will help you out, but not only they don’t help you out, they screw you over. Without the right foundation, you just let little issues become big issues, which bring more issues, like a snowball. If I were a healthy person, with a support system and healthy coping mechanisms, I would have found a way out. But crippling anxiety won’t let you go that easily. For too many months I was trying to keep my head out of water and I was exhausted. I needed something and the only thing I could hang onto was the idea of being home.

I surely would have kept struggling and by the time my visa expired I would probably not be able to renew it, forcing me out of the country anyway. But coming back home was a huge step back for my mental health. I was able to find a decent job that allowed me to save money to start travelling again, as long as I remained in my parents’ house. It was a good experience, but frustrating, to say the least.

I spent almost a year away, and upon my return I was able to see my family’s true colours. It’s like when you walk into your room and realise it stinks. You hadn’t noticed before because you were there for so long you got used to it, but now it’s undeniable.

I realised my issues were not there just because. I was programmed to be unable to control my own life, to be unable to solve my own problems. I was programmed to serve as a scapegoat and be blamed for my family’s shit.

But for the first time in my life I believed I could change it.

First Steps

I am not sure what I expected when I decided to leave my hometown. All I knew was that I didn’t have anything to lose. I was jobless and I didn’t have any close friends. I was sick and tired of my parents covert abuse and too old to be living with them. I was unable to see a future for myself that didn’t involve a job I would hate – and eventually lose because any of my mental issues -, an increasing amount of debts, like the rest of my family currently have, and a crippling loneliness because I am unable to let people get too close.

My mental sanity was my priority, and I knew that the first step was to get out.

The first time I travelled outside my own country and without my family was when I moved to Ireland for an exchange program. It was a liberating experience, despite everything that went so wrong. I can safely say it literally saved my life!

Being in Ireland exposed me to a whole new world of possibilities. People, things, opportunities. Of course I wasted it all because of fear. Things would have gone incredibly better if I had been mentally healthy, as I would have been able to handle things better. Going back home made me incredibly sad and it felt like huge steps backwards on my mental health. So I made my goal to leave again.

My desire to travel was bigger than my anxiety. I felt stuck, and as if I would die if I stayed where I was. I don’t remember feeling particularly suicidal, but I felt that I was getting sicker and sicker, and eventually I would stop living. I couldn’t handle the idea of continuing for months or years in that state of nothingness. I couldn’t find a job, and I was certain that if I did, in few months I would hate it and quit or be fired. Packing my shit seemed the best choice, even if I suffered and died. Suffering and dying doing something is less sad and pathetic than suffering and dying doing nothing.

Little by little, putting myself in these extreme situations, I have been learning to deal with these mental issues.