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The "Costa Blanca Effect" Part 2

Hello, welcome back. In Edition 694, I introduced the concept of "The Costa Blanca Effect". This week Iíll recap briefly and then begin, as promised, a look at things you can do to help yourself, or people you care about, who are impacted by it.

To recap the idea, how is it that depression sets in for some of us in spite of our having and appreciating a brand-new, exciting life here in Spain? Somehow, 6 to 18 months after adopting our new life-style, and in spite of the sun and warmth, and the excitement of new people and places, we find ourselves lethargic and unable and unwilling to do very much.

I believe the excitement of the new masks the huge losses we make when we relocate. A huge jolt to our sense of who we are happens when we leave our homeland for a new life. This is the source of the excitement we feel when we get on a plane to go on holiday, but then it is temporary. For us now living here, it is permanent and as we step on the plane we leave homes, jobs, family, friends, community and our language. So what can we do about it?

The most significant aspects of coming through this temporary state, which is all it has to be, are to allow yourself to become aware that you have an issue and to accept that, if you undertake the work, you can manage your way out of it.

Spend some time thinking things through. Perhaps you might write things down every time you become aware that something is missing from your life. This might be someone or something you have left behind Ė a parent or perhaps the grand-children or perhaps a friend or neighbour you used to talk to over coffee when you needed help or a bit of moral support. It could equally be a loss of agency, resulting from moving country and losing your ability to "speak". By this I mean, for example, that before you probably sorted all your own household and personal affairs and never gave it a second thought. Here, unless you arrived with a good working knowledge of Spanish, many of these day-to-day tasks suddenly require enormous effort and the support of others. Overnight we are like children again, being dependent upon others for basic things. Now however they are things like: organising an appointment with the hairdresser; sorting a water bill; telling a plumber what you want, or more importantly donít want; finding out how to M.O.T the car; or even, sadly, using the pictures on grocery product packaging to work out what is inside!

By writing these things down, we can become aware of the elements that have combined to make us a victim of The Costa Blanca Effect. What you are doing, if you like, is a piece of self-analysis. Then we can start to make a plan to work our way out of it, and improve the quality of our lives and relationships along the way. We can make more likely delivery of the dream we had for our new lives here.

However, as in all therapeutic work there is something that has to be done before you can really move forward and enact your plan. This is the most difficult and frightening element, but also the most freeing and energising part of any therapeutic work. It is allowing the feelings for what has been lost to come forward. You may find it easy to work through and acknowledge intellectually what has been lost. However allowing feelings of sadness, (and perhaps the tears that might come with them), to come up is the harder part. But this is the key to moving forward. You can find replacements or compensating elements for many of the things that you have given up for your new life in Spain, but they will never actually be the same. What has gone has gone and needs to be mourned. Moving here is terribly exciting, but on another level and at the same time, it is the equivalent of a series of bereavements. If you find deeper, older issues come up for you, you may feel that you need a guide and support through the process. This is where psychotherapy may be beneficial.

You might want to keep some of your feelings to yourself initially, but it usually always helps to talk to someone else - as long as it is not the only thing you talk about to that person Ė to get their perspective. This could be your partner or a friend. You will be surprised how many people will share their version of your experiences. Talking can help bring a couple together when the strains of a new life can push you apart, but just make sure you talk about things as feelings that are yours, and that you phrase things so that the other person isnít made to feel in some way responsible for how you feel.

Once again, Iím out of column space. Next time weíll look at creating an action plan which will help, you or your partner or friend, acknowledge losses and plan the way forward. If you have been impacted by The Costa Blanca Effect, how did you find youíre your way out? Please write or Email in absolute confidence on this, or on any other mental health issue to steveinaltea@gmail.com  See you next time.