Q: Our family relocated to Paris from California in June 1995, and I was really excited about the move. But more than a year has gone by, and I find myself dreading the coming months, especially since returning from my recent summer trip home. I really miss California and my life there, and am sick of hearing people tell me how lucky I am to be here, or how wonderful Paris is. I don’t feel that way at all, and wonder if there are others like me out there.
A: It sounds as though the grief over what you left behind runs deep for you, and is working against the capacities you obviously have (since you were successful in California) to build a life for yourself. But studies show that many people need about 18 months to reinvest in a new environment after a major move, so you are still within the norm. Work (or activity) and relationships being the two organizing poles in our lives, you probably need to search out one activity that piques your interest and to which you can redirect the energy that you are now using on feeling bad.
A word of caution here: participating in monument and museum tours is interesting and informative, but will never provide enough involvement or commitment to get you out of yourself. Even if volunteering feels like a comedown to you, look at it as a strategy to help you become a participant rather than a spectator. In the area of friendships, it is essential to find one or two people with whom you resonate at a deeper-than-social level, so you won’t have to “fake it” all the time; this often happens within the context of a shared task.
The autumn is a good time to consider both these areas, as helping people meet one another and find worthwhile projects for their energy is a major concern of all organizations in the English-speaking community at this time. Even if you attended Bloom Where You’re Planted or other such programs last year, be aware that you are in a different frame of mind now: don’t allow the discouraged part of you to prevent you from going again. Regularly scan the Free Voice and other publications for announcements about support groups, which can be extremely helpful when adjustment is a problem. And don’t shy away from the idea of a few counseling sessions: in allowing you to express fully what is going on, counseling might help you get a better handle on the deeper dynamics of your dissatisfaction.
Jill Bourdais is a psychotherapist practicing in Paris both privately and in a hospital setting. A specialist in couple/family problems, she also teaches PAIRS, a skills-building course in intimate relationships