By Rajesh Ragbir
Some years ago I was having a chat with a friend who I knew when I was growing up, he is about 10 years older than I and we had not seen each other in a couple decades so we catching up. He had migrated to the US and we were talking about our immigration experience.
I mentioned to him that when I came to Canada in 1992 it was a very tough time to be a newcomer as I was fresh out of university with no work experience and specifically, no Canadian experience. I also said that upon looking back I thought that I had gone through a minor depression for the first couple of years.
I then went on to explain where I thought that came from and how it influenced my behaviour. I spoke about not knowing anyone outside of my family and sitting at home trying to find jobs and getting frustrated. This led me to not want to go out, to be irritable with my family and to become distant and not want to talk to anyone.
My saving grace was that I was into sports and I played football (soccer) and table tennis almost everyday to keep from totally melting down. I told him that luckily I was not into alcohol or smoking, otherwise I could have easily gone deep down that hole.
He listened quietly to everything I said and then told me about himself and his brother and he essentially validated my experience by confirming that they had passed a similar road. He said based on hearing my story his brother’s behaviour made more sense, because his brother would usually sit at home and drink beer with his friend when he came home from work and on the weekends.
Now we were all country boys living in big cities so one might argue that it was double culture shock, new country (and climate!) and different living environment (country to city); and one would be correct to state that. It’s not the whole story however.
I was talking to another fellow Trinidadian immigrant and he was from the capital of that country. He came to make a sales call to me and we chatted afterward. The conversation turned to the question that most of us ask ourselves during a winter storm, “What the bleep am I doing here?”
I mentioned that a lot of us go through periods of depression but never talk about it to anyone because we feel uncomfortable with the topic plus it’s not an exciting topic. He too listened and it may have been because he was in my office and knowing what I do for a living, but he said he did not like living here, but it was because of his children and that he felt slightly depressed too. He was used to sunshine and rain year round and warmth, and here he was holed up indoors for a major part of the year. Added to that, his social circle was very small and for most West Indians that is anathema.
My point in all of this is that we share a common experience and it’s one that most of us never really talk about because we feel we are the only one going through it and that to have these feelings, something must be wrong with us.
Here is my wish for the New Year: let’s start a conversation about the things that bother us. Not just complaining, but we can start there if we like. Let’s begin to create the life we want, the reality that we want. Not just subsistence, whether that be financial or emotional.
The Happy New Year you have is the one that you make. Share your story with someone and if you can’t find anyone that you are comfortable with, then tell me. I am always willing to listen. Always.
Rajesh Ragbir BSc. ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor in Ontario and practises at Feel Good Natural Health in Oshawa (905-571-1100) and at Scarborough Naturopathic Clinic (647-287-1063; 1585 Markham Rd. Suite 211). He has a special interest in stress, digestive health, women’s health and cardiovascular health. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @ragbirND.
By Rajesh Ragbir