Does your cell phone have a “power saving mode”? One of the features of the phone I use is that it has an “ultra power saving mode,” where you can turn the screen to black and white and only basic calls and texting are functional. When I think about the first few months after returning to America from China, the best way to describe how I felt is to say that I was in “ultra power saving mode.” I did what I could to stay on, but allowed the rest of myself to shut down.
What caused this?
1. I Couldn’t Relate
Life had gone on without me and I just couldn’t catch up. I found myself struggling with a sense of superiority as I listened to friends talk about remodeling their kitchens or “pinning” ideas for their kids’ birthday parties (what was “pinning”?). Instead of entering in, I stood to the side, judging.
2. I Missed Feeling Like I Had Purpose
Most people who serve God overseas are placed in some kind of team. I was on several different teams during my time in China and had gotten used to meeting with the same group several times a week for meals, meetings and prayer. Unlike your usual small group in America, we all had the same job and the same purpose in being there. According to dictionary.com, the word mission means “any important task or duty that is assigned, allotted or self-imposed.” Who wants to go from doing an “important” task to doing a “menial” one?
3. I Didn’t Want Anything to Remind me of China
A couple years ago, my husband and I began to recognize a pattern. Whenever I would read newsletters from my friends who were still serving in China, I would be depressed for a few days after. If a missionary spoke in church, I would find myself in a funk. If someone asked me how I was using my Chinese or if I was keeping in touch with Chinese friends…back in the pit. When I returned from China, the only way I found to cope was to try and shut myself off from anything reminding me of China, because it only seemed to trigger my sense of loss.
November 17, 2010 (4 months after returning)
“Swimming underwater, I feel the pressure of the water all around me. My arms push against the force of it. I am muted, unable to speak and my focus on pushing and physically propelling my body forward inhibits me from thinking, praying or interacting with anyone else. Everyone else is playing on the shore and I am out in the deep.”
I was depressed.
People often ask how long reverse culture shock lasts. The answer: longer than you think it should.
I do feel my experience was compounded by a succession of major life changes immediately following my return–marriage, changing jobs twice, two children and moving cross country all within five years, so it may be a quicker transition for others.
But re-entry can still flatten you when you least expect it.
If you are experiencing any of what I described above, know that you are not alone. God will carry you, my friend, even when you feel like all you want to do is shut down. Slowly, He will revive you and bring you back to life. Trust me.
If you have gone through re-entry, could you relate to any of these struggles? How long did it take you to feel like you were back at “100% power”?
Linking up with Velvet Ashes
This post is day 8 of the series “Re-entry: Reflections on Reverse Culture Shock,” a challenge I have taken to write for 31 days. Check out my other posts in the series:
Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Grieving
Day 3: No One Is Special
Day 4: Wasted Gifts
Day 5: I Never Expected…
Day 6: Identity: Through the Looking Glass
Day 7: Did I mishear God?
Day 8: When You Feel Like Shutting Down
Day 9: Caring for your Dorothy
Day 10: You’re Not the Only One Who’s Changed
Day 11: 12 Race Day Lessons for Serving Overseas
Day 12: Confessions of an Experience Junkie
Day 13: Longing for Home
Day 14: Readjusting: Same Tools, Different Work Space
Day 15: Book Review: The Art of Coming Home
Day 16: The Story of My “Call”
Day 17: Is Missions a “Higher Calling”?
Day 18: And Then I Fell in Love
Day 19: Is God Calling You Overseas?
Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal
Day 21: What I Took and What I Left Behind
Day 22: Groundless, Weightless, Homeless
Day 23: When the Nations Come to You
Day 24: The Call to Displacement
Day 25: Scripture Anchors for Re-Entry
Day 26: In the Place of Your Exile
Day 27: Resources for Re-entry
Day 28: A Time for Everything: A Prayer of Leaving
Day 29: Journal: 8 Months After Re-Entry
Day 30: 12 Survival Tips for Re-Entry
Day 31: A Blessing
(Day 32: Writing is Narcissistic (And Four Other Reasons Not to Write)–a reflection on this Write 31 Days experience)