Day 8: When You Feel like Shutting Down {31 Days of Re-Entry}


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.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.”
Matthew 5: 3-5


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)



10 Replies to “Day 8: When You Feel like Shutting Down {31 Days of Re-Entry}”

  1. Thanks for these thoughts – I want to be aware ahead of time of what's going on inside me and the other members of my family as we transition to an extended time away from what has become home for us.

  2. By November 1st, I should have 30 posts related to re-entry, so maybe they'll help you in the transition?:-) I think expecting it to be hard is actually a good first step to transitioning well (and maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised that it's easier than you thought!). Thanks for reading!

  3. Gahh… yet again I find myself thinking we have had the same life. I travelled around the world and met the hubby while I was in Geneva (for two weeks – HA!), then back to Australia where I had the worst case of reverse culture shock ever, but I had no idea that reverse culture shock existed.. so you know.. that wasn't good. We got married a year later, I moved to Switzerland, got pregnant six weeks after that.. moved to Sweden three years later with 2nd child in tow.. so yes.. I was a bundle of reverse and culture shock.. never mind parenting two small kids.. which is its own psychological condition. And YES to what you said, recovery and healing NEVER EVER works on the timeline we want it to.. it always takes longer, and even after wonderful progress has been made (and there was that for me, too), it still comes back at times, and that is also not easy to deal with.

  4. "Longer than you think." My word, that is so true. And what you think will be hard, may not be. And what you don't expect to be hard, IS. Going through re-entry again myself. This time around it is hard for all different reasons than when we went through it a few years ago.

    So glad to see that you're doing 31 days on re-entry. More resources are so needed! This is beautifully real and encouraging.

  5. 🙂 Wow! I can definitely see why you chose to write your series on transition–you're an expert! Yeah, I think a move or marriage or baby are all enough to throw life into a tail spin on their own, but all at once is a recipe for chaos. But we are surviving it–and living to tell about it! Loving your series and being able to relate. I even had a jar of lavender sitting on my kitchen window when I read your post about beauty:-)

  6. Danielle, Thanks for reading and for the encouragement! I think there are more resources available than when I came back five years ago, for sure, but really for all the people who have returned and dealt with this, you'd think there'd be more, right? I hope your transition goes well–hang in there!

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