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Mental Illness

written by M.E. Evans February 19, 2013

After the excitement of living in a new country wears off, after my friends moved away, when I finished studying, I realized just how lonely it can feel to live in a foreign country far from old friends and family. A strange feeling for someone who isn’t insanely close with their family who goes months without talking to their parents, and who enjoys being alone. I never anticipated depression or a constant feeling of isolation and let me tell you guys, it sucks! Some days I feel like ME and other days I feel so crazy that I think I should check myself into a crazy house. Sometimes I talk to myself so loud that Oliver will come into the room and cock his head to the side wondering who the fuck I’m chatting with. Just when I pick up the phone to dial the nut-house, I remember that the mental institution in Florence has been empty ever since they decided to open the doors and flood the streets with lunatics. Sometimes I think I can’t get by without finding someone to put me on Prozac and other days all I need is a glass of wine, or five.

Maybe I’m just not drinking enough.

I don’t think that most of the other expats feel this bananas. I think my circumstances might be a little particular due to the freakish amount of rejection and disappointment I’ve dealt with here. I’ll be honest, being “the weird one,” has damaged my self esteem a lot. I used to be resilient but I think I’ve been bent too far and I snapped before I could spring back.

It’s not Italy’s fault. Italy is beautiful. Maybe I’m just not cut out to sit amongst pretty things.



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equalitylgb February 19, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I am probably moving to italy next year for school. Could you give me any pointers? I am very independent and I do make friends easily and have traveled over there but what really makes it so difficult?
I encourage you to hold your head high and got out there and meet new people. Embrace all that the culture can provide you with! Give me some hope that I can start a new life there.

M.E. Evans February 20, 2013 at 9:49 am


Moving to Italy for school and to live are very different things, even though they don’t seem like they would be that different at all. I moved here for school and I LOVED it. I’d been to Europe alone 5 or 6 times before I decided to study here. I’m incredibly independent, at home I was incredibly popular, and before moving here I’d only had a few American boyfriends because I pretty much only dated Europeans. My family is inter-cultural as my father is from Iran and my Mother is Welsh. I thought that moving here would be a walk in the park for me. And school was a walk in the park. I had a blast. The difference between school and living here is this: You will not be accepted easily by the Italians, you will probably not be accepted by your boyfriend/partners friends and family, and you will most likely not make any new Italian friends here. I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “well, that’s just you, but I will.” No, you won’t. lol. Of the many expats I know here absolutely none of them have made good, close friends with Italians because the culture is extremely closed and very different from ours. You said you’re good at making friends, and I’m sure you are, but that won’t apply here. At home I was kind of a big deal. Yes, I sound like a massive douche right now, but it’s true. I knew everyone, I had hundreds of friends, and everyone knew me. However, here, I’m a total freak. Dating is one thing, friendship is something else. Italians will date Americans but won’t befriend them. Italians won’t even befriend eachother. In fact, my husband’s friends complain about this often, they cannot make new friends. The culture here is just very, famously, closed. However! The expat community is huge. The only downside is that expats often move away (which sucks). This might not even be an American thing, but rather an Italian thing. I’ve heard many stories from Italians about them moving from one region to another and not making a new friend for 5 plus years. Seriously. That’s how weird people are here. People make friends in school, and they don’t often make new friends after that, like, EVER. My husband is always really weirded out by how open and welcoming my friends are to him in the US. He thinks it’s a conspiracy. I tell him, no, people just WANT to be your friend, then he’ll stare at me like I’m retarded for 10 minutes.

My advice is this: Come here for school. The year I spent here in school was one of the best years of my life. I made incredible friends (from English speaking countries lol), and I would do it over again a million times in a row if I could. But, if you’re looking to MOVE here, make sure you are fluent in Italian, and get yourself involved in the expat community immediately (before you decide to stay after school). Even outside of Italy, depression is something all expats experience from time to time. No matter how well you anticipate adapting, it’s always a little more difficult than you think.

And to clarify: I love Italy. I really do and I don’t regret moving here. However, there are times when it is very difficult, where I want things to be easier, where I miss my old friends and my family. It’s normal.

equalitylgb February 21, 2013 at 4:29 am

Thanks for the advice! But I have a lot of my family over there and actually also have a lot of friends in Europe already. Also, what I am studying won’t let me not become fluent and I know enough to get around already. My whole family is very Italian and most have came right from there. I am the second generation Italian-American so I am not sure if that makes a difference because I do more of what a typical Italian culture would do because how my family is. I usually don’t like going to other peoples houses for holidays because it is so different (not as good food or welcoming or loud and energized family). I would also not go over there while in a relationship. I have also mostly dated Europeans (americans aren’t as fun haha). Most of my friends I meet here even think I am from somewhere in Europe because I guess I have picked up sort of an accent from my family that I don’t realize? And I know I don’t act like most americans. I just need a new start. With my major I am going to study for I probably won’t be in one place for a long time either.
But again thank you for the advice! I hope for the best for you! Make the best of it and give it some time.

M.E. Evans February 21, 2013 at 11:43 am

Oh, honey. I have no doubt that you’re fantastic and cultured and I wish you all the best here. It will take you about two years and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Some of the isolation is just a part of living outside of “home” and it happens to literally everyone at some point, no matter which country you live in or how “not American” you are, and even if you have five million friends here. As for Italy, well, as my husband says, Italians living in the United States, even immigrants, are nothing like Italians inside Italy (except for Milan..Milan is different). Second generation Italians are absolutely nothing like Italians in the United States, and Italians don’t consider someone born in America to be “Italian.” They consider them to be American. I was talking with my husband last night about your comments, just to make sure what I was saying was fair to the Italian culture, and he said the same thing I did. Even Italians, born and raised in Italy, will not generally make friends with other Italians if they move from one city to the next. It’s just the way it is, and in no way am I saying that negatively. Also, I should add that every city and region is different. Some cities are much more open-minded than others. I live in Florence, which is a city famous, even among Italians, for being the most “closed” and “snobby.” I should also add that I’m generalizing. Of course everyone is different, but the “closed” nature of the Italian culture has a lot of historical roots and is fairly accurate across the board. And honestly, who cares? Italy is beautiful and a lot of fun! After four years I still enjoy being here but that doesn’t mean that I think Italy is a “perfect” or “ideal” country. Like with anywhere, once you’ve been somewhere long enough it becomes “normal” and you start seeing the faults.

Check back and visit with me in 4 years. You’ll understand what I’m saying then. Also, I’m adding a page soon for people wanting to move here, and visit. I’ll have locals and other people who have lived here writing columns from time to time. If you have any questions, or need anything, don’t hesitate to ask and I’ll do my best to answer. Good lucky honey!

worldwifetraveler February 20, 2013 at 5:24 am

I think the feeling of crazy and that you are the only one that feels that way is normal. It happens to the best of us expats…and no one back home seems to quite “get it” – hang in there 🙂

notyourvictim February 26, 2013 at 1:38 am

About 6 years ago, I moved from Chicago to a little coastal town in Oregon of less than 7000 people. The median age was 73, I was 28, anyone my age either had kids, was a meth addict or both. I’m not proud of this, but I seriously developed the worst drinking habit ever, and there were times where i would go to the store just to be near people. I have never felt so alone in my entire life- and I like to be alone! There’s a difference between alone and… that feeling of solitary confinement. I’ll be in Florence very briefly in a few drinks & I’m normal for all of my nuttiness (it’s the harmless kind) if you’d like to have a drink with a native English speaker. And I swear i won’t be offended at all if you’d rather not, I know the internet breeds crazy and that makes it a less than desirable spot to meet people.


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