My Swedish Depression

With the year almost at an end, I’ve been thinking hard about what I could say about it all. Thinking about the last eight months and about life and about how I got here and everything I have achieved and the value of social media and how I will write about all these things that have happened. And more.

I moved to Gothenburg, Sweden in April this year and to say it’s been a perfect year would be an outright lie.

I’ve dealt with my first real experience with depression that came from mourning my old life and a myriad of feelings, from inadequacy and guilt to obligation and loss of independence.

It was a rough while as I tried to get my head around what moving here meant for me and for my life.

One second I was walking through the cobbled streets of Haga, marveling at the beauty of this European city I now lived in – a dream come true.


The next second I felt a pang of guilt and confusion that I wasn’t more blown away by appreciation for my situation and my new life.

Shouldn’t I have been blissfully happy every single moment? I lived in Sweden.

Of course that’s a completely ridiculous way to look at things, but it was exactly what went through my mind many times daily

When it became clear I would be very unlikely to find a journalism job and that most other jobs would require conversational Swedish, I sunk into very up and down depressive cycles.

Speaking to anyone other than Felix would end up making me feel worse because everyone tried to help.

Their suggestions were legitimately valuable and I’d have done well to follow them, but I had zip motivation and trying to tell someone “it’s a good idea but I’m not going to do that for literally no reason, in favour of sitting here and feeling sorry for myself” is so hard.

Some days I didn’t leave the house. I looked out our windows at the beautiful gardens and the city and the skyline and the sunset and think surely I’m not depressed and if I am, what do I do and how did it happen?

My personal situation – bar the lack of employment – was ideal.

I had spare time, I lived in Sweden, my beloved husband worked enough that we had enough money to do the things we wanted to do, I had a loving and kind family-in-law, and I had a guitar, laptop and food processor. Of course that wasn’t all, but you get the idea.

Personally, being faced with unhappiness in a seemingly ideal situation was a huge source of guilt.

Feel happy, damnit! I yelled at myself – sometimes even out loud when I was alone.

To make matters both better and worse, Felix was the world’s most supportive partner and often cried when I cried, held me for hours at a time and let me talk in completely illogical circles at him while he listened patiently.

I felt even worse for him that I couldn’t be happy all the time. I would call him and cry before I even started talking and he just listened. But I could hear the pain in his voice and I knew it would be in mine, were our situations reversed.

Nobody wants to see their loved ones in pain.

It is, perhaps, obvious that you can’t guilt yourself into happiness, but I wasn’t good at recognizing that. I tried to shield my family and friends from it, putting up a happy social media exterior and write positive and humorously self-deprecating blog posts. But every now and then (probably really often, if you ask them), I felt weak and I rambled everything out on Skype and on the phone.

I know it was hard for them.

Of course, there were just as many ecstatic and beautiful times during those early months and I could write ten times as much about those.

I feel so relieved that I managed to write so much about those times on this blog, because it’s like a diary for me.

In July we were married again and it was an almost unbelievably perfect three days with friends, family, food and late night sun.

We were gifted with what may have been the best three days of the summer and memories of that evening will always bring me to the edge of happy tears.

I am more in love than ever, and that constant in my life – our lives – is such an anchor.

In August, my language classes finally began and I started learning fast.

We went to Croatia for a couple of weeks and it was bliss. When we returned, I threw myself into Swedish and it paid off.

Today I got full marks in my final and I’ve graduated Swedish for Immigrants. Which is very cool and I’m super proud of myself.

Felix’s grandma also taught me to knit, and I started and completed a whole sweater in five days.

I tend to grab random hobbies out of nowhere when I’m feeling weird/blue.

A few months ago it was flower-pressing but now the flowers are all dead (winter).

Before that, it was making random layered art from my photographs which I did nothing with. That obsession lasted approximately two days, but it was fulfilling for that time.

For a very unproductive month or two, I was totally absorbed in Age Of Empires which I’m glad has vanished from my life, though it was also fun for a time.

I have decided I’m going to learn how to carve spoons and then become a rich and famous spoon carver. That is an Australian project for next year.

The way I deal with my emotions now (by finding all-consuming activities to throw myself into) is so much more rewarding than lying in bed crying, and part of me has even managed to turn that into a guilt.

Why didn’t I start learning cool new things earlier???

But that isn’t fair and I don’t have the answer, so I am mostly at peace with the idea that I needed to do that crying and analysing my own emotions.

There is so much more I could write about but this post is now over 1000 words long and that’s getting a bit ridiculous.

Rest easy knowing I’m very very happy today and it’s almost Christmas and my darling brother, Oliver, is here visiting, and all is well on the Lily front.

Tomorrow, we make gingerbread houses!

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Lily Ray
Lily Ray

Journalist, photographer, traveller and knitter. Mother to a small but demanding infant, Lily's life is messy but generally lovely. She has a lot of thoughts. Here is where she puts them.

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