The downside of a posting

During a survey by Global Connection, Annelies made a passionate plea about the downside of a posting. When we contacted her, she agreed to share her story and her husband supported the idea. In her words: “Because there are risks involved with a posting. I hope employers read this.”

A near-fatal turn

“I can still vividly picture my husband picking us up from the airport and arriving at our new home. I remember feeling happy and enjoying this new adventure.” This is how Annelies starts the conversation about her posting abroad. But in a matter of weeks, everything took a different, near-fatal, turn. “There was no sign beforehand that something was not right.”

Lost in loneliness

“My husband was very busy, tired when he came home every evening. We had two young children but I needed some time for us together, too. However, I understood how busy he was. I got lost in loneliness. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to build a social network.”

‘Better off without me’

Feeling unnoticed, Annelies became more and more introverted. One evening she received what she calls ‘the signal’ that ‘everything would be better if I were no longer here’. “I kissed my children and said goodbye to my husband with the words ‘I love you’. Everything appeared perfectly normal, as if I were going for a stroll. I had no idea where I was going. I only knew that I would jump off somewhere and how I would jump. It felt like I was watching myself from within, without having any control over what was happening. Until, in a flash, I saw old film fragments of a woman in the same situation. I saw her face and realised that I could control my body and turn around.”

Missing the signals

Back home, she said nothing. “My primal reaction was ‘get over it’ and suppress the memory. In the months that followed, my husband and I became close again. The fact that he lost his job due to a reorganisation during this healing phase (luckily, he quickly found a new one) and that the corona crisis broke out not long after did not make things easier. That memory could only surface on the osteopath’s table five months later. When I shared the story with my husband, I will never forget his reaction: ‘How could I have missed the signals?’ That was exactly what I needed. He made it something that was ours so that I could start working on myself, and together we could work on ‘us’.”

Still unsure why

How does she now reflect on what happened? “The posting, the host country’s closed culture, the isolation, the circumstances with my husband and I, and our young family. That combination of factors did not work. Put a label on it if you want. Was it postnatal depression, psychosis, suicidal intent, an unresolved past? To me, I never felt like ‘that’s it’. I still receive therapy, and that helps, especially now, during corona.”

Take partners seriously

“It certainly is not a given that expat partners will find their footing in a foreign country. That is why I hope that employers will read my story and will seriously consider supporting expat partners. At the same time, I advise partners to think carefully. Is it realistic? Are we ready for this? Even if all the signs are positive, you can still face unforeseen circumstances. We never doubted our decision to move abroad. We feel like we have had to live through challenges here. Recently, it felt like the first time our family parked our car in front of this house. That was a wonderful moment. We are making a go of it here.”


For reasons of privacy, this story has been completely anonymised

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