After the boxes are unpacked, the phone is set up, and you’ve sorted out all the other necessities, you may find yourself depressed after a move to a new place. The hardest part of this is that often times, you don’t even realize you’re depressed. You’re so focused on all you have to get done, that when that initial whirlwind passes, you may end up sitting down to relax, only to find that several months have gone by and you’re in a rut. If you’re the trailing spouse, and have no job lined up, this is something you especially need to watch for.
What can end up happening is that you mourn the life you left behind – the great friends and family you have, perhaps a job you loved. And, you may not realize this process is going on, because your conscious mind keeps saying, “I’m in Sydney, I should be excited. I just have to try harder.”
One of the dangers of not preparing for possible depression is that, when you first arrive someplace new, it’s like being on vacation. In fact, if you’re moving someplace that excites you, you may be so caught up in this excitement, that you will convince yourself of how perfect everything there will be. You’ll look forward to a change of pace. When you arrive, it’s like starting a new relationship – everything is new, different, and offers the opportunity for discovery. Once your mind wraps around the fact that you’ll be staying there for a while, however, the romance tends to wear off, and leave you shocked, and feeling a little trapped.
Here are some signs to look out for that could mean you’re depressed:
- You find yourself sleeping a lot – if you normally sleep 6 – 8 hours and find that you’re suddenly sleeping 12 or more hours, especially during the daytime, this is a main indicator of depression.
- When you’re awake, you feel tired, and sluggish. You notice that even after a full night’s sleep, you just can’t get yourself going.
- You don’t feel like leaving the house. You spend most of your time at home, in front of the TV. You reject suggestions from loved ones. In fact, when people make suggestions to you about things you can do, or places you can go, you feel pushed and automatically say no.
- You have no interest in doing anything.
- You have no desire to socialize or meet new people.
- The only happy moments you have are when you plan a trip to go back home, or talk to your friends back home.
The Expats and trailing spouses I’ve spoken to mention that when they became depressed, they didn’t even realize it. They simply thought they were very tired, and they felt annoyed by their spouse trying to push them off the couch. At the same time, they felt like a burden on their spouse, because there was a sense that the spouse wanted time away from them. There’s an interesting discovery I made with several people I spoke to. When they really thought about why they were depressed, they realized that admitting they were happy after moving, made them feel they would have to give up the friends they had back home or dramatically change those friendships. They were so used to contacting these friends in moments of misery, that they were afraid their happiness might mean less contact with friends back home, and possibly not being as close to them.
If you truly cannot get yourself out of this rut, you should make a commitment to see a therapist to at least find some ways to manage the depression so you can begin to come out of it.
The good news is that there are several techniques you can use to avoid the depression from starting, or to get yourself out of a rut if you’re already there, provided you are willing to move forward and allow yourself to be happy.
The best thing you can do is adopt some strategies, before you leave, to try and prevent depression from setting in at all.
Make contacts before you leave. You can do this by asking your current friends and family to refer you to contacts they have, and put the word out that you’d love some names and numbers of friends they have living in the host city you’re relocating to.
Reach out to your new-found contacts immediately. Instead of waiting till after you arrive, make that phone call, or send that email NOW. Let them know who referred you to them, and that you’ll be moving out their way soon, and you’d love to make plans to meet them after you arrive.
Research what activities are available in your host city. Learn about all the places that offer adult continuing education classes. Ask your new contacts what activities or groups they are aware of that might interest you.
Consider volunteering. Find out what volunteer opportunities exist. This is not only a great way to meet new friends, but if you’re also helping other people, it may be a source of enormous satisfaction for you.
Join a community. Do a Google search. If you’re moving to San Francisco, research “Expats in San Francisco” and see what you find. Facebook also offers many Expat groups. If you join a group on Facebook, you can also join forums that might be of help.
It’s best to start all these ideas before you leave, because then, when you arrive, you’ll have a network already started, so you don’t have to feel like you’re at the beginning of this process. If you have already moved, though, then now is as good a time as any to start.