Yesterday I officially became a Californian. Leaving the midwest behind was that bittersweet mixture of anxiety, elation and hope for the future I used to experience right before taking a plunge into a new body of water. When you can’t see the bottom it’s easy to imagine monsters slithering about the sides, waiting to gobble you up. Instead, I would discover (after dipping my toes in five times) there was nothing so dangerous to fear that I couldn’t survive.
Few experiences can spark an anxiety attack like moving away from everyone you know to an unfamiliar place. Hell, even knowing the place and what to expect can still be frightening! Today I want to share with you the list that aided me in this crazy transition. I found that when I was looking for advice online most lists were missing the human aspect – how to take care of yourself mentally and how to curb the understandable stomach knots that form.
Transitions for survivors, or those with depression or anxiety, can be truly painful. As I learn more about the ways trauma re-shaped my mind, I’ve discovered an obsession with control and order. In response to having control stripped from me, I now itch for ways to box up that which could mess with my flow. The unknown world at large with all the possibilities for chaos just scared me silly!
Now, I’m on the path of confronting my fears. A huge part of my healing journey has been the pursuit of chill. Going with the flow. Trusting those who have earned my confidence to help me take care of myself. And now, diving into waters I’ve been dreaming of exploring. So, this list is what has helped me with the dive, beyond most of the practical stuff you might read on other sites. Whether you’re going across the country, or a state nextdoor, these things could make it much easier on your mind.
Please let me know in the comments what you do to prepare yourself for big changes!
1. Secure a place to live (Airbnb, apartment, house, friend’s couch)
I was able to go to bed sooooo much easier in Kansas with the knowledge we had a place to stay once we were in California. This takes time and money, but it’s worth it. You want to make sure you’ve secured a safe place to rest, where you can decompress after that trip. Finding housing after the fact is a freakout waiting to happen. If securing a rental isn’t doable from your current home, you can buy a little time by utilizing an extended stay hotel or Airbnb. Either way, try to get your stay squared away early.
2. Eat your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant
Letting go of the familiar is hard, but it’s made more difficult if you don’t give it a proper goodbye. Mark and I ate at our favorite restaurants before we left so that we could move forward without regrets. We had ramen at our favorite noodle spot, po’boys, thai and burgers in the week leading up to the move, because we didn’t want any kind of regret attached to something positive. For me, regret is like a fog that distorts the present. You can’t enjoy the view fully through the haze.
3. Make sure your license and passport aren’t about to expire
Practical and also stress reducing. You’ll have to update your license for your new residence, however if you’re traveling with a license or passport that is about to expire you will be dealing with an unnecessary headache. There are extra fees when it’s updated late that should be going towards rent and food. Make sure everything is up-to-date before you leave, to buy yourself more time to get it all switched over.
4. Try something you always talked about doing in your current home
Here’s where regret seeps in for me. There was a cute little bar Mark and I kept talking about trying out. We’ll go next weekend was the usual response when we drove by. By the time we were finally ready to go? Closed permanently! We both groaned. In this case there wasn’t much we could do, but I still wish we’d tried it before the owner moved to a bigger city.
Try things before you go – karaoke, a bookstore, a concert, a museum, any place you’ve been putting off. I think this is the best way to know for sure whether or not you were missing out on something. Letting go will be that much easier.
5. Say goodbye to the people you love
You gotta. I know it hurts and you don’t want to start with the water works, but don’t take off without giving your people time to process seeing you go. They need to be able to let you leave just as much you need to be able to move forward. We took our time seeing our families and friends, but it still didn’t feel like enough. I can’t imagine my mental state if we hadn’t made time for it at all.
6. Create an on-the-go self-care plan
This one is a lifesaver! I’ve said it before, but self-care is the most important thing you do for yourself. Everything on this list is self-care! Why wouldn’t I demand you continue the love fest on the road? Before we left, I rounded up some of my favorite “quick fixes”: a lavender bath soak for the hotels, rose water for my hair and face, a relaxing playlist for when I wasn’t driving, my favorite snacks (veggie straws), my favorite blanket, relaxing movies and lots of clean underwear. We were on the road for four days, but having things that eased my mind naturally eased tension in my body. All I ask is that you not skip out on doing what you need to be happy along the way. You deserve a good trip!
7. Identify medical professionals in your new area
This might be the most difficult step on the list. When you’re not in the area and don’t have anyone to ask for recommendations it can feel hopeless. However, if you sit down for a few hours and take your time you should be able to round up a few names. I usually use these search terms: “[town name] + therapists” to get started. Local hospitals can provide information about professionals associated with their system of searching isn’t planning out. This one can take time, so don’t feel obligated to get it done before you leave. Having it on your to-do list for when you arrive is good as well.
8. Think about what kinds of groups you would like to join
Yep, you’re gonna have to make some friends. The worst thing to do when you move is to isolate yourself. How are you going to learn what you like about the place without locals? Now, not everyone is safe -that’s a sad reality – so it’s ok to be picky. Before we left, I researched women’s groups in the area, yoga studios, political groups, book clubs and classes so that I had options to meet new people. I’ll go to each, try them out, then move forward with the ones that made me feel welcome, and, most importantly, safe.
9. Work out a realistic fail-safe
I promise I’m not including this to scare you or talk you out if this big change; on the contrary, I want you to go for it! Since I’ve been using the swimming analogy, think of it like this: you’re most likely not going to jump into a pool without knowing how to swim, but if you fall in there are lifeguards around to save you. My dad regularly had to jump into pools and the ocean to save my brother, because he didn’t understand his limitations. Life happens. We think we’ve got a hold of things, then sometimes we’re out of our depth. Mark and I agreed if this town doesn’t work out, we’ll stay long enough to save up and leave for the next town. If you have to move back home? It’s ok. Your safety and mental health are more important than what anyone else thinks. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
10. Breathe. Then breathe again.
You can do it. If I can do it, with all my flaws and anxiousness, you can, too. I think you’ve survived time and time again. There have been dark days, but then you made it through to the light. Pull strength from the truth that you can make it, then breathe over and over and over again until you arrive at your next adventure. If we’re going to be in this world, we’re going to live it well.
Good luck, my friends!