Written by: Fiona Thomas
As someone who gets anxious about stepping into the local shop unaccompanied, the thought of moving my life to a new city 600 miles away from home was kind of a big deal. I knew I had to do it - hell, I wanted to - and there was never any question that it wasn't going to happen, but that didn't make it any easier.
I was going through a rough spell with my depression (I was diagnosed four years ago but have been functioning well for the past two) which of course set my anxiety in motion too. Having to uproot my life to a new city and leave all my friends and family whilst dealing with an anxious period in my life was bad timing, but I got through it. Being an introvert meant I had to pace myself with packing, making phone calls and trying to do the rounds with people before I moved to stay energised. Then on arriving at my new home I had to take it slow to try and avoid getting worn out too quickly. I'd say it took me about eight weeks for the daily feeling of depression to completely disappear, and I'm sure it will appear again at some point.
Here are some steps I took to help me cope:
I encouraged visitors
My first instinct was to avoid meeting new people and simply invite all of my Scottish friends down to my new home in England. It certainly wasn't a long-term solution or the healthiest response, but it gave me comfort at the time. The idea of having scheduled social interactions once every few weeks with people I knew was an inviting prospect for someone like me, as I tend to avoid spontaneous meet-ups and unexpected visitors. Having my mates around for a few days reminded of who I was, what I loved about life and that there are people I could turn to for support. It helped strengthen friendships but also gave me the confidence to go out and make new ones.
I subtly announced my move online
Obviously the idea of drawing unnecessary attention to myself fills me with dread, so making a big song and dance about my relocation was something I wanted to avoid. However, once I had settled in, I very quietly changed my location on Facebook from Glasgow to Birmingham. The word spread and after a few days I got messages from people I’d lost contact with, wishing me well and offering to pop in whenever they were nearby. I also found out that two friends from university had also moved to the same area by complete coincidence. We all met up and have reconnected, rekindling a friendship that may otherwise have been forgotten. The comfort of meeting people who I already had a history with was a big help, as we already had past stories to reminisce over as well as new ones to tell.
I spent time on my creativity
Since moving away I’ve made a conscious effort to focus a good portion of my day on my creative hobby; writing. I am fortunate enough to work short hours, so in between my day job I work on writing an e-book, creating images for my website and interacting with others on my social media outlets. Not only has it helped me meet like-minded people and build relationships to help improve my blog, but it’s a form of therapy for me. I can let all of my thoughts and fears out and onto the page, then get on with my day feeling a little lighter. I also find it’s given me a way to assert my own identity in a big city where I could so easily have felt worthless and insignificant.
The internet saved me
It's a dramatic sub-heading I'll admit, but it's too not far from the truth. I didn’t believe that people could meet friends online and then become actual friends in real life. I was very sceptical about the whole thing. I grew up in a world before the internet was available in every home, and when that became the norm I still only used MSN to gossip with the kids I saw at school everyday. The thought of talking to strangers online as an adult seemed like an odd and impossible way to make new friends, but I stumbled upon it somewhat by accident and it’s worked for me. I used Twitter as a way to talk to people in my area by searching my local hashtags, following local bloggers and interacting with businesses. I organised a group get-together (this seemed safer and way less scary than a one to one ‘friend date’) where five of us went for dinner and it took off from there. Even as I retell that story, I can't believe that I - the introvert - made that happen. It just goes to show that the tortured, quiet souls can be just as powerful as the loudest person at the party.