Most of us will move house at some point in our life. This might be for a positive reason such as moving in with a partner, buying our first home, getting a new job, or moving to university. For others, it could be a much more difficult move. We might have to move away from somewhere we no longer feel safe, move closer to poorly family members, or move into a home that’s more manageable for us in light of health problems we’ve developed.
Whatever the reason we’re moving, a new start can indicate a positive change in our life (sometimes unexpectedly). However, no matter how far we move and how positive we’re expecting the move to be, depression follows us. It rudely moves into our new home with us despite not being invited.
Hoping For A New Start
We all go through difficult things in life, and our home can be tied into that. If we’re living in a place with difficult memories, a place where we don’t feel safe, or somewhere that’s dark and cramped, then the idea of moving can be incredibly exciting. We might make the move feeling hopeful for a new start. Hopeful that once we remove ourselves from an unhappy situation, we will also rid ourselves of unhappy feelings.
Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Depression doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t really care whether we live in a half-way house or a mansion. Our living environment can absolutely impact our mental health. But in the same way that moving house wouldn’t cure our diabetes, moving house doesn’t necessarily mean that we will automatically recover from depression.
Change Is Hard
Change is hard, and moving house is a big change. It can affect absolutely everyone’s mood and anxiety levels as we adjust to our new normal. In fact, moving is thought to be one of life’s most stressful events.
Moving can also be exhausting. Physically it’s likely that we’ll be packing and unpacking, moving boxes, and going up and down stairs. Mentally we have to develop whole new routines, get used to our new space, learn different roads, and learn people’s names. It’s tiring. On top of that, we might not be sleeping all that well because our bedroom will feel ‘different’ and it can take time to get used to that. Our level of tiredness can affect how well we feel able to cope – it can make managing our anxiety and mood that bit harder.
If we’ve been okay for a while and then move house and find that we’re feeling particularly anxious or low then we can prioritise our self-care and use things that have helped us in the past. However, it’s also important to remember that change is hard, and it affects everyone, so a drop in our mood for a short period of time isn’t necessarily a sign that we’ve relapsed with depression.
Feeling “at home”
It can be difficult to feel like our new living space is our home, as opposed to a building that we’re living in. If we pack some familiar things near the top of our packing boxes then it can help to give us a sense of ‘okayness’ despite being in a completely new environment. This could be a rug we like, a blanket we find comforting, our favourite duvet cover or some pictures to pop on the walls. Having little bits of ‘us’ and little bits of comfort can help our new environment to feel safer and more settled.
Arrange To Catch Up
Moving away from friends and/or family can be really hard. But modern technology means that we should still be able to contact them when we need to. It might be helpful to arrange a phone call or video-call to our loved ones during our first few days. This can give us something to look forward to when we’re finding things particularly hard.
If a friend or a family member has some free time, they might even be able to help us with the move and to spend the first night or two in our new home with us until we feel a little more settled.
Meet New People
One of the things that can be difficult about moving, is leaving old support systems and communities behind.
Although meeting new people can’t quite replace living a street away from our best friend, it can help us to begin to feel less lonely and more “at home” in our new environment.
It can be hard to meet new people but some things that we could try are utilising sites and apps like meetup.com or Bumble, finding a faith group in our area, joining Scouts or Guides, looking for local classes or clubs, or meeting other parents at the school gates or in baby groups.
You Get To Choose
One of the nice things about moving is that it can give us a blank slate. It can introduce us to people who know nothing about us. This means that we can choose whether or not we want to tell them about our depression. It might be something that we’re really open about. On the other hand, the idea that we can be around people who don’t know that we have, or ever have had depression can be freeing.
Continuity Of Care
If we move any distance from our old house, we might have to move to a new GP surgery and mental health team. Some of us see our GP regularly. In these cases it’s important to register with a new GP as soon as possible, and to book in an appointment to ensure that any repeat prescriptions we need are organised, and that we know where we’re going should we need to contact our GP at short notice. Some of us might have a particularly good relationship with our original GP and might find it helpful to ask them if they can write a letter to our new surgery to ensure continuity of care. Sometimes we’re only moving a short distance – if we’re still able to get to our original GP surgery then it’s always worth asking whether they can continue to see us if we would prefer that.
If we’re under a mental health team then it’s important to speak to our team as soon as we know we’re moving to see whether they’re able to do a direct transfer to a mental health team in our new area, or whether we would need to go back onto a waiting list. Different mental health teams work in different ways, but doing some forward-planning with our existing mental health team can allow us to make a plan for some new support with the help of others, rather than trying to figure out the system alone.
Don’t Run Out Of Medication
In the hustle and bustle of moving house, medication might not be on the top of our list when it comes to ‘thinking about stuff’. If we’re on medication, it’s important that we don’t run out because suffering withdrawal symptoms really isn’t going to help with how we’re feeling.
Before we go, if it’s safe to do so, it’s worth asking our old GP whether they can prescribe us with enough medication to last us until we can set things up with our new GP. Our medical records might not be transferred immediately so it’s important to be prepared. If we get really stuck and find that we’re running out of medication and can’t get a GP appointment at our new surgery or it’s the weekend, we can ring NHS 111 for advice. It’s much better to reach out for support with our medication than to suffer withdrawal symptoms or start reducing the dosage that we’re taking.
Grief Over Our Old Life
Whether our move is one we’re looking forward to or not, we might feel a sense of grief or loss over our old life. This can feel really unexpected – particularly if we’re moving on from somewhere that was difficult for us.
Whenever we experience a big life change, we can feel a sense of grief for the things we left behind. We might look at the past with a sense of nostalgia. It’s entirely possible that we’ll see what we had with rose-tinted glasses.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling a sense of grief for what we used to have. It doesn’t mean that we’ve made the wrong decision in moving or that we will never feel at home in our new place – it’s just a natural human reaction to a big change. If we’re finding it particularly difficult and our low mood continues beyond a few weeks, then it’s important to reach out for some support.
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