The following guest blog post was written by Terri, the author behind The Euhemerist. Learn about her inspiring move from Hawai’i to Paris.
This is the first story in the miniseries exclusive to my blog: “Moving with Courage: Overcoming Mental Challenges During a Big Move.”
When I write about my life in terms of mental illness, I tend to falter. While I understand the importance of transparency, and the help that sharing our stories can bring, I don’t want people to think I’m vying for “pity points” or making excuses. Living with mental illness is a daily struggle, sometimes an hourly struggle, and it’s never fun. It can make the simplest tasks nearly impossible, like putting on socks. Which means that the biggest life changes – like moving 7,000 miles to Paris – are almost unthinkable.
And yet I did it.
I moved to Paris in August of 2019 to live with my boyfriend, Vincent. He’s a native Parisian, excellent travel buddy, and possibly even a bigger hermit than I am. In the past six months I’ve been focusing on acclimating to both the weather and the culture of France. This culture shock has triggered several bouts of mental struggle, which I managed to pull myself out from in order to make the most of my life here.
For background, I’ve been diagnosed with major depression, generalized anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. Those last two, while casually dropped in many conversations as quirky personality traits, are no joke. In fact, while each of my illnesses is debilitating in its own way, OCD has always been the underlying current threatening to sweep me under at any moment. It’s also a package deal – as a result of my OCD I also suffer from trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling), and misophonia (an extreme, involuntary panic reaction to certain everyday sounds).
Despite the laundry list of terms, I’ve learned to manage my illnesses enough to function, even thrive, in my own life. I also consider myself to be a fairly optimistic person, seeking the silver lining wherever I can. It’s this ability that helped me the most during my big move – but even if you’re the world’s biggest pessimist I have a few extra tips that can help improve any expat journey!
So, whether you suffer from chronic mental illness or are experiencing stress, anxiety, isolation, or culture shock from your big move, here are some simple things you can do to ease the way.
- Create A Decision-Fatigue List
When you’re depressed, fatigued, or in the middle of a panic attack, the last thing you can do is think. For times like these, I find it helpful to have a list of simple tasks I can complete to improve my physical and mental state. This includes changing clothes, washing my face, taking a shower (if I have the energy), drinking a glass of water, taking an actual nap, watching a motivating video, doing some light stretches
I also have similar lists for household chore tasks, basic grocery lists for when I’m low on food, and a list of things that boost my mood when I’m feeling low.
2. Find The Familiar
In just about every place I’ve traveled to, there’s always a single element of the familiar. Whether it’s a dish, a cafe, a park, a library, or just a supermarket – there’s always a way to dip your toe back into your comfort zone, even if for a moment.
Here in Paris, I find myself gravitating towards the parks whenever I’m feeling low. Not only does being in nature always cheer me up, but the surroundings feel more familiar than the busy streets and crowded shops. I also found a great website where I can buy familiar comfort foods if the need arises (https://www.myamericanmarket.com/).
Whatever the familiar means to you, find it.
3. Find Something To Look Forward To
When you first move to a new location, it’s normal to want to gather yourself and recuperate in the comfort of your new nest. I’m a major homebody in that sense, so unless I absolutely have to go out for errands I usually won’t. But that’s about the worst thing you can do for your mental health, so at the beginning of each month I search up events near me and schedule in a few throughout the next few weeks. Concerts, art exhibits, museums, cool shops, parks, restaurants – if it interests you, write it down and schedule it in!
Knowing that you have something fun coming up really brightens your days, and makes it easier to complete any boring tasks that you have to do in the meantime. It’s also a great way to refresh your mental space and appreciate the home that you come home to.
4. Embrace Your Space
There’s nothing nicer than a space you can be yourself in. If you’ve just moved to a new location, chances are your space isn’t quite “you” yet. You might even be unwilling to spruce it up if it’s not your permanent long-term location. I totally get it!
Even if you’re staying for a month, it’s always nice to create a cozy environment that you can be proud to come home to. A few simple ways to personalize your space:
- Buy some inexpensive string lights to create cozy lighting
- Purchase dried flowers to display year-round (I put mine in an old glass bottle!)
- Bedding that makes you excited to go to sleep.
- A cute shower curtain (it’s the little things…)
Most importantly: keep things clean. A clean space is a cozy space.
I’m currently living in a tiny one-room apartment. I know we won’t be here forever, but with a few changes and some regular tidying, it already feels like home.
5. Don’t Give Up!
No matter how bad you feel, no matter how unfamiliar your new location is, you will grow, you will learn, and you will thrive. So don’t give up, and keep adapting!
Know that you have just as much right as anyone to live where you do, and nothing will ever change that. And if you’re looking for support in your new journey, or just want to make some lifestyle changes, join our Self-Improvement Sundays Facebook group for motivation, inspiration, and accountability.
Wishing you a happy journey!
THE EUHEMERIST is a journal devoted to personal growth, travel, and minimalism – to living with less but living more. It’s about self improvement on your own terms & embracing change. It’s about good days & bad days, coziness & adventure. Most of all, it’s about curating the life of your dreams.
Note from Kara: This is a miniseries about fellow bloggers, Instagrammers, and friends who moved away from their homes to find a better life, despite difficulties like anxiety, depression, and poverty. I knew my friends would have some valuable tips, unique perspectives, and inspirational stories to share with the world.
It is my hope that all our stories–especially their stories–will prove that no matter what your circumstances, if you need to move or want to move to find a better life for yourself, it is possible even if you have obstacles in your life.
Click here to read my 10 Tips for surviving a big move.