5 Tips for Moving to a New City When You Live With Mental Illness

Living alone is scary enough without a mental illness. Whether you are living close to friends and family or have recently moved somewhere new, it can be scary and lonely. Here are the five biggest pieces of advice I have for anyone who is starting the journey.

1. Find a community.

Find a place to connect with others. Somewhere you feel comfortable and are able to relax. For me, it was a job in retail. I found a community of people who care about me. For you, though it might be something different, like diving into a church, taking a class or finding somewhere to volunteer at. Go and find community, even if it’s in the weirdest of places.

2. Accept free food.

Before this experience, I hated to accept free things. I was always worried people would think I was taking advantage of them. But food is expensive, and if you are just starting out, you realize how expensive food is. When you go on this journey, you are going to find people who will accept you and want to journey with you. Accept their company and food when they offer it. These gestures will make you feel like you are not alone and they will allow the other person to know that they are apart of your journey and support to you. Accepting company and the food is not just about you — it is not a selfish act to enslave you — it is an act to show support. Accept it!

3. Be honest about your story.

Depending on the reason for your move and the motives that lie behind it, it can feel awkward telling people your story. For me, it was awkward. After a while though, I realized I had no choice. I had chosen to move three hours from my family, I was living alone and constantly working crazy hours, and that I just needed to be honest. When I was honest with my cohorts, co-workers and new acquaintances, I started to find true community. I started not to feel as alone. I found people who cared and who I knew would be there for me if I got a flat tire. Depending on your situation and personality, this could be hard for you too! But I encourage you to be real with the people around you because that is when you can truly begin to find the people that care.

4. Don’t be a hermit.

Moving to a new city can be scary. Sometimes it is truly easier to stay inside and watch Netflix, then take chances and go to things alone. For me, this was super hard, especially once I found friends at school. I got comfortable and felt like I didn’t need anything else. Don’t listen to this lie, because you will get lonely and you will question the reasons that you chose to go on this adventure. Take an afternoon or two a week and go exploring, learn about your new city and look for hobbies and places to become active in. This is the time to explore any weird hobbies that have always interested you in the past, take an art class, join a book club or go the gym. Become a regular somewhere, just leave your computer and step into the real world. This will help you to develop a community which will help in the long run.

5. Maintain your long-distance relationships.

Just because you have moved out and are starting to “adult” doesn’t mean that you should abandon your parents or friends, to find a new life. These people will be super important to your success! They will visit you and send you notes of encouragement. They will talk to you when you’re freaking out, sad, and lonely. They will support you and continue to love you even though you may be far away. Don’t go radio silent or feel like a burden when you want to Skype. If your friendship is true, they aren’t going anywhere.

I have been blessed! I have had a great experience and have found friends who have truly accepted me. This has been a life changing experience for me, and I would encourage anyone who can take advantage of it. It was terrifying, but it teaches you so much about yourself and life.

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Thinkstock photo via Mike Watson

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