I am relocating to another residence for the 19th time in my life. Apparently, this is way higher than average (the average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime). Of these 19 times, this is my fifth international move. I moved to Australia when I was 20. In my first year there I moved five times before I found my home away from home in an international dorm. It was a good thing that I was literally living out of my suitcase at that time. It made the actual moves easier. A year into my Master’s degree in Australia, I suffered from a bout of major depression. It was the most crippling time in my life and it mad me “grow up” in a matter of months.
One day at 4 am (it was also the start of my sleeping problems), my self-preservation instincts kicked in and I made up my mind to reach out for help. At 8 am, I went to the student medical center at the university and sought professional help. I was referred to young female counselor, probably in her late 20s or early 30s. For the sake of this post, I will call her Anna.
Anna changed my life. She pulled me out from a deep pit of depression and taught me coping skills and strategies that I still use today. I remember a counseling session with Anna: me sitting on a comfortable rocking recliner, hugging a sofa cushion to my chest, and struggling not to breakdown into tears. I was filled with self-loathing and told her how much I hated myself for not being mentally strong enough to cope with life. She looked shocked and told me that I was being too hard on myself. She pointed out that I had moved five times in the past year and how that alone was enough stress to break most people down. Add to that I was only 20 and in a foreign country where I did not know anyone. She pulled out a fancy psychology textbook and showed me that the stress of moving is really high up in the list of stressful life events. Some studies say that the only life stressors that are worse are death of a loved one or a divorce. She gave me the book and asked me to read it and use the self-evaluation tool at the end of the book to calculate for myself how much stress I might be under. I remain eternally indebted to Anna, for if not for her I would not have finished my degree in Australia. With her help, I learned to recognize how I am when I am stressed and to give myself a break.
The stress of the forthcoming move has somewhat paralyzed me over the last month. It’s the reason for the big gap in my blog entries. With this move, I also worry about making the transition smooth and easy for my children. I spend a little time every other day talking to them about understanding their anxiety, preparing them for an inevitable culture shock, reiterating that I am there for them to talk, and to help them to cope with it. It helped that we watched “Inside Out” and my daughter told me that she read somewhere that “moving makes you grow up fast”. I was astonished but happy that she realized that a lot earlier in life than I did.
I leave for the US in two weeks time and most of the things on my to do list are crossed off. I find myself racking my brain for anything that I might have missed. I realized that at moments of stress like this, I withdraw into myself and become very non-sociable. So if you feel like I have disappeared off the face of this earth, know that it is just me bracing myself for this next big change in my life.