The Anxiety & Grief of Moving Cross-Country

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When we moved to California over two years ago, I had many different feelings and emotions. I was excited for the coming adventure! I was ready for the unknown! I stressed a little over packing and selling our things, but I don't think I would ever consider myself anxious during that time. Our five day journey across the country was fun and exciting and adventurous and we were happy! Over the course of those two years in California, my anxiety waned. I no longer had anxiety attacks centered around the things that most of my anxiety had previously come from. My job stressed me out beyond all reason, but I think anyone who deals with anxiety will tell you that those two things—stress and anxiety—are two totally different monsters.

Just over two weeks ago, my stress levels began to climb. I stressed over packing, Craigslisting, and dealing with our moving truck. I cried through goodbyes, both with my favorite people and my favorite places. I stressed over finding the perfect pull-through hotel parking lots, the idea of someone stealing our U-haul, and how much cash we were burning through on fuel. But that was just normal moving-induced stress; otherwise, I was excited! We were going home! Starting a new chapter! Spending a month with our friends and family!

And then, I couldn't breathe. The farther we drove away from California, the more difficult it became to take a full breath. I dug through a box of medicine and found my long-unused inhaler. I popped unnecessary Dayquil, just in case. Was I coming down with something? Was I allergic to something in the U-haul? Should we stop and visit a hospital? I found myself lying in hotel beds each night and forcing huge, deep—yet unsatisfying—breaths. My heart would race and so would my mind. My chest kind of hurts that because of how hard I'm breathing? Is it just muscle related, or is it my heart?! Oh gosh, do I have an undiagnosed heart condition?! What is happening to me?! After months of not needing any anxiety medication of any kind, I found my bottle of pills and popped a small dose in half. Relief!

So, it was anxiety! I finally also found an answer...anxiety induced asthma. I was panicking over the fact that we were leaving behind our California lives and heading into the unknown, even though those thoughts had never crossed my mind in that exact way before we were on the road. I was ready to leave California. I was excited for what was coming! I honestly had no idea that a little part of me was silently freaking out inside over everything that was about to happen. I "put my blinders on," packing and organizing to make sure the transition was as easy as possible while also keeping myself too busy to mourn the loss of the lives we were leaving behind.

After arriving in Virginia, all of the symptoms of my apparent anxiety slipped away. My breathing has gone back to normal and I've packed away my inhaler and anxiety meds again. We've really been enjoying this time with our families, cooking and shopping and sharing stories around the dinner table; sipping wine and laughing with friends as we've caught up after months apart.

Then on Tuesday, as we left a friend's house after a wonderful night of pizza, wine, video games, and catching up, I found myself crying in the car on the way home. "I really miss our friends," I explained to Dan, but that wasn't all. I hate that we willingly left a group of some of the best friends in the world when we took off to California. I hate that we only see them twice a year. I hate that when we hang out with them now it reminds me of how great it used to be, and worse—that we've been seriously lacking in the friendship department over the past two years while we could have been here with them, watching stupid YouTube videos and laughing over Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

Yesterday, after reading Summer's post about dealing with her anxiety, I realized that the panic and sadness I was trying to suppress on our way across was actually still crushing me now that we're here. I Googled "grief from moving" and ran across this perfect Thought Catalog article, titled "The 5 Stages of Grief, As Applied to a Cross-Country Move." How appropriate. I read it and nodded along the entire time. Lines like, "My interactions and bonds with my family, my friends, and myself have all changed..." and "...our world is not the world of our family and friends, yet we still selfishly feel like their world still somehow belongs to us..." and "...I can see that their circle has closed off, and I’m no longer on the inside..." all resonate deeply with me, and it's really, really hard.

And now the anxiety soars over a new set of obstacles. In the next two weeks, I need to find a job in a city that we are not yet in (really difficult!) and I need to find us either a temporary or permanent place to live. While Dan has started working remotely, I've sat behind him on the bed and researched, emailed, and applied to jobs for the past several days. At one point I pulled the covers over my head and announced, "I give up!" I could write an entire post about how impossible it seems to find and claim, or "qualify for," an apartment in New York City (it's almost like buying a house,) but I'm determined to not let this high barrier of entry stop us from continuing on the path we've set ourselves on. I'll just keep researching and applying for jobs, hoping that everything will line up in some way that benefits us before we have to start our trek north.

I have just under two weeks left to worry about these things, but I'm also trying to make the most of our time here with everyone. I still have lots of people to meet up with and several more family events to enjoy before we go, and I'm working really hard to not let the anxiety of these situations get the best of me.

Please excuse how all over the place this post was. I think it's a good representation of how everything seems to feel at this moment in our lives.

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