I posted recently about moving to Tokyo. And since the move I have been having a lot of good times, but also a lot of down ones.
Moving to a new country is tough even without a mental illness. But when you have a history of depression, anxiety and eating disorders (not to mention some self-harm scars still visible on your arm), the whole process can be even more traumatic.
I moved to Tokyo whilst still on antidepressants which, despite what anyone says about this type of medication, did help. An SSRI can sometimes feel like an anti-shyness pill, and this was certainly helpful for me, as one of the main things I was worried about was making friends.
I brought a six month supply of Fluoxetine from the UK and it is important to remember the following points;
- bringing drugs of any kind abroad, especially to Asia, can be problematic. It is legal to take a three month supply of Fluoxetine abroad with only a pharmaceutical letter as proof.
- bringing a larger supply of any medication, such as I did, means you have to check with the embassy and possibly get a certificate. I did have to get a certificate for entering Japan, but overall there were no issues.
- Think about possible contingencies for getting medication if you run out/lose it. This is important as some countries might not have favourable health insurance schemes.
But medication wasn’t the only thing that made moving to another country slightly easier. Here are the main points I advise:
- plan in advance and know what to expect; I was ready for the cultural shift to Japan because I had done a lot of research and I knew roughly what would be appropriate and inappropriate.
- This includes food – other countries and cultures can have very different types of food, though western alternatives are also available nowadays. The variety of food is a big part of what makes moving to a new country exciting, but remember to research into dishes that are healthy and you will like so, unlike me, you don’t end up eating junk food for the first couple of weeks because you are unsure what everything is. (I would like to point out here that my reservedness was mainly due to being a vegetarian, and had I been sure that some things did not contain meat, I would have gone for it).
- Likewise, eat well and healthily as this well always contribute to both your physical and mental wellbeing.
- plan where you want to live; this is a very important part of moving anywhere. Make sure you pick an area you will like that has your amenities, and consider if a flat share, single apartment or share house is the right way of living for you. Personally, I chose a sharehouse, where I also share a room. Despite my concerns about sleeping in a room with two other girls, I haven’t had any major issues and it means I can live in an area near my work for much cheaper. A sharehouse also gave me the opportunity to make friends, something which I would have found very difficult otherwise. I’m not sure if I will spend my whole time here, but as a transition it is alright.
- Make sure you have a routine and exercise. When moving to a new country it is easy to feel as if you are on a permanent holiday. But settling into a routine and getting the necessary exercise you need for the endorphins rush is very important for keeping your mental health balanced.
- Try new clubs and social situations to make friends. Believe me, I am shy, and this was one of the biggest things I was worried about. But you will find that a lot of people are friendly to you and it is important to accept or suggest hanging out. Also consider “MeetUp”. I was skeptical of this beforehand, but the site is actually good for meeting other people in a similar situation as you. And in Japan, most events are free for foreigners.
- But most importantly, keep in contact with home. I am not prone to feeling homesick, but keeping the relationships with family and friends alive is important for keeping yourself stable and realizing that there is still support in the world if you need it, no matter how far away!