The Impact of Moving Countries on Mental Health
"When you begin to miss home, just remind yourself why you left in the first place."
When my husband and I first arrived in London on the 22nd of June (a date I will never forget), the prospects were exciting. After landing and grabbing our nine pieces of luggage, we called an Uber to drive us to a family friend’s house where we would be staying for two weeks. The Uber driver happened to be someone who had moved to London when he was a young adult. Recognising he had some experience with moving countries, I asked him for one piece of advice he wished he had been given. His words were, “Look, it can get difficult, and you’ll want to go back to your country because you will miss it. So when you begin to miss home, just remind yourself why you left in the first place.
I absorbed what he said and made a mental note to remember his advice. I really did understand where he was coming from, but mentally, I was not there yet - the part of missing home seemed like a state of mind I had not reached. I didn’t miss home or wouldn't for the first month because I was in the dream-like stage of immigration.
There are three stages of immigration and all three stages have had a massive impact on my mental health.
The first stage is the romantic stage. I found myself falling straight into this stage, similar to how a person falls in love. It was a stage where every building, person and place seemed to bring a sense of familiarity, and that also brought me comfort. I felt this could easily be home. I felt I recognised London and I was convinced I had lived here in another life. Perhaps I did, but I was soon to realise my present life was not related to London - not in the slightest.
This brought me to the next stage that now has a detrimental impact on my mental health: the stage of uncertainty. Once I realised I was no longer on a romantic holiday (and that I never really was), I started to develop intense anxiety, fearing the unknown and uncertainty. During this stage, the stress I felt involved the challenge of settling in: securing a flat, obtaining a job offer and finally feeling fully comfortable. I still haven't achieved some of those things, and I am certain it will take months to do so.
So what’s the next stage? Well, the next stage is home. What does this stage entail, and how does it impact mental health? I’m yet to find out, but I do have an inkling as to what it entails: everything is not lost.
When we think of home, we think of all the things that bring us comfort and contentment. We think of a place that we have found and one that has found us too. Additionally, we are familiar with the strong connection and bond we have created with this place. And this is what I think the third stage of immigration is: the part where we make the new environment our home.
Upon reflection of the Uber driver’s advice, I think I actually disagree with him (as I usually disagree with most people). It’s not about remembering the reasons you left your country (as these are often horrible reasons). Rather, it’s about remembering that you left to start a new home in a new place with people you love (and maybe a few new people you will eventually grow to love). It’s about reminding yourself that even if it feels difficult and overwhelming now, it will not remain this way. In moments when I feel scared, I always tell myself that nothing unimportant remains infinite.
Eventually, an unfamiliar place will become a home, and if you’re lucky enough, you may even build this home with someone you love. And this is exactly the impact that the third stage has on mental health: you reach a state of happiness through the support and love that surrounds you.
When reflecting on what will help me reach this third stage, I realised it involves three things which make up a home; comfort, contentment and an infinite amount of love.
But the most important part of these three stages is the question of how I surpass them. Well, instead of remembering the reasons why I left my country as advised by the Uber driver, I will instead remember the reasons I came: to build my home.