I moved to Seattle to renew my life, yet I’ve been as depressed as ever. Shouldn’t I be less vulnerable in a beautiful place like this?
I encounter people in this situation regularly. Seattle is a city of transplants, and the adjustment is not always quick or easy. Here are several reasons we could designate a special “Seattle depression” for newcomers in the the Emerald City.
First of all, moving sucks. You may have escaped a messy family situation and a doomed marriage, a rotten job and hell-hole physical setting, but you’ve come to a place where you don’t know many people. Isolation correlates with depression. Often, being with irritating people who you know may still better for your mood than being alone. Seattle has a reputation as a place where people are generally insular and hard to get to know. Whether or not the reputation is deserved your feeling blue and insecure will not help your efforts to integrate.
But I’m an introvert, you may say. People are a pain, and I like to be alone! Just the same, being human, you have tribalism in your genes. You don’t have to change you personal nature, but you might benefit by adjusting your patterns of affilliation.
Besides the isolation that comes with moving, you have disrupted your usual routines. Routine is good for your mood, plain and simple. Humdrum activity is still activity. It gives a sense of purpose it keeps you in motion and it lends structure to your day, whereas now that structure may be hard to come by.
The reduced light that comes with our long winters is undeniably a factor in depression, but an overblown one in my opinion. The problem with winter is not just the reduced sunlight but the fact that we don’t move around as much. Physical activity is good medicine for depression and it just doesn’t come as easily in the Seattle winter. If you get a boost from taking walks in the summer, get a good parka and don’t let the went winter stop you.
All the disruption, lack of routine, reduced activity, seperation and isolation contributes to a sense of anomie – a breakdown in the usual social norms and standards that give us a sense of regulation, stability and belonging. Even a slight sense of dysregulation and weakened structure adds to anxiety.
As I have mentioned several times before, depressed people ruminate to try to find answers. Ruminating is a vortex. It gives the allusion that we are seeking answers when in fact we’re moving farther from solutions.
You can place all blame the nature of the city if you wish. But if depression is the fault of this locale, we would have a measurably higher rate of depression. We don’t. Incidentally, the only city with a measurably higher rate of suicide is Los Vegas.
So what is to be done? As Mark Twain stated, “It takes a heap of livin’ to make a house a home”. You may need a plan to direct your activity more productively, to find more connection, gratification and pleasure, and tune your thinking to be less depressive. Then, you can begin feeling like you belong, perhaps even like it would be depressing to leave. CBT or cognitive-behavioral therapy is a practical way to do this.