How to cope with a major life change?
October 30, 2013 7:59 PM   Subscribe

As someone with Asperger's Syndrome (and a few anxiety disorders), I find change, especially sudden change, difficult to cope with, but I could have a chance at a fantastic job if I am able to move across country in the next week.

A little background on the situation…

I'm 22 years old and I live at home with my mother in our house. Never before have I lived on my own or had a full-time, stable job. In the next week I could have the chance at taking a job with a company that will pay really well ($70, 000 the first year), but I am terrified of the abrupt changes in my life!

Will I manage independently well? What if I can't find somewhere to live? What if the job doesn't work out for me?

What I want to know is how can I relax and not feel so stressed about it all? I want to be able to make this money and work at this company, but I am afraid of these changes, which sounds pathetic, I know, but it is true!

How do I cope with all this anxiety?
posted by 8LeggedFriend to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My suggestion is that if you make this move, try to bring some of your previous life with you and when all the changes overwhelm tou, focus on them. The more history the better. Do you have a childhood toy or other souvenir? Can your mother come with you during the first week? Can you take your old sheets and blankets with you? Can you make a list of rituals to keep up- eat the same cereal you are used to, go to bed at the same time, whatever?
posted by cacao at 8:07 PM on October 30, 2013

You say that it "sounds pathetic" to be so afraid of change. But it's not pathetic at all - it's very normal.

There's something very wise someone said about this kind of situation - that real bravery didn't mean that you weren't afraid, real bravery means that you felt afraid but did something anyway.

cacao has good advice about finding some kind of comforting familiar thing; also reminding yourself that it's okay to be afraid, as long as you're still doing what you think you should be doing IN SPITE OF the fear, could help.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 PM on October 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

When I was 23, I moved to Chicago (from NYC) on a week's notice. I knew no one and had no place to stay. I ended up staying for 14 years. While it was happening it was terrifying or more aptly overwhelming. Looking back on it a few years later and now many many many years later, it was a life shaping experience and tons of fun. I forced myself to make a life. Ended up meeting my wife, had 3 children while living in Chicago, etc.

The one thing I think made it work was that I did not really have the option or safety net to go back to NY. It HAD to work. Just define your goal which is likely something along the lines of "Find a place to live, work hard at work, meet people, get out, have fun." Then everyday ask yourself what progress you are making today towards your goal.

Change can be hard. Change can be unsettling. Embrace the change, embrace the darkness.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:26 PM on October 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

First off, the changes you're talking about are big and kind of scary for everyone, Asperger's or no. I can't tell you whether you'll be successful living on your own, but you've gotta try sometime. And it's really not that hard. Can you feed yourself, keep your place clean enough, and pay your bills on time? That covers the basics.

The hard part about moving far away is probably being lonely. Finding a new social circle is tough, and I'd imagine Asberger's makes it tougher. You'll meet people at work, though. If the job doesn't work out, you can move back, right? With that salary, you'll be able to afford it.

Are you supposed to actually move next week? I don't have experience being hired long distance, but that seems unreasonable.
posted by Comet Bug at 8:28 PM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

First off, "Have the chance" sounds like you haven't signed anything saying "I will be your employee under these terms," and that you don't have a start date.

When the time comes, negotiate a few weeks to get your ducks in a row. Also, if the job is so great and well paying, they'll cover at least a few grand for relocation expenses to move you and your things. Hell, some defense contractors will even buy your house from you and list it on the market [DNRP].

Finally, how could you surpass this opportunity by sticking around town? If you can't answer that question, it's time for a change of scenery.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:46 PM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

The only way to grow and move ahead in life is to move beyond your comfort zone. So it just comes down to a choice of what is more important for you, comfort or moving ahead.
posted by Dansaman at 9:44 PM on October 30, 2013

Will I manage independently well? What if I can't find somewhere to live? What if the job doesn't work out for me?

It might help you to make a specific plan for how to handle the worst-case scenarios that your anxiety is worrying about. For example, you could look up whether there are any resources in the area that could help you adjust to living independently if you find yourself struggling with it (a support group? therapists? whatever might work for you). Calculate how many days you can afford to stay in temporary accomodations, and how much a return ticket would cost, so that if you can't find somewhere to live, or if the job doesn't work out, you have a plan for how to get back to where you are.

I am overly cautious, and it sometimes helps me to think of big decisions full of uncertainty as gambles - that I am betting myself that moving to a new city will produce more gains than losses. Framing it like that makes me feel a little more OK with the idea that things might go badly - I'm taking a risk, but I might win.
posted by dreamyshade at 12:09 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Living on your own AND moving across the country is a big deal. Could you live with roommates, whether temporarily or permanently? That might make the transition easier, even though you'll still be independent.

Could you do a lot of research about the new town -- figure out in advance where you might want to go grocery shopping, exercise, etc.? Also, try to find a therapist and start seeing them immediately after you move.

Is it possible your mom could come with you for the first week or so to help you transition?

Finally, I don't know if in your current treatment you've come across mindfulness. Now might be a good time to start looking into that approach. Can you accept that the things you're talking about would be stressful for anyone, and make peace with that stress and anxiety because in the long run you think it will be worth it? For the first six months at least, it's very common to be unhappy and regret making the choice because you're not settled yet and miss your old, familiar, comforting life.
posted by chickenmagazine at 3:34 AM on October 31, 2013

Once you make the decision to do it you'll be too busy dealing with the logistics to worry. Fear is mostly in the anticipation. Keep yourself busy making it happen.
posted by rocketpup at 7:11 AM on October 31, 2013

Will I manage independently well? What if I can't find somewhere to live? What if the job doesn't work out for me?

The fact that you are asking questions indicates you are already planning ahead. People who plan ahead usually do pretty well. Can you look into long-term stay hotels and at newspapers for rentals and so on? This might help you feel like you are doing a practical thing toward finding a place to stay, then a home to acquire.

What do you think managing well independently looks like? This is someone who gets up on time and goes to work on time? They have food in the cupboards? They have clean clothes put away? They pay their bills on time? They remember to eat breakfast? Imagine a day in the life of this well-managed independent person and write that stuff down. There's your list of how to do it.

If you went to an interview and they offered you the job, I think you need to give it your best effort - this is someone who hires people for a living who thinks you can do it and that you will be a good fit. I bet the job will work out. If it doesn't, then you find a new one or go back to what you were doing (would finding out if going back is possible make you feel more comfortable about going?).

Finally, this is how I cope with first day jitters for a new job: Plan for the future and remember that everything else was new at some point, too.

When I started a new office job once, as an office assistant (something I had never done before but sounded ideal for me), I was terrified. So I tried to remind myself that the first week or so, no one expects you to know everything. You are The New Person.

The first week will feel like you are lost and confused all the time. People will ask if you did Project A and you did not even know Project A existed.

But in two weeks, you will be an old pro at your job and you will know everyone you need to know, and everything will be fine.

My advice is, make plans for the evening after your first day. Just anything you like - movie, going out for ice cream, whatever. Then whenever you have a panicked moment during the first day, try to remember that the day will end and you have something fun waiting for you.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 9:04 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

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