Tell Me About It

My family think my plan to emigrate to the US is ridiculous

Tell Me About It: Because I had a stress-related illness last year, they won’t support my decision

PROBLEM: I spent a couple of months last year in a psychiatric hospital with a stress-related illness. At the time that I was admitted, I couldn’t find any joy in my life; I was under a lot of pressure in my job and I was a victim of abuse in the relationship that I had been in for several years.

I was discharged from hospital about one year ago and have attended regular outpatient appointments ever since and my clinical team seem satisfied with my progress. I have moved on from my relationship and plan to offer my resignation to my employers in the coming weeks. I have also put my house on the market and should be able to clear my mortgage, leaving me with a decent nest egg.

It has always been my dream to live on the west coast of the USA and open a small retail lifestyle-focused business. I have a background managing a large retail unit and have done a lot of research on the lifestyle market. There will be some minor logistical barriers in my way, but nothing substantial and I am fortunate that in my case emigration laws won’t be an issue.

I am in my mid-40s and very close to my family. They think my plans are, in their own words, “ridiculous”. They think I have developed romantic notions from watching too many Hollywood films and that I am at risk of jeopardising everything I have worked for. They also feel that given I have a diagnosis of a mental-health problem, I am not in a position to make a sound decision.

I find this very hurtful as I believe that whilst this move will be healing, it will also be transformative.

I have always been an independent person and apart from engaging in a difficult relationship, I am proud of almost every decision I have ever made. I am also very happy that I sought help when I did, and I do plan to continue with therapy. But I think it is very unfair that I be undermined and defined by the fact that I have a mental-health problem.

But to do this, I need my family’s support to make this move.

ADVICE: You have a right to your own decision-making and to the support of the family. In this situation, you have made your decision with a well-thought out plan and have included financial risk assessment in your considerations. You possess the most significant of skills, that of self-awareness and knowing when and how to access help when you need it. If your professional team have said you are now fit and well, then this is what you base your decisions on.

They do not yet trust in your ability to be mentally robust and they want to be around in case of a crisis

You say you plan to continue in therapy once you make the move to the US and this is a wise choice as you will need someone to check in with at least for the first year of your new venture. It may also be important to take out good health insurance when you move so that you have access to excellent services should the situation arise.

In terms of family, you might start by speaking with one member you have a connection with or one that is less fearful for your future. They may then be in a position to mediate your choices with other members so that they move from a position of fear for your wellbeing to one of excitement for your new venture. It is also good to acknowledge that their negativity is based on their experience of your prior illness, and their fear of a set-back and their love for you.

They do not yet trust in your ability to be mentally robust and they want to be around in case of a crisis – their concern is their way of flagging their devotion and love for you.

Can you genuinely show them that their concern is misplaced?

You are only in your 40s and can risk giving some more time to developing your wellbeing before putting your confidence to the test

Would your medical team be willing to meet with one of your family to vouch for this planned change?

If you cannot answer yes to these questions, then maybe you need to hear their concern as valid and slow down the departure plan until you are sure you are robust enough to go. You are only in your 40s and can risk giving some more time to developing your wellbeing before putting your confidence to the test. Moving continents may be very exciting but it will also surely be challenging, and it would be great if you could ring home and moan about your difficulties instead of hiding what is happening so as not to worry your family.

It is worth investing in gaining your family’s trust before you go, so listen to what they have to say and take enough time to demonstrate genuine confidence to them.