Is Big City Life to Blame for Bad Mental Health?
By Milly Hailstone
I scratched the surface on this topic in my How I'm Beating Anxiety blog post, but I decided to dig a little deeper and try to figure out if big city life has a negative impact on mental health. As usual, I'll be writing from my own (short) life experience and discussing situations that impacted my anxiety and some that didn't.
The Illusion of City Life
For as long as I remember, I was drawn in by the neon lights, the loud music, and the fashionable looking people that belong to large, metropolitan cities. I grew up in a small town that was situated slap bang in between farmland and the town center. It was a 10-minute walk in either direction - the same amount of time it would take to reach my town's McDonalds you could be surrounded by fields of horses if you chose to walk in the opposite direction.
In a way, I grew up with the best of both worlds. I didn't have to choose between town or country, though by no means was my local town a giant overwhelming city. But, I'd romanticized what big city life would be like - I dreamed of a well-paid job, an active social life, and a happy life - however, that's not the experience I received.
I really like that I live my life looking through rose-tinted glasses, but it does often allow me to be naive. Naive that the economic climate in England and America can provide for all millennials the way it did for our parents, and naive to the fact that a damp room in the bad part of town can easily cost 50% of your wages.
Instead of the romantic picture of what I thought city life would be, like many other millennials, I ended up living in cramped conditions, unable to save money and with a binge-drinking problem. It wasn't the life I'd pictured for myself, and despite working hard for 50-hours per week, I felt like a failure.
Bad Habits & Coping Mechanisms
It was an unhealthy kind of lifestyle and along with bad habits I'd picked up as a coping mechanism, my mental health began to deteriorate. Anxiety lived at the front of my mind, and I felt immense pressure. I lived in Brighton - one of the UK's coolest city and I felt I needed to be the most fashion-forward, edgy version of myself.
This meant consuming at high-levels with money I didn't really have, and the constant sense that something just wasn't right - but, not really being able to put my finger on it. Instead of trying to pull myself out of this hole I created, I drank to forget and in the process, I became a shadow of my former self.
How can you live your best life, when there is the constant buzz of stress down every overpopulated street? It was suffocating, I couldn't do it.
Now, I'm living a ten-minute drive from some really beautiful lakes and forests, and I'm really starting to believe that this calming atmosphere is having an incredible effect on my mental health. It's quiet and relaxing and my bad days happen far less often.
It did take me almost a year to heal and truly find my authentic self again. While I wasn't expecting things to change overnight, as soon as I'd left the place that I found so triggering some of the weight lifted off my shoulders. Right now, I'm in a great place - one I don't think I could have found in the city.
I understand that it's not possible for everyone to pack up their whole life and move on a whim, but it's something to consider for your future. City life isn't for everyone, it wasn't for me. I don't feel like a failure anymore, I just know what works for my life and what doesn't.
Do you think fast-paced city life is deteriorating your mental health? Or maybe, you live somewhere super quiet and love it? Please tell me your story in the comments.