I Have PTSD From Living In New York City For 20 Years

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I lived in New York City for twenty years. I was one of those “I love New York/greatest city on earth” die-hard psychos who believed there was nowhere else on the planet to live.

After two decades the weather, endless gloom, and eight months a year of seasonal depression (that antidepressants, a psychopharmacologist, a psychologist, and a lightbox couldn’t fix) was too unbearable to counter-argue with the remaining nice four months. 

The place I claimed to love was slowly killing me. My quality of life was the equivalent of being under house arrest in Siberia, except with a doorman and Uber Eats.

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Why didn’t anyone tell me I could move?

Because no one leaves New York City. Except to go to L.A. And then, for some reason, they come back.

I had to leave.

I was depressed from living in a box with no outdoor space that faced an overpriced supermarket and seven banks.

I was depleted from the lack of vitamin D. I was downtrodden from the miserable lifestyle.

I was exhausted from protecting myself against the endless vile elements with the layers of expensive battle gear that no one has enough room for. The dreary heavy black/grey wool sweaters, the thick ugly socks that make your boots too tight, the boots that feel like you have weights on your feet, the super unsexy down jacket, the hat you can never find, the gloves you constantly lose only one of, the scarf that drags on the ground, and the hood that obstructs your peripheral vision and makes you unable to hear anyone you’re walking next to.

I have PTSD just from writing that.

Plus, I forgot the umbrella that either gets blown inside out from the wind, pokes someone’s eye out, or you simply lose on the regular. All of those awful necessities weigh you down; they are both physically and mentally burdensome.

I moved out of New York ten years ago this month. It wasn’t long after that I realized it wasn’t just the weather and the poor quality of life that were insufferable.

It’s like a bad relationship — the longer you’re out of it the more clarity you have. How did I stand for that abuse for so long?

Each year that I was gone I became more and more aware of how much it traumatized me and how difficult everyday life was. Like, for example, how aggravating, time-consuming and expensive it was to get anywhere.

How you have to wait in a ten-person long line just to buy toothpaste. How you have to strategically zig-zag through hordes of assertive pedestrians to walk your dogs without them getting stepped on.

How your best scenery (assuming you don’t live facing Central Park) are the ugly grey buildings or the dirty streets with garbage bags piled up on the corner. On top of that, I was 41 years old and I didn’t want or need to compete with 8 million other people for success, an apartment, a boyfriend, or a table at a good restaurant anymore. None of it was worth it.

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I never saw a sunset before I moved to Miami. I never even thought about sunsets. It wasn’t part of my world. I was used to staring at a man staring at his TV in the building across the street.

I was used to going home in the winter at 4:30 p.m. every day because it was dark. I was used to staying in my apartment for days on end, sleeping entire weekends away and wasting my life.

I’ve been living in Florida for a decade now and it’s not New York and that’s the best thing about it.

One afternoon a few years ago my mother called and asked what I was doing. It was around sunset and I told her I was sitting on my terrace staring at the clouds. She asked if I was high. I wasn’t. I was just mesmerized by the beautiful sky and in awe that this was now a part of my life.

It brought me peace and tranquility and an appreciation for something I never even thought about, nor had the opportunity to observe for the twenty years I lived in a concrete jungle. I wish I had realized there were other options in life. I wish I had moved sooner.

People ask me if I miss New York. No, I don’t miss anything about it (except maybe the cupcakes.) But I don’t miss the struggle, the fight, the battle gear, the angst.

I don’t miss how unhappy everyone looks and how unpleasant everyone is. New York City might be a great place to visit, but it’s not a great place to live.

Then again it depends on what’s important to you — money, power, prestige, titles, or positive mental health and a great quality of life.

I did love New York a long time ago. I never dreamed I would leave, but I’m so happy I did.

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Pam Gaslow is a comedian and writer. She has been featured in Medium, HuffPost, The Good Men Project, and more. Follow her on Instagram.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.