(Sun City, CA, USA)
Having left the lower 48 states, moved to Alaska when 22 yoa, and living there for 35 years my life was turned upside down when I retired.
Over a year's time, I left the country I loved to return to the lower 48, lost my dad, lost my only friend (my dog), and became stuck at the in-laws taking care of a mother-in-law.
I have no friends, my wife and 2 grown sons try to be understanding; but life is not happy. I feel sequestered to the 2-bedroom house that the m-in-law owns, all personal belongings are stuck in storage, and I hate the traffic and weather here in the interior of southern California.
Although my retirement of $45,000/yr and savings of $650,000 are comforting; my life is depressing.
Answers to your bullet point ideas: I have taken mild medication for depression for many years and life was happy in Alaska, retirement was forced upon me when the requirements of my employment were not able to be met due to an Americans with Disabilities Act status (essential tremors). I was not "Thrilled" to retire but was thankful that I had enough time in with the Department to do so.
I do not see a light at the-end-of-the-tunnel and though my wife and I have searched for some place where we might be happy to retire we are no closer really to finding that place on a map than we were 3 years ago when we first started thinking about retirement.
As I sit here writing this now I can not see myself happy any place.
Wendy: Do you have friends you left behind in Alaska? Why not go there for a visit? Just a get away might improve your mental well-being?
My nephews mother-in-law spends a month or two back here in Michigan, then travels to Alaska for 4-5 months.
I wonder if you might be able to do something like that until you can completely retire. Maybe even rent an apartment or own a home there again.. but travel back and forth to help family AND maintain some happiness in your own life.
I also have two friends who are in the process of doing what you've done - move from their homes to be closer to the aging parents. It's definately not easy...