Friday, 2 October 2015

Feeling At Home

   

To be honest, I hope this blog helps those close to me to understand my need to move to London.
I wish I could remember the first time I went to London a lot better but it was around the time that my mental health was deteriorating, as was the second trip. What I do know/remember from both occasions is that the first was for my 18th Birthday and the second, for my 21st. Going to London was a special occasion. It was a big deal. 
And so, as my recovery has progressed, perhaps the initial idea of moving to London was the notion of doing something special, big and perhaps even slightly out of reach? Almost as though I never believed it would become reality - just like my 100,000+ party! These days, I go to London most months and this month in particular, I've been for one night and two days and will be going again in a week's time for two nights and three days. London is no longer a big deal. And I think it's this, which has allowed me to develop the feeling that London could be my home. When I stepped off the train at Kings Cross, it felt like I was home. It felt so natural walking through the streets, using the underground, and finding my way around. When hearing that I'm visiting London, I have a number of people expressing anxiety at the underground system and distress at the thought of me finding my way around London by myself. But I enjoy it.
I think that feeling at home with where you are is essential for good mental health. It's comforting and reassuring; two feelings that are extremely important when you're in mental distress. The difficult thing about achieving such a feeling when you're mentally unwell, is that it often means you will
spend some time in a hospital.
I spent three years in and out of both medical and psychiatric hospitals with me having almost three admissions a week and variations of time in a psychiatric hospital that ranged anywhere from five
months, to 48 hours. In between hospitalisations I'd return to my Mum's where I'd sleep, maybe eat and pack a bag to run away and overdose again. What had been my home for 18 years quickly stopped being a place of comfort, reassurance and safety. I made it into something else. My bedroom held memories of a blood stained floor and hidden sharps, the bathroom held memories of purging, and the sitting room was remembered as the place where I was sectioned and carried out by six police. The fact my Mum lived there was the only comfort but as I distanced myself from her, the house was nothing more than a house.
I think, this is why being told that I was being admitted to a long-term hospital almost 200 miles away, wasn't such a heartache. I wasn't angry at being torn from my home. I wasn't anxious at the thought of being so far from my Mum. And I didn't worry that I'd get homesick. As spiteful as this may all sound, that was the affect my mental health had on my life. But then the hospital helped reverse some of these feelings as I began to appreciate my Mum more and grew closer to her so that saying goodbye after a home leave was upsetting. Going on leave to Mum's house, I did call it home leave but I think that was more to do with the fact that staff referred to it as this. I would feel awful if I was with my Mum and in talks of going back to hospital, I'd refer to it as going home. The staff would always tell us that it wasn't our home but keeping someone there for two years? Of course it'll become your home. I had my bedroom decorated the way I wanted and I had all of my things in it. The sitting room and kitchen and friend's bedrooms just became part of it. In order to distance myself from feeling 'at home' I would remind myself of all the differences e.g. asking for medication when struggling, only being allowed your laptop during certain hours, being made to attend 'therapeutic groups.' After basically 'living' in my bedroom and that hospital for 18 month, I was then moved to my own house. I say 'house' because it was temporary. A three month stop gap before the ultimate hospital discharge. It was strange suddenly having an entire house to look after and without having someone constantly within a meter of me (patient or staff). It was lonely, but at the end of the road, a future in my own home with a kitten lay so I pushed through.
When I got the call to say a home they thought was suitable for me was for rent, I was so excited, and having my first view of it, I went in with the assumption that I'd feel a natural pull toward it. That I'd just 'feel' like if we're meant to be home. That it was, as my funder used to say, my 'forever home.' I didn't. The house had been adapted for a person with physical disabilities and so the concrete slope to the front door and seat in the shower was more than a little off-putting. The walk-in wardrobe was more convincing, and then I asked my funder if 'this was the best I could hope for?' And she said yes so I confirmed that I wanted to apply for the home. Another property came up that I wasn't interested in because of it's location but luckily, I got a 'yes' on the one I visited.
As I was discharged once it was decorated and the furniture put in its place, I felt that I had a home. And getting my kitten; Dolly, made it even more homely. I love seeing her toys scattered around the house and I love returning to my home after a long day out, a trip away for events or a night at my Mum's. It's comforting and reassuring. I have 'a home' but... I don't think I'll ever feel 'at home' in the town I live... But I guess I'm halfway there.