I went to Mersea Island, and I had like, no impulse to check my phone or be caring about what anybody else is doing.
I’ve actually felt what home feels like.
Not being funny, I don’t want to sound like some hard done by Anne Frank type of character, because I know full well that I have been very lucky and very privileged in certain ways; but there’s no point in denying that I’m a bit fucked in the head.
I don’t really know what it feels like to be home.
In Mersea, when I’m not cooking with family, or watching TV, or gathered around a table drinking gin, beer or wine with family friends; I literally just want to be soaking up the comfy feeling and enjoying my own brain. I don’t want to be anywhere else. Quite honestly, that is a completely foreign concept to me and has been ever since I can remember.
Before I came here I had the realisation that I genuinely cannot remember the last time I wasn’t stressed out.
I know it has something to do with ‘home’.
Not that it was exactly a sanctuary to begin with, but when I was 11 my family had to move out of our home because we basically couldn’t afford to live there anymore and we were about to be evicted.
We moved in with my Nan and Grandad and were told that we were guests, and that we should be quiet, on our best behaviour, and pulling our weight as much as possible until we could move out. They’re doing us a big favour.
My Nan was a very strict type of person. Very strict, very proper, very Irish Catholic, and actually very mean if you didn’t look/talk/act a certain way.
I understand the logic and good intent behind the move, I guess.
But obviously, when you’re in that house for years, things don’t work like that.
You can’t keep up an act for years on end.
Not when you’re going through your teenage years, your parents’ marriage (which wasn’t great to begin with) comes to a bitter end, you’re getting bullied at school, and your Nan is very cruel to you behind closed doors. Home was just conflict to me ever since I could remember.
I’m 20 years old now, and to this day, I have not been to sit in the living room unless it was to play a boardgame at Christmas or it’s a particularly special and forced occasion.
I didn’t actually realise that was a big deal, and I know so many people have it worse being homeless, living in a shelter or being in an LEDC; but despite my luck this way of living fucked me up in ways I wasn’t even aware of. I guess there’s no shame in admitting that, at the end of the day.
It changed the way I relate to people, the way I work, the way I present myself to the world. It stopped me from having relationships, or friendships, or anything that a lot of people I know take for granted. I was always very secretive, but also very needy. So like, I wanted company all the time but I never wanted to show that I wanted company all the time, because I was taught that showing all your cards is weak.
To me, my friends became a lifeline. Going out with friends became a lifeline. I developed weird co-dependent yet secretive tendencies because I didn’t want anybody to know too much about me or take a look in to this fucked up situation.
I never showed people who I truly was, and once I started showing the world who I truly was, it was outrageous.
On a minor scale, I would constantly be pestering my friends to come out and do something with me so I didn’t have to be in doors. I’m lucky to have friends who took me in for short periods of time too, although I didn’t really like to take advantage. I still sometimes feel like my presence in someone’s life is a burden. I don’t like to say it though.
On a major scale, I went out on New Years eve 2018 and didn’t come home for 4 months- because I made friends who (like me) did not come from happy homes, and we all led each other astray squatting in flats and living out of cars and being a bit reckless.
It really messed with me. There’s no chill in my brain. I don’t know what chill is.
It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy, if you don’t feel safe, you’re kinda gonna be a bit fucked up.
This weekend in Mersea I’ve experienced the freedom to actually roam around in a house without feeling like I’m walking on eggshells, or being suffocated, or deafened by voices just arguing all the time. That is something that I literally have never experienced before.
Family friends have nipped in and out, we’ve had dinner parties and regular people activities.
The balance between socialising and then having a safe and quiet place to come back to actually made me actually want to paint, or cook, or be so engrossed in the moment that obsessively checking my phone and looking at social media just didn’t appeal. I felt like I was living a life, and I didn’t need anybody else to be able to do that.
I used social media and my relationships with other people as a way to escape the fact that I didn’t feel present. To escape the fact that I could never learn to play guitar because I’d be moaned at for making so much ugly noise, or to escape the fact that if I went downstairs it would be a matter of seconds before my Nan started an argument with me simply for being there.
I never had anywhere to go. I basically was just a guest in other people’s lives, and if I wasn’t in somebody else’s life, I was nothing.
I’m literally fighting off tears writing this in an office right now and I look insane. If anyone asks I’m just gonna have to play it off like really care about these technicians applications. Or do a Tracy Beaker and blame it on Hayfever.
Because relationships were a lifeline, it was really important that people liked me, and that I always some type of plan.
If people didn’t like me it hurt more than anything, and I would sit with a relationship that is no good for me in the bitter end because it’s better to be a part of somebody elses life than faced with the reality that I haven’t got anything going on with me. I wasn’t allowed to have anything go on with me.
I kinda put work off because to me, relationships were survival, money was not as important.
Obviously when I grew up and realised that money was important, money was the new relationships.
So unless I was in the company of somebody that I was eventually going to marry, or be having house parties with when I was eventually rich and in my own mansion somewhere; it was time spent wasted and I should have been working.
In the same way, my relationship with money was addictive because I always had to be earning and saving without spending. For as long as I’m in this house, I gotta be saving an inhumane amount of money. No holidays, no shortcuts, just let me leave this shithole.
I’m so tired of feeling drained and stunted by life.
I wish I could say that life is much different, but in terms of home, it’s not.
I spent a weekend in Mersea Island and it was wonderful but home is a concept that honestly does just make me want to shrivel up into a ball and cry.
My Nan is much worse now. In a different way.
She has really advanced Alzheimer’s and she’s just very unpredictable. I could never bring people home, but now, I certainly cannot ever bring anybody home. She’s also just, not really there anymore. Her brain kind of doesn’t work past a couple of minutes. She can’t remember how to get out of a car, or how to string a sentence together. She’s very aggressive and hyper, but she can’t really do anything with it. In some ways it’s better for me because there’s no capacity to argue (on account of the fact that she doesn’t know who I am), on the other hand it’s just fucking dreadful.
I am gradually finding my way and learning more about recovery, but I am finding it quite hard.
I don’t know what to do.
At least I now know that there is some way for me to recover and feel a sense of safety, if I can just get out.