In a couple of weeks I move home and despite the fact it’s literally 20 minutes away my 13 year old sister has begun referring to it as ‘the abandonment’. At present I live in a small village in a small flat on the outskirts of Cambridge quite literally around the corner from my family, as my brother described it ‘you moved out but not really’. At the start of University in Warwick I was convinced I would not return after graduation but the whole being super unwell thing sort of meant I had to come home. Initially being in the village made sense; I had my family a street away, I used the mental health services here regularly, work is around the corner and the sense of community meant I moved from a campus bubble to a real-world bubble. Living in a village has acted as a safety net from actual life and allowed me to dip my toe into the chaos of a town and then return safely to drink earl grey tea, watch bake off with my little brother and trot around the nature reserve – I have more walking shoes than actual shoes. The community vibe which can sometimes feel stifling is also a semi extended family, I’m babysitter to a host of honorary siblings and the village dog comes for sleepovers and has his own blanket. I’m recommended for jobs and am currently ‘granny sitting’ for a 94 year old with a wicked but mildly racist sense of humour and babysit for a family that I genuinely miss when I haven’t seen them for a while. When I first returned people would report back to my mum when I was seen looking dishevelled in case I was unwell, at the time it infuriated me for my inability to just be a slob without being deemed mentally unstable but now its vaguely comforting.
The move to the centre of town is financially and mentally a big shift for me. Although I’m still a 30-minute cycle ride away (and an hour and 20 minute bus because #cambridgebuses) what the move signifies is a huge leap in wellness. I love my family but I don’t need them in the same way I did before and I’m no longer using services so frequently I consider the Hospital a second home. I know it’s time to leave because the one friend I have in the village no longer constitutes a social life and I actually want to attend the parties and nights out I’m invited to. My exercise habits consist of allocating 4 days a week to swimming and only completing one of those and yet replacing my light stroll to work with a reasonable bike ride feels like an acceptable sacrifice. Even the fact that i’ve been slowly packing and sorting and not up at 3am binning half my belongings illustrates my ability to manage a situation which would usually induce a little hypomania. It’s not only the moving that demonstrates wellness but the way I’m managing the move itself.
Now don’t get me wrong a couple of weeks ago i got 3 hours sleep for 5 nights in a row (which did not go unnoticed at work) and today I woke up at 5am with internet suppliers on my mind, but rather than frantically doing some research I had coffee in my dressing gown and sat down to write this blog. I’m still enlisting the help of my family but on things I genuinely can’t do on my own like carrying a mattress several streets so I have something to sleep on now my beds sold or looking at internet suppliers because numbers freak me out and I descend into a trance. I still need a little emotional support – I called my friend yesterday because the last of my furniture was sold which left me feeling like a squatter which in turn led to me having ‘a moment’ but these things are reasonable, they’re not a crutch they’re just a helping hand.
One of my main struggles with my Bipolar is the concept of ‘recognising the small things’ which is something mental health professionals harp on about but always feels patronising to me, like ‘err no it’s depressing that washing up constitutes an achievement’. A few times over the past week I’ve berated myself for struggling with the concept of moving within the same county but I remind myself that it’s a move that is hugely significant. I note that I am lucky I have friends who will dismantle a double wardrobe at 10pm because I didn’t realise it wouldn’t just fall apart at the touch of a screwdriver and it’s being collected at 9am. I am lucky that I have a brother who will carry a single mattress a street or two because I’ve sold my bed too early after fears of desperately hauling furniture to the tip on moving day. I am also lucky to have such a strong relationship with my little siblings that they refer to my move as though it’s the title of a gritty BBC drama. Whilst moving is a stress It is also a moment for me to look around and notice what amazing people I have surrounding me and I am very very grateful for these lovely, awesome people who notice the small things for me.