One door closes – and another one opens

I have nearly finished packing up my flat now.

There’s maybe a few more boxes and then it’s good to go.

I was asked, on one of my posts, if I knew the reasons for my current relapse. This separation is one of them. I am bad at goodbyes at the best of time but this farewell feels particularly challenging. It is entangled with my eating disorder and my recovery; and, even though the move is something I desperately wanted, I am still experiencing the wrench.

So this is a post about my flat which isn’t, I admit, the most interesting of blog topics; but it feels like something I need to write through in order to let go. It is an acknowledgement of the sadness that I am currently trying to throw up because I’m still not sure where to put it; and also of why my flat was so important to me.

From institutionalisation to…a little flat with sloping ceilings and the most amazing view.

My flat was my first home post a three year stint in rehab that had been preceded by a few years peppered with admissions, and a temporary move back to my parents’ home in between. I had become accustomed to NHS walls and signs about the hand basins; and, suddenly, I had a space that was all my own.

When you’ve been looked after for a long time, it’s strange to make the move back into the “real world”. Difficult to not wake up to a knock or know that, at the other end of the corridor is an office filled with people who can help –

My flat was the transition.

It taught me about responsibility and it helped me to start to care.

DIY Queen

During the first few years, my eating disorder remained particularly active, and my flat became the place that I binged.

I had thought, which I finally managed to break free of the bulimia, that it would be impossible to break the associations; but I found that my flat could actually help –

And so, for the first few months, I painted myself into recovery. Each evening after work when I would historically have been bingeing, I picked up a paintbrush and worked my way around my flat. I discovered – and carefully filled and concealed – every crack and hole in the walls; knew where the dents and curves were; painted over the food that had splattered up the walls beside the TV where I used to crouch –

And made myself a home.

My home

Last year, my house became a home. It became a place where I could invite people (because there wasn’t food hidden in every spare storage space), and share with people (because I was learning, for the first time, how to share meals), and feel safe, and secure, and warm, and all those things that are really important….

It also helped me to find me.

Each chosen colour was an act of self-discovery; each arrangement of furniture or selected picture or carefully constructed painting or stack of books, was a step in the journey to discovering what I liked as a person. To creating a place that represented me –

But was, as I’m beginning to realise, only one step in the journey.

Moving on

I have done things in reverse. Have gone from living alone to flat-sharing, from building a home to a room that will never be mine.

The upheaval has thrown me more than I expected; the sense of loss, been hard to vocalise – but only because it is new. Only because I have carefully re-entered the world and now I am moving out of this first gentle re-introduction.

This is, I keep reminding myself, not about rooms and roofs: it’s about opening up my world and truly moving on. The learning remains, even if the things that assisted it do not.

30 years is a long time to spend in one place. Ironically, I never wanted to remain where I grew up before I became so ill. It was one of those twists of fate where circumstances dictated the outcome, and I wasn’t in a great position to move on.

Writing this post has reminded me of this. Of the hopes and aspirations that exist alongside the sadness. Of the feeling of being trapped that characterised my life, even though the freedom has knocked me sideways.

I don’t want to go back, despite the sadness. I just haven’t quite got used to what’s next.

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4 Responses to “One door closes – and another one opens”

  1. Jo says:

    Congratulations Issa. You’ve jumped into life with both feet. This is where the adventure begins. And thanks for sharing this, I don’t think it was uninteresting at all.

    Jo x

  2. Megan says:

    A really insightful, beautifully written post.

  3. Harriet says:

    Place is a very powerful thing. Ultimately you won’t be happy anywhere if you are not happy on the inside of your head; I’ve learnt that I can’t expect a change in environment to produce a change in thoughts and behaviour. But if you’re quite committed to recovery, it can be a useful thing. Having my own house gave me a sense of my own space, it allowed to me to exercise my creativity (decorating, etc.), and it gave me the freedom to confront the bad memories hiding in certain other places that I have no choice but to visit almost daily – the riverbank where I used to make myself throw up, the roads that I walked compulsively. The ED thoughts urge me to do those things again, and I’m (often) able to turn back to that little haven of peace that is my house and resist the pull of the other places.