The Move, Part 1: Recovery

Decision making really isn’t my forte. I can spend hours pondering which sandwich I’m going to have, only to end up no closer to an answer by the time lunch time rolls around. Nevertheless, when I don’t have a deadline, I do quite enjoy the ponder.

One of my favourite things to think about is my #VanLife fantasy. Those of you who know me well, will by now know that for some time I have been yearning for the freedom of life on the road (specifically in a converted L2H3 Ford Transit, with a high bed and nothing but my dog, blog and the road ahead.) It’s a dream that I’m still determined to make a reality someday, but sometimes it’s hard to aim for your ultimate goals when you’re struggling so much with your mental health that you need to urgently tend to your survival before you can strive to do much more than that.

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I first set foot in the city of Sheffield as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 18 year old. Having grown up in a village near the North Wales coast, the welcome of a friendly, northern city was as comforting as it was exciting and I couldn’t wait to get started at University.

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I grew up in Sheffield almost as much as I grew up in Wales. In my first year there, I navigated the perils of living alone for the first time, I absorbed lectures and seminars, I found out what kind of drunk I was (thankfully a happy one), coped with my first break up and found myself facing life without my mum; as she sadly passed away in July 2009.

Over the years, the steel city grew in me too. I found a rush of what can only be described as “home” every time my train pulled in and I was faced with the beautiful fountains and hills. I felt a pang in my heart every time I was away and heard the tones of Jarvis Cocker or Alex Turner and I developed a fierce loyalty for Henderson’s Relish (fuck Worcester Sauce!). I’d sit for hours on end in the Peace Gardens or Endcliffe Park and let the sights and sounds wash over me.

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For a long time, I couldn’t imagine a life away from Sheffield and this September would have marked 10 years since those first moments of wonder and discovery. My life took me down a path though that left me with no option BUT to re-imagine and I’m sure most of you know by now that I made the decision to leave my city and, while it was a sad decision to make, it was for all the right reasons.

You know by now that I am a survivor of domestic violence; it’s the very thing that drove me to want to help people (although I’ve always naturally had a keen interest in mental health and illness). The problem with being free of abuse is that the healing process is a loooong one and I’m sure it varies greatly from person to person. Having someone who “loves you” (or claims to) regularly strangle you and smash your head against the wall, is something that doesn’t just impact your future romantic prospects (or lack thereof), but it truly shakes your faith in everyone. Even yourself.

I have been free for almost two years now and, while getting through the hallucinations, night terrors and physical ptsd symptoms, was one thing; leading a “normal” life is completely another.

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It meant I was unable to work as effectively as I once had, eventually having to leave a job I had once enjoyed, because the pressure and stress built up so much. It meant I was less able to form new friendships and put my trust in people, sadly this included my close family and oldest friends. It meant I couldn’t walk down the street for fear of being attacked and it eventually meant I developed the compulsion to methodically rip my hair out strand by strand.

So I quit the job. I put more energy into the thing that brought me comfort and peace (pigletish) and I found like-minded people to share my thoughts with. I spent time only around the people I trusted. I built a strong wall of online confidants and friends around me. I had a lot of quiet time. I meditated and started running. I campaigned for change. I travelled to and from North Wales as often as I could afford to and I walked barefoot over beaches and forests and I started to feel freer. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And then I hit a wall.

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Sadly, I came to realise that I had taken my recovery as far as I could and that there was a MAJOR block in my way that I couldn’t push through. While I was living in the same city as my abuser, I was never going to be able to leave the house and feel safe. As much as I love Sheffield, as much as I’d grown here, it was time to leave it behind me.

Anneli Roberts1 Comment