On July 19th 2010 I got into bed at my home in Dorset for the last time, and slept very little. By the evening of the 20th I was lying in a new bed 400 miles away, staring at a precipitously tilting wardrobe.
Sometimes I wonder how on earth I managed to make things work this time around. I mean – if I’m honest – moving to Newcastle was another of my infrequent but life changing impulsive decisions. I’m not really an impulsive sort of person – I like to plan things to within an inch of their lives, and to create endless pros and cons lists to be certain that I’m making the best decision. But every now and then, when I’m really sick of the way my life is going, I will behave in a way that is entirely contrary to my cautious nature. I will apply to study physics at a university several hundred miles away when still very unwell with anorexia. I will email my mum to tell her that I need to come home from said university, as said anorexia is attempting to kill me. I will be sitting on a sofa at home one minute, completely entrenched in my eating disorder, and the next I will be planning my recovery to the most minute detail, to make sure I really see things through this time.
I will send one of my closest friends a message on Facebook telling him that I really rather like him. I will become bored to tears by how slowly my post-weight restoration life is going and desperate to spend more time with my new boyfriend, and so decide to move 400 miles north. Just like that.
Impulsive decisions don’t always turn into disasters. York didn’t go so well, but the other items on that list have been some of the best moves of my life. And the literal move to Newcastle is one year old tomorrow. After lasting five months in Cardiff and four in York, I finally managed to live independently, at a significant distance from my family home, for a whole year.
So far I have survived:
– The Five Stomach Viruses in Five Weeks episode (capitals entirely necessary), which led to a near collision with Planet Relapse (twice)
– The financial problems which had me living on £5 a day for a few months (it will be the same this winter…)
– The palpitations of doom forcing me to tote a heart monitor around for a week, through a rather significant allergic reaction to the electrode glue which sent my poor nervous system into overdrive
– The disappointment of my sisters not being able to visit me last October, causing a major lapse into homesickness
– The landlady from hell with worse OCD than my own, who texted me from ICELAND (country, not supermarket) to tell me off for not putting out the bin, even though I’d done the rest of the housework by myself and the other lazy git in the house hadn’t lifted a finger, which led to…
– The second big move in four months, from a shared house to a little two bed flat of my own, which triggered…
– The worst PTSD flare up in at least three years, which caused…
– The impressive degree of self destruction which occurred in December, cycling through lapses into a) self harming, b) drinking waaay too much and c) restricting, all in one month, finally pulling myself out of it all in January
– All made worse by the fact that my boyfriend was ill and couldn’t accompany me to house viewings or stay with me the night of the “anniversary” of the rape this year, meaning that I had to find a new house by myself in four weeks, deal with phoning, talking to and meeting total strangers when I am horribly shy in those sort of situations, move in three days before the “anniversary” and then somehow cope with it on my own for the first time – I’ve always arranged company before, to keep my mind away from it. Hence PTSD, hence self destruction.
– Finally, after things were much calmer from February until May, starting my new job shook me up quite a bit too…
This last year has been tough, no doubt about it. But it’s also been fucking brilliant. This seems like an obvious thing to say, but there is a huge difference between running away and pushing myself. When I moved to York I was running away – staying in Dorset would have been far better for my health and my recovery, but recovery was scaring seven kinds of crap out of me and I wanted to escape and start again. It was a shitty decision – although one which has, over the very long term, had a positive outcome. Moving to Newcastle was different. It was impulsive but it was also sound: I was weight restored and had been for pushing a year/six months depending on your definition (I reached a medically healthy weight in September 2009 and my target in January 2010), my boyfriend and several of my friends lived in the area, I had tentative educational and job prospects, I had new coping skills coming out of my ears. I was trying to escape from feeling trapped and purposeless in Dorset, and moving up north did stretch me right to the limit of my capacity to cope – but this time I was actively fighting to prioritise my recovery above everything else, and I threw all my strength and determination at making my latest fresh start work. I have so much more confidence in myself now I know I can cope with the practicalities of moving house, present myself well in job interviews and convince someone to hire me, complete a course at a college where I don’t know a soul, and explore a whole new city by myself.
Coming from a small rural area with a strong local identity and a mistrust of “grockles” I am aware that I am not and will never be a northerner, and still think of this as my new rather than real home. But I love my new city. People don’t tend to think of Newcastle or Gateshead as particularly scenic, but they really are. The Quayside, the Angel, the Shoe Tree, Sandhaven, the bridges – particularly MY bridge. Beautiful! Newcastle is also home to four Katie-friendly restaurants, several of my favourite people live well within travelling distance (Jonathan, Fiona, Jess, Cathy…), and the North East appears to be the best place I could have moved to for studying counselling – 95% of the counselling foundation degrees in the UK are at colleges in this area. In any other part of the country I’d have to do the professional diploma, which would be more expensive and wouldn’t lead into a final BA year so easily.
I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. This can’t be my life because things are going well. Every time things go well in my life some big disaster occurs. This has not necessarily been self sabotage, sometimes it’s just plain bad luck. But this time I’ve made friends, found a paid job and some voluntary work, finished one qualification and been accepted onto the next, my relationship is still going, my house hasn’t yet fallen to pieces (although it is always threatening to!), and my physical and mental health are pretty much stable and okay. What the hell?! At no other point in my life could this have happened.
I’m certainly not complaining. I am happy and grateful and more than a little bit proud of myself. I know most people move away from home when they go to university at 18 or so, but I can’t compare myself to “most people”, because I have had more to contend with than most. Given my extenuating circumstances, having lived away from home for a whole year is something to celebrate and be proud of.
Here’s to the next five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. Or rather, 527040 – 2012 is a leap year 😉