Our house move is imminent but there is still a lot of uncertainty over when it will happen. We were hoping to complete this Friday, then early next week, then before the Easter weekend, but we haven’t exchanged yet and my solicitor hasn’t been able to get hold of the other solicitors to confirm a date so who knows when it will happen… I’ve been chasing everyone possible basically every day, but it is beginning to look like it will be after Easter now which would be super annoying as I’m off work this week and next and then return on April 24th when I have meetings booked in and a trip to another city planned. If we haven’t moved by the end of April it will be 28th May at the earliest because May is a very busy time at work and there’s no way I can move then, which feels like a really long time away. Despite all this I am managing to stay present – mostly – with the uncertainty, whilst accepting that it is stressful and triggering. ‘Normal’ people find house selling and buying incredibly stressful, so add in young parts, single parenthood, full-time work, and complex trauma and dissociation, and I can see why I descended momentarily into a dark and suicidal place on Saturday, when my buyer was being really flaky and it seemed like there was going to be a really long delay. I drove Nina at 8am on Friday – the last day of the school term – and felt so grateful and relieved that it would be the last of those crazy weeks. So then when my estate agent called on Friday and it sounded like it would be another 2 months till we could move and I would have another 6 weeks of endlessly driving Nina around the whole thing felt insurmountable. Organising a house sale and purchase and move as the only adult, on top of daily life, has really taken it out of me the past few months and I have really felt the lack of a loving partner to offer emotional support alongside taking on practical jobs and admin. The overwhelm and despair passed though, as it always does, and I’ve seen friends and been out for some lovely bike rides in the past few days, and am managing to take things as they come. This week off work feels kind of wasted because I am not packing and getting ready, but actually it has been so nice to just relax a bit. And my buyer has now paid his deposit and signed the contract so I am 99.9% sure now that nothing will go wrong.
Earlier today I made a list of all the things we are all excited about for when we are in the new house and new area, which helped a lot because it reminded me why I am uprooting everything and making this move. And just now, as I was doing yoga, I thought about how lovely this house is and how much I love my front room in particular, and how strange it will be to say goodbye to it soon. At times I’ve been desperate to get out of here, get the move over, start the next phase of my life, but as I lay there in savasana feeling so peaceful and content, it made me want to really make the most of the time we have left here, before everything gets dismantled and we load all our belongings into the van. And it led me to reflect on all that has changed since we moved here right at the end of 2015, and all the pain and healing these walls have held.
We moved here on the 19th December 2015. The move was already booked when my beautiful friend Jess killed herself on 10th December and my life was plunged into darkness and turmoil. I completely lost my ability to function in the hours and days and weeks after Jess died; as well as the loss of one of the best friends I’ve ever known, someone I could talk about anything and everything with and who I was growing closer to all the time, her suicide also triggered all the repressed trauma in me – young parts surfaced, I was dissociated and in constant emotional flashbacks, terrified to be left alone and completely horrified by how I was behaving and the reaction I was having. I will never know how I managed to pull off a house move at that time. It was completely horrific, I remember that. I was exhausted, surviving on virtually no sleep, permanently triggered with my attachment wound gaping open, abandonment terror flooding me constantly, grief pouring out of me and I wanted to die myself so I could be with Jess, though I couldn’t admit this then.
I had packed nothing the day before but managed to get most stuff moved that day. I then had two houses in chaos (we were renting and had a while as a crossover to get it completely empty and clean and repainted so I would get my deposit back) and Christmas to prepare for Nina who was only 7 at the time. It was the only time in my life I’ve asked for help – I put a shout out on Facebook the week before the move and asked for anyone who was free to help with packing, moving stuff, looking after Nina, wrapping presents, etc. My friends rallied round but I was terrified to be left alone. Someone would sit with me each night as my wine and sleeping tablets began to take effect but as soon as they got up to go I would be wide awake again, terrified and distraught. The funeral was on December 23rd. That Christmas Eve is genuinely the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. I lay in bed writhing in agony until 1pm, unable to see how I was going to get it together and do the next few days for Nina.
Somehow I did and I got through Christmas. The house began to feel like home. And as the months after Jess died passed by and I still felt suicidal and desperate a growing realisation took hold; this pain was mine. It was triggered by Jess, but it was about me – my life, my past, my trauma. After a family holiday in Scotland in April 2015, 4 years ago this very week, where hundreds of repressed memories from my childhood came back and I realised that I had been abused, I spent weeks at home unravelling as I began to understand my Mum was on the extreme end of the NPD spectrum and that she was also abusing and damaging Nina. I drank and cried and panicked as I knew I needed to stop my Mum seeing Nina alone but I was terrified to tell her, terrified of what she might do or say. I found my strength in this house – first telling my Mum a month of not looking after Nina, then telling her she would never spend time on her own with Nina again, and finally, 18 months ago, telling her that we wouldn’t be seeing her at all anymore. Back in 2015 the thought of exercising my autonomy and not doing what she wanted felt absolutely impossible, and yet here I am – free and empowered and reaping the benefits of that unthinkable choice I had to make.
Despite the grief and pain this house has seen as I started therapy and everything came flooding out, this house has felt more stable than my previous house – no after parties and drugs snorted off plates in the lounge, no random strangers sitting and talking shit and smoking weed in the garden, no getting home at 10am on Sunday morning having been out partying all weekend, no rows with my angry ex (just to clarify Nina has never been exposed to any of this, it would only happen when she was spending the weekend with my Mum, and I obviously stayed stable enough to work and do my PhD and be there for her, but there were wild nights and inappropriate people in my life back then, when she was not around). I have self-harmed so much in this house, self-medicated with alcohol, smoked cigarettes in the garage in a desperate attempt to soothe the gnawing, aching attachment pain inside me, but moving here still feels as though it marked the beginning of a new part of my life – the time when I began to see and feel all I’d been madly trying to run away from all my life.
When I started therapy with K in August 2015 I remember her asking about my home and me telling her how much I loved it. I told her what a wonderful energy it had, how light and spacious it felt despite being so small, how much I loved the wooden floorboards and the beautiful fireplace, that it felt safe and calm and peaceful. I also remember being surprised in another session when she remembered the things I had told her about my home and what I loved about it. It is a lovely house. It reflects me and who I am in a way that my new home doesn’t and probably never really will as it is a new-build and only 6 years old (we will make it ours, but this house is so very ‘me’ – people always comment that it is exactly how they expected my house to be). I love sitting in the front room with candles and fairy lights in the evening, doing yoga or reading or whatever. I love that it is calm and that no one ever comes in that I don’t want here. I love that it is mine. I think one of the reasons I’ve struggled so much with our screaming and yelling neighbours for the past two years is that it disrupts my safe haven. Home has never felt safe for me until this one. My previous house had so many bad memories of really chaotic times. The chaos in this house feels more contained.
In January 2016, when things in and out of therapy were very hard, I was sitting working on my bed on a Saturday, heavily dissociated and struggling to work through the fog in my head. A letter came – the landlady was selling our house and as soon as she did we would be given 2 months notice to get out. I absolutely panicked. I loved it here, we’d only been here a year, only just made it feel like home, and we would have to move. And it being such a small house meant that the rent was affordable – we’d have been looking at another £150 a month for something similar in this area, near Nina’s primary school. And I was so ill at that time, the thought of moving was impossible. I text K and she validated and soothed and said what a big deal it was and how hard it all was, but that we had time to make a plan and nothing would happen immediately. And then a plan began to form. My Dad had recently taken voluntary severancy from work and had given me some of his lump sum, and I had just started the permanent (subject to 5 years bloody probation) post where I work… Could I… Would it be possible… Might I be able to get a mortgage so I could BUY our house? I could. I did. And it was the easiest first house purchase ever. With this house it has always felt as though the universe was on my side – bringing it to me when I had just finished my PhD and could finally manage to contemplate a house move, and then a year later, when a mortgage was possible, the landlady deciding to sell. It has been something I’ve hung on to amidst all the turmoil and pain and work of the past 4 years – a refuge, a sanctuary, a place where I can block out the rest of the world when it is too harsh, too vivid, too jagged. When everything feels too much a few hours alone in this house always brings me back to myself.
And I have grown so much in the 4 and a half years we have lived here. I practiced yoga and meditated before we moved, but it is here these practices really took root. And I found the parts of course, got to know them, let them come out here and draw and play and watch films. And we got our bunnies in the summer of 2016 and they have been a hugely important part of my system’s healing – pets were something my Mum regularly screamed abuse at me about, so giving the young parts a healing and lovely pet-owning experience has been so important. There is nothing that makes me happier than sitting in the garden with Nina on sunny days and watching the bunnies together as they rush around binkying (Ollie looks like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins!) and rolling around, showing their fluffy tummies and stretching out in the sunshine. They have brought so much love and joy to our lives. And it was in this house I grew into a life without alcohol and drugs, without cigarettes and one-night stands and casual flings, without my Mum, without toxic people and habits that helped me survive but really only made things worse.
And in this house, with the support of K, I have become the parent to Nina that I needed to be – boundaried, firm, loving, consistent. I have owned my mistakes, apologised for my fuck-ups, held her when she’s cried, soothed her when she’s been ill, commiserated with her over the nasty girls at school. It was here I waved goodbye to her the first time she walked to school on her own and the first time she took the bus to go swimming by herself. And it was here she finally agreed with me that the best school for her would be the one I had chosen and not the one she had set her heart on. It was here she had her first sleepover, made me my first cup of tea, practiced gymnastics for hours in the garden, talked endlessly about pet names and swimming and annoying things her friends had done. Here I have heard her whisper and giggle with her friends as she travels into a part of her childhood where I am no longer invited. And I have watched her grow into herself, as she began to shrug off the damage inflicted on her by my Mun and said goodbye to the eyes she felt were always watching and judging her.
I have created somewhere safe for Nina, for me, and for the parts. I made us a home, a place where we can always be ourselves and where no one now comes in uninvited and destroys our peace. We have decorated it and filled it with beautiful things and happy memories. We have cried with laughter together here, cried over my Mum together here, cried in frustration when we have locked horns and both refused to let go. It was here we both let my Mum and brother go from our lives, welcomed in the pain this inevitably brought while staying firmly grounded in the life I’ve built for us in this house. It is here I have validated Nina and am learning to validate the young parts of me, here I have made difficult decisions that have taken us to a better place. We have had cosy times in pyjamas with blankets and hot chocolate watching the Gilmore Girls from start to finish (twice!). We have loved and laughed and lived and I will hold the ways I have felt in this house in my heart forever. I will be so sad to say goodbye when we drive away, but I am ready for new adventures now and a new stage of my healing journey as I expand outwards and grow bigger in my own life. I will forever remember the courage and bravery I found here though, and look back on these days with awe at all that I have done.