I have lived in the same place for 13 years now. It is a small, cozy apartment in a historic house in a quiet, old area tucked in the suburbs. Over the years I have made it as much my own space as possible. It is well suited to my needs and most importantly my budget. When I first moved in, it took quite a few months for me to feel just physically safe. The blackness of the backyard, the creaks of the floors above and the surrounding sounds kept me alert at night for months on end, and despite me being surrounded by my possessions, it was well over a year before I started to feel the emotional safety I desperately need. Having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and major depression, I tend to isolate myself from people and places as much as possible. When I am alone and safe, I can be me without worrying about others reactions or feeling insecure I can cry, scream, shout, be in the silence or do whatever it is that comforts me at the time and I don’t have to deal with the anxiety from the stigma surrounding mental health.
My house is being torn down for property development.
Very often, survivors of childhood trauma have difficulty finding a sense of both physical and emotional safety. For me, it comes out as an intense feeling of uneasiness in public places and increased anxiety in social situations. My mind and body have become hyper-sensitive over the years which leads to me feeling like I am always looking over my shoulder, keeping my senses and emotions on high alert. Most survivors have created their own place of safety, whether it’s at your therapist’s office or your home, a room in your home, it is a sanctuary; the one place you can just be you without fear of stigma or judgment. It is a space that provides you comfort, ease and a sense of peace.
Nobody enjoys moving. It is a big change and causes anxiety and stress for many people but when you have the addition of a mental illness to the situation those feelings increase tenfold. There’s the organizing, the checklists and the packing. There is the packing and unpacking of the truck and organized chaos while boxes are being carried to their according spaces. There is the hassle of having to dig through stacks of boxes to find the simplest of necessities and the frustration of not being able to do so. You desperately want to unpack everything, find its place and put it away as soon as possible in order to gain some control over the chaos that has become. Chances are you did not pack your home in a day so it is somewhat unreasonable to expect to unpack within the same time frame. Sure, you can relax somewhat now that the biggest part is done, but that does not necessarily put you at ease. For me, there is the stress of getting to know a new area, with new neighbors and new landmarks. There are the new creaks and noises to adjust to while I lay in bed at night. There is the gradual acclimation to the new places and spaces that I have filled with my décor to turn the new into the comfortable.
The specifics of when I will have to move are one big unknown. I have a rough idea in my head, but the fact that it is not concrete, leaves it out of my control, and has me at great unease. I have about four months to save for first and last month’s rent plus moving expenses, and that is even if I can qualify given I am on Long term disability right now. I have made countless lists of what needs to be done, down to the smallest detail and am as prepared as I can be this far ahead of time, and yet my anxiety spikes and my depression spirals down every time I think of it. Quite simply put, for me, it is far too much change. It requires time to adapt to a new environment but being able to make it a safe place, a sanctuary could take months, and that leaves me emotionally vulnerable, scared, depressed and anxious. I understand that I will have with me the things that make my home comfortable, but for a survivor, feeling comfortable is far from feeling safe. It means I have to deal with the loss of my safe space and a period of limbo until I can create a new one.
So in the meantime, I can do little other than wait. Wait and hope. Hope that the fear and anticipation won’t push me deeper into the darkness. Hope that my anxiety does not continue to snowball into a million negative scenarios and enhance the issues from my BPD. Hope that things will work out the way they are meant to be. Those thoughts however do not seem to be easing my fears. Change is inevitable.