As you might have guessed by the title I’m going through a big change in my life right now. Firstly though I want to say, I know I haven’t posted anything on here in nearly 18 months but I promise you it’s not for lack of wanting to. When something happens in the world, when there’s a issue that frustrates or delights me (mainly frustrates to be honest haha) I always start writing a blog post in my head but I can never actually turn that into a reality, simply because I’m not well enough.
My cognitive symptoms are at an all time high which makes doing anything like this extremely difficult. It uses up a lot of energy that I need spend on other things, things that are essential to maintaining my health and wellbeing. As much as it pains me, writing this blog has become yet another thing that has had to be sacrificed. However, in the months since moving house was first brought up to me I’ve had so many thoughts and feelings that I have to get them out, I just have to. So, here goes.
Me, my mum and my dad are leaving the house and city that I’ve lived in my entire life to move to South Wales, and the main reason for this is me and my health. There are other contributing factors; my mum wants to give up work, and my dad, well he just wants a change haha, but my health or rather lack of it is the driving force. The guilt that this caused in me cannot be underestimated. The fact that my parents give up so much for me already, and yet here they are going further than I ever expected or wanted them to.
My initial reaction to my dad talking to me, merely about the possibility of moving, was grief. I cried pretty much for three days straight. That may seem an extreme reaction, I mean it’s not like my parents would force me into it if I said no. The reason I had such an emotional reaction though was because deep down I knew, even then, that it was the right thing to do, but absolutely no part of me wanted to do it, and somehow I was going to have to reconcile that.
Although the idea of leaving behind the only house I ever remember living in, and 95% of the people I know was painful, the part that was terrifying to me was leaving the city of Bristol itself. I’ve lived here all my life, which is nearly 26 years. All my memories are here; primary school, childhood birthday parties, sleepovers, the houses where I used to play with friends, walking to school in the early morning sunshine, the wind, the rain, and the snow, going the corner shop on the way home, teenage house parties…they’re all in about 32 miles.
The friends that share those memories have gone. They’ve grown up, moved away, graduated (some of them twice), they have careers, partners, they’re own houses. I don’t know most of them anymore, not really, and they don’t really know me. I can’t leave the house without my wheelchair and one of my parents to push me, and I only do that when I have a medical appointment. To all intent and purposes I’m invisible; nobody sees me, nobody knows me, but I do still exist because of those memories. Neighbours see me occasionally, friends if they walk past my house might spare me a thought, people know I exist here. I know that might seem incredible sad, but it’s really how I felt.
The prospect of losing that, I felt like I would become that strange women that answered the door occasionally, or that people saw through the window but never spoke to, it would make me even more invisible than I am now. My home town in the only constant in my life, the only thing I can count on; my health declines, people are unreliable, I have no idea what my future holds, but Bristol will always be here and I will always know it.
I love Bristol, it’s so intrinsic to how I relate to my life and what sort of person I am. I’ve been too ill to properly engage with all that’s going on here for literally years, but I have so many things planned in my head for when I am well enough. I’ve imagined walking to the post box on the corner by myself for the first time and how big of a deal it would be despite the distance being so small, I’ve imagined sitting on the harbour side on a summers evening having a drink, I’ve imagined exploring all the new independent shops that have opened up in a new development just a stones throw from my house, I’ve imagined cycling along the path next to the river Avon underneath the Clifton suspension bridge, I’ve imagined how it will look the same but slightly different because of the years that have passed, I’ve imagined it all. What I did not imagine is getting better anywhere other than Bristol. On some level, leaving all that behind felt like accepting that I’m never going to get better.
Once that first wave of grief had subsided my pragmatic mind took over and I started considering the positives that would come from moving. A more accessible house would mean a bigger living space (I currently spend all of my time in either my bedroom or the bathroom), it would mean more independence (I could make a cup of tea for myself and fill my own hot water bottle), it would make caring for me much easier on my parents. Those things would make everyone’s lives better.
I also started the recognise the benefits of the elusive ideal that is “the fresh start”. I’m not same person I was before I got ill, I mean it would be weird if I was considering I was 16 haha, but what I mean is if I miraculously got better tomorrow, was able to go out and experience the world again with everything that entails, it would be impossible to pick up my life where it left off. As I said, most of my friends have moved away and those that are left I haven’t spoken to in years, where would that leave me? Inhabiting the places I once did, but with only the memories of my “previous life” (as I call it) for company?
I’ve been listening to the third Outlander book, Voyager, on audiobook. There’s a passage where a character describes being away for over 10 years and coming home but feeling like a stranger, and that resonated with me a lot. Obviously I don’t feel like a stranger in my house, but when I see people who aren’t my mum, my dad, or my sister…I do. Well actually it’s a strange mix of feeling like a stranger and them thinking of me and treating me like I was when I last saw them, however many years ago. I’m not angry at people who do that, I think it’s the only way they can relate to me because my life is so upside down.
The more I thought about it the more I came to realise the reason leaving Bristol filled me with such grief and the reason I’ve been clinging to familiar places so hard is because it’s the only thing that stops me feeling like a stranger, the only thing that really connects me to who I once was now that most of my friends, my hobbies, my occupation (for want of a better word for studying) are gone.
I’ve reached the point now where I feel more at ease with leaving Bristol. Now that’s not to say I’m not scared out of my mind haha, but I don’t feel having constant reminders of the person I once was would be helpful to me moving forward. Almost every trace of that person has been erased in me, and maybe that’s something I need to accept. I’m a different person now, with a very different life to the one I imagined, but it holds no less value and I’m no less of person because of it. In a new place, where no one knows me I’ll have the space to figure out who I am now.
This summer will mark 10 years since I contracted Lyme disease, it’ll also be 10 years since I left school, so it seems serendipitous that this summer is when I’ll be saying goodbye to Bristol. Everyone around me keeps saying “it’s not goodbye, you’ll be back”, but I’m not thinking like that. Unless I get a lot better I won’t be able to come back, and anyway I think it might be better to leave it behind, to leave Bristol as a time capsule of what was a pretty idyllic childhood and move on to the next stage of my life, whatever that may hold.