About this time a year ago my life fell apart. In the months that followed I lost my home, community, sense of self, my health suffered. Those of you who have been following my adventures through the process of being stripped will already have some sense of the gory details. It’s not been pretty. There were times when I wondered if I’d come through this with anything at all, or if I would be stripped down to absolute non-existence.
A year on and my perspective on much of this process has changed too. I have a very keen sense of what is essential to me – my husband and child, my own creativity, my own emotional life. Fear of losing my man and my lad nearly crippled me more times than I count, but it isn’t going to happen. There may be institutions technically capable of that, but it doesn’t mean they will. One of the things I have learned in this last year is that reality is not inherently hostile. It is not out to punish me.
Every knock back, every loss has resulted in me learning how to get back onto my feet, or knees at least, and get moving again. Shuffling, lurching, sometimes crawling, but still moving. I did not give up. That gives me some measure of my own strength, and armed with that knowledge I am also a lot less fearful than I used to be.
I’ve also learned a lot about what has endured despite the setbacks. The many relationships that held true despite the distances involved, the people who did not give up on me, or let me down. The communities that I still belong to even if I’m not an active participant at the moment. Some of things that seemed lost turned out to be temporarily mislaid.
There are things I regret, people I wish I saw more often, lives, communities and activities I would like to still be participating in and can’t. There are opportunities that have gone and times that will never come again and I can’t help but grieve those. But there are new places to be and new things to be doing – there always are.
Finally, there are the truly lost things that are never going to come back, and that’s something I am starting to celebrate. I have lost my sense of deserving mistreatment. I no longer expect to be punished, put down, knocked back and otherwise demoralised by anyone with the power to influence my life. I don’t see authority as inherently dangerous to me any more. In the last year, doctors, police, solicitors, social workers, judges, teachers and other folk with clout and experience, have treated me with kindness. I am no longer afraid of not being heard. I am no longer afraid of being blamed for things I have no control over. I have learned I can ask for help and that most people are not offended by this. I have learned that generally speaking it is fine to say ‘no’ or to be unable, to disagree with others, and to want things just for me.
It’s strange, because it was when I started to emerge from the nightmare that I fell apart. Somehow, through very hard years I managed to keep running and hold together the semblance of being functional. But I was desperately unhappy. I have fallen apart, and that’s allowed me the space to rebuild, to create a new sense of self and to totally change how I relate to the rest of reality. The prospect of falling apart was terrifying, but the result has been healing. And when I fell, there were friends and family there to help me. There was all kinds of support from all sorts of official sorts of people. The system turned out to be a friend.
I don’t imagine this is the end of the journey. There is bound to be more to unpick, figure out and remake, but I’ve come to a point where it’s far more about going forward now, rather than looking back.