I have never really been anywhere. Well, obviously I have, but I have never travelled away from what I know to find myself.
I am one of those people who watches TV. I have a chair and a blanket and some crocheting to be getting on with and I love to have something – anything – on the television in the background. It reminds me of my Granny, who is television’s biggest fan, and watching other people’s lives gives me time away from my own.
Recently, I have noticed that much of what is on TV is about people going somewhere; making a journey. The Road to Rome follows celebrities on a trip to meet the Pope, and Race Across the World follows non-celebrities as they travel around the globe in the hope of winning a £20 000 prize.
What strikes me about both programmes is that all the people – in the public eye or not – talk about going on a journey to find themselves. Despite the massive prize on offer in the latter show, the main focus of the contestants appears to be the journey itself, and the experiences to which they are given the chance to expose themselves.
Like my Granny, I have never been one to travel. She used to pack away one item of clothing each day to remind her that she would be going home at the end of the stay, and I have done similar, counting down until I return to my own bed. I am in awe of people who globetrot, or relocate themselves to another country where they know nothing or nobody. To be truthful, I am in awe of anybody who can go away for a week in the UK without their family, but that’s probably an entirely different story.
As one who has been in a veritable pickle over the last few years, there have been times when I have felt particularly lost. I have tried a number of things in order to ‘find’ myself. I have swum and walked and sat in beautiful places trying to find inspiration, or an answer. I have read poetry and self-help books and sat very still feeling different parts of my body (sounds dodgy, I mean more making myself aware of my legs than, erm, anything else). I have thought about yoga and religion and being alone. I have prayed and I have argued and I have moved out. Each time I have tried something different, I have been convinced that this one will be ‘the answer’ that has been missing from my life. That only if if only I could find out something new about myself, I would be cured. I used to wish desperately that I were able to go away from home because, if I could just travel somewhere really special, I might be able to get better.
I think, in terms of mental illness in the context of a society so used to the healing of physical illness by medication, this makes perfect sense: if I have an infection, I take antibiotics and it just goes away. Apart from remembering to take tablets, I don’t have any consciously active part in the healing process. Why, then, should it not be the same for mental illness? Why should there not be something, somewhere or someone that can fix me? Why should it be any different?
As it turned out, and has been regularly and monotonously documented on here, there is no miracle cure. There is nowhere I can travel to so escape mental illness and find myself, because it travels with me, and I am the same person I was, save for being miles from home. It’s like travelling to Switzerland for mouth hygiene purposes, turning up and realising you’ve forgotten your toothbrush but brought along your lifelong halitosis.
You can’t find anything – not even the keys you’ve lost behind the fruit bowl – when all your body can think about is when you’re finally going to feed it.
Actually, I did not need to find myself because I was never lost. Sometimes I was somewhat akin to a sausage roll, in that – as the sausage is wrapped in pastry – I was wrapped in thick layers of anxiety, anorexia and OCD, but I was always there, on the inside.
I’ve come to think it’s actually quite sad when people leave home to find themselves. If I’ve learnt anything in my twenty-seven years it’s that sometimes – admittedly – people need to unwrap themselves; to peel away layers of hurt and of sadness, but people are themselves and there is nothing that needs to be found, just much that needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. In recovering, I found the need to come home; to spend time with the people I love; to welcome myself back and to grasp hold of everything I already knew and learn to give it a place in my life. I didn’t need Australia to do that, nor did I need Thailand or even Tonbridge Wells. I just needed to let go of the idea that I was malformed, and that there was anything new that needed to be forged or found.
And, actually, in a sort of free gift way, now that I have re-introduced myself to me, I have been able to visit new places more easily; to leave the home and the family who I needed so much, and to appreciate the beauty of the world. I remember one morning in recovery in particular for looking outside and realising how vibrant the world was. I remember the brilliant colours of the sky and the warmth of the sunlight. It didn’t help me find myself because there was nothing to discover, only recover, but it gave me a reason to keep doing so.
If anything, I would say that there is no point going away to find yourself: the world will not be a beautiful place until you believe that you deserve your place in it.
You are not lost: you are already who you need to be.
There is nothing to find that is not already there, waiting to be celebrated.
On a separate note, my uni chum, Sophia, is running a whole actual marathon for The Tomorrow Project, an East Midlands charity which works to prevent and counsel those who have been affected by suicide. She’s fab, and the link to donate to her marathon effort (hahaha) is here. Every life is worth saving, and living, so please – if you can – donate to her page, or have a look at the Tomorrow Project’s website here because they are doing amazing work.