When I was in the hostels all those years ago the commotion excited me. Riding on the back of the new guys bike to have the police follow the engine screams back to our bedsits. Drinking ourselves dizzily into college mornings and dancing our way into dawn.
When it was good it was a dewy ecstasy but when it was bad it was like being locked in a blistering room and all I wanted was to be somewhere safe. Somewhere free from drugs and guns and hawk-eyed neighbours who’d watch me sneak into my lightless studio to avoid them knocking my door.
Now I have that. A flat by the river with big, charming windows and light that glimmers beautifully through translucent curtains. I have best friends who come over and fill my fridge with my favourite foods and I am surrounded by neighbours who may as well have halos.
Yet there are times I feel painfully alone. I can’t help but crave the nights spent folded over in tearful laughter, verbally sparring to hypnotic grime beats with guys who, despite hands heavy with the silt of their fury, would drive violently, rage-fully to their deaths to protect those they love.
Suddenly the fall is wickedly high, the crash so hard and one wrong move could cost me everything I’ve bled for. It seems that I could hang myself with the very same rope I used to pull me out of the darkness.
I have learnt some more about myself this week. As I piece my life together I find in the passages of my memory being shrouded with a feeling of indebtedness. Anorexic. The word the children pushed on me growing up and to this day it carries with it a sting. I often feel the need to share how much I love food and eating. Hoping that I can protect myself from peoples assumptions and spare myself the shaming of strangers.
In my late teens I began to gain (naturally) new weight. It was at this time I was happiest not only with my appearance, but with who I was as a young woman. Living alone has been much more difficult than I have let on and at times I feel as though I am following my heart along the edge of a knife. Living in this way has challenged the way I relate to food, money and my body. And till this day I never realised that the self-imposed deprivation I have been living in, is in itself its own form of anorexia.
I have been attending a support group. I speak everyday with someone who helps me and slowly, tenderly, I am becoming unstuck. They told me to write down all the money I earn, all of my bills and all the money that I owe. Now I write down every penny I spend in my money book and have become clear about what money needs to go where. They gave me permission to put £200 aside for food every month, splitting £50 into four envelopes for each week.
My letters have been piling up in my letterbox since January, as I walk past and see new letters folding over the flap it feels like a needle is pushing further into my chest. As of today, however, I have opened every last one. I called Citizens Advice Bureau and they put me through to Business Debtline who made me realise that my money was stretching too far into the pockets of my creditors. My feelings of indebtedness have woven me into a tighter cycle of debting, day by day I am unpicking those painful threads and paving my way out of the poverty I paid myself into.
CAB put me through to a group of volunteer accountants whose office is just minutes away from where I teach in the morning and I have an appointment to see them on my lunch break on Friday. They will go through my taxes with me and help me to file them, at the only time we are both available.
And that was all I needed. Someone to sit with me and say ‘this is what you do, and this is how you do it.’ I end the call shaking. Collapsing into the silence as if it were a crack of hope. I am breaking but in the way that makes me better. I did not realise how much i was carrying until I was safe enough to speak it.
I find myself trying to trace the patterns in these little sly grains of serendipity. Scrutinising the separate paths that lay before me in a desperate attempt to drive forward. But it feels as though I am using a kaleidoscope for a telescope. It feels as though I am on the sharp edge of a mountain top reaching for dreams that glisten on the other side of a gaping canyon. And I think to myself. I could go deep into the forest behind me, gather wood, branches and twigs to build a bridge that will carry me safely to the other side. Or I could square my eyes at the sun, take three strong steps back, run with all the intensity that is within me and jump.
Some of the organisations that have helped me: