So, I’ve moved to a new city and abandoned the life of trains and pre-dawn starts. It’s amazing.
My studies are incredible. I’m surrounded by old stone walls and creaking wooden staircases. Huge lecture theatres fill with hundreds of students. And it’s autumn, my favourite time of year. The leaves are burning orange and brown. They fall in flurries over the cobbled roads and narrow streets.
I can’t quite believe how different my life is now. I refused to consider returning to study before. Let alone start over in a new city. But I’m here, and I feel alive.
I had my final session with my therapist today. The most consistent thing about these last two years has been seeing T every Thursday. So unsurprisingly, I’m feeling sad.
It was a strange feeling, walking up to that big black door today. I thought about how it felt the first time I pressed that buzzer. Everything was impossibly dark and heavy then. Even my own limbs felt heavy. But today, I felt clear and light. Sad, but light.
T did more than just help me find my light. She showed me I could conquer my own mountains, I can brighten the darkness and I can find strength in the lowest of places. And all she did was hear me.
I felt like a ghost when we first started our sessions. I felt translucent: like I was watching us from a distance or from deep inside myself. After a while it was the only place in the world where I felt solid. Between those four walls, with the soft beige furnishings and the candles on the mantle piece, was a safe zone.
And now I feel strong, I feel joy, I feel optimism. I feel myself, solidly and completely myself. Without the translucency or the ghostliness. I feel whole. For that, I am forever grateful.
I’m sitting outside in the dark warmth of the early morning. I can’t sleep, my mind is back tracking to those early years with Mum and Dad. A montage of childhood memories drenched in sepia sadness is on loop behind my eyes. Xavier is peaceful inside, he always sleeps well, breathing heavily, blissfully unaware.
I slipped out silently, and crept outside to breathe a little. My plan is that Xavier will wake and realise I’m missing, he’ll find me out here, he’ll run his fingers through my hair and hold me, and the memories will wash away.
My dream of a family and a home, though somewhat stereotypical, has really set recently. I’ve always wanted boys, perhaps because the women in my life are so unpredictable. But I’m terrified of ending up like my Mother. Cold and detached, at breaking point every day, weak. She was never able to fully love us.
All of a sudden Xavier is outside. He’s woken to an empty bed and stumbled out here. I’m telling him not to worry, but he’s not interested in my protests. His arms are around me, hands running through my hair, pulling me close.
I’m concentrating on breathing. In and out. I won’t make the same mistakes my parents made. I have Xavier. He is my warmth, my goodness, my strength.
I revisited the dark figure this week. He bubbled and frothed and writhed out of us, spilling out through our words.
He lives for the family politics. He jumps and leaps, laughing hysterically as we descend into chaos.
The madness in my parents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins and my sibling is the legacy of my grandparents. And it is all encompassing.
So, I build relationships with my family on my own. The support of my parents has been missing for some time. So, when the chaos ensues, I get caught in the firing line. I’ve become a master of letting myself burn in the madness, in the desperate hope of making a connection.
But my burns are aching now. Perhaps we’re better off abandoning those connections, to protect ourselves. To slip out of that darkened townhouse and out into the fresh air.
So my time in the city has come to an end. An abrupt stop after a regular week of fast pace racing as normal.
But I can’t wait to come back. I can’t wait to find myself back in the pulsing metropolis. The city that never sleeps. Never stops.
I want to wake up on a cold February morning, throw on my coat and run for my bus. I want to do it properly next time. Just as long as I’m running for a bus next time, and not from a dark figure.
So this is it. These few years are coming to a swift end. This week will be as chaotic as any other, and next week I will have closed this chapter.
When I started this journey I was splitting at the seams. Sometimes I still do. But I found solace in these train tracks. I found solace in the dark mornings, when the mist hung over the hills. I didn’t give up in the face of my darkness. I pushed on until the light broke through. So now, this commute, and the journey I found in it, feels more than just a route to work. It’s something closer to home. I found my strength in this journey.
I’m sure the next chapter holds another journey, all too similar.
I’m sitting on the connecting train to the office. I’m breathing slowly, counting to ten. The black dog, or the dark figure, or the heavy weight paid me a fleeting visit. And now I’m left with bruises. I’m spinning into darkness. But I’ll keep breathing until the spinning slows and the bruises ease.
When I’m home I see Xavier and all of a sudden the bruises soften. I’m strapped safely back into my legs, I’m stable. The pain lifts.