Living with family
Updated: Feb 23, 2019
At the age of 27 I moved home to live with my mum and my sister, read below to find out why it's the best thing I did for my mental health.
In October 2018 my mum and sister bought a house and moved in together. My sister is 31 and my mum is 66. Sounds pretty weird, doesn't it?? I thought so too. I made fun of them A LOT. I know what you're thinking - "but Agnes, you teach mindfulness and wellbeing . . . surely you don't make fun of people?" The answer is yes. Yes, I do. I think it's a common misconception that because mindfulness and empathy are huge parts of my life and career that means I must be some sort of saint. Absolutely not. My family gets made fun of in a big way. I'm human.
My family, particularly my extended family, uses gentle (but sometimes ruthless) mockery as a way of showing how much we care about each other (if any of my family members are reading this . . . You're an idiot). We've always done this - from my Uncles playing pranks on me when I was 5 years old to my 11-year-old cousin telling me I was 'tragic' for playing sims city at the age of 25. It's a way of bonding for us. It's taught all of us not to take ourselves too seriously, because we're all absolute jokes. Some people who are new to our family (shout out to the 1,000 boyfriends who've come and gone over the years) find the dynamics bizarre at first. We're loud, we're opinionated, we're passionate and we share the exact same sense of humour. Terrifying right?? Many people have thought that over the years. For me, it's comforting and familiar - I've often described my cousins as ready-made best friends or 10 more siblings.
Anyway, to get back to my mum and sister. So I was making fun of the weird living situation they were about to embark on when I had what I can only describe as an 'almost break down'. I'll fill in the back story for you . . . I was living alone and had been for almost a year. I was doing two jobs at the time; teaching mindfulness and working for a nursing agency.
The nursing agency job (which I'll talk more about another time) was taking me all over Scotland. This work often involved long drives to unknown hospitals to work with unfamiliar staff and patients - to do an emotionally taxing and challenging job. To then repeat the same long drive home, arriving late at night, to an empty flat. Teaching mindfulness is a rewarding and enjoyable experience, however, it can also be emotional and tiring. The job requires holding the weight of 10 (potentially) emotional people in one room whilst trying to safely guide them through a mindfulness curriculum. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE both of my jobs. But they are tough. Emotionally, intellectually and (at times) physically challenging.
So, one day, I woke at 4.30 am. I left the house at 5 and drove the two and a half hours to Fife to work for 6 hours in a psychiatric hospital. I then drove home, had a nap and got ready for teaching my mindfulness course in the evening. The course went well and I returned home at 10 pm to an empty flat once more. It was at that point that something gave way. The weeks following consisted of dark, lonely and pointless-seeming days. I felt lost. This was especially confusing because as far as I was concerned I had everything that I wanted . . . I was managing financially, I lived in a two bedroom flat that I owned, I had friends, I had a business, I was doing two jobs that I really enjoyed and yet something was so very wrong.
If you work in the psychiatric field, this may seem familiar; I started mentally checking my symptoms on the commonly used depression scale . . . Lack of interest in hobbies? Check! Sleeping a lot but still feeling tired? Check. Poor emotional regulation yet feeling numb at the same time? Check! This last one was particularly apparent on the days that I found myself in Homebase or Tesco, spontaneously bursting into tears because I couldn't find what I was looking for. Then I would leave having bought nothing I needed reminding myself that possessions were essentially pointless because we all die one day . . . To all the scared young boys working in retail in the Bridge of Don area, I apologise.
So, after a couple of weeks and some more fruitless and weepy shopping trips. I went home. I decided to give myself a break from doing so many shifts and I spent some time with my mum and sister. They knew that things weren't okay, I was pale, had dark circles under my eyes and was almost constantly on the brink of tears . . . I was fooling no one! My mum suggested that I move in with them. I'm ashamed to admit it, but at the time, this felt like an epic step in the wrong direction. Who goes from living alone in a flat they own in a large city to moving into a very small house in the country with their mum and sister? I felt as though I was letting myself down but I also knew that I had no choice. I didn't know what it would look like if my mental health deteriorated any more than it already had, and I really didn't want to find out. So I moved in with them.
This has been the best decision I could have made. Starting a business is exhausting, nursing and teaching mindfulness can be very draining and doing all of those things whilst living alone was not doable. Coming home after a long day and having no one to just casually chat to can be so difficult. I usually love time by myself, but when the balance is tipped slightly too far in one direction that time alone can become suffocating.
My mum and sister are the two best influences in my life. They are strong, hilarious, supportive and so wonderfully loving. Not only were they exactly what I needed at the time, but they continue to be what I need. Now we all live together in a weird, at times, abusive and codependent threesome; looking after a 6-month-old puppy, who is lucky enough to have 3 mums. I can't speak for them but I have never felt happier, more motivated and excited for the future.
If you've read this far, well done, I had no idea this post would be so deep when I set out writing it. I'd like to make a special shout out to my mum and sister, who for sure get the worst of me. I am eternally grateful even though I sometimes only show it by making fun of you both. Thank you for taking me in when I needed your support most. Here's to the next decade living together!
Over and out.