I want to write about how exactly it was when I first became homeless. I want to say a bit about what happened and what went through my mind. And I want to describe my story of how I reacted and what I did in those very first days of this defining and life changing moment.
I hope to convey those first moments of how it was when I stepped out the door, in a trance, onto the street with only a backpack in tow……Suddenly I was faced with the shocking, surreal and the peculiarly eerie reality of being on my own, lost to the street, no home anywhere to go back to, as the door of that flat, my ex home (in the official and notional sense) closed shut behind me. Now it really was so. A life that had always been secure in, at least, the most fundamental of physiological senses was now consigned to the past. A shuddering new world had become real. How had it come to this? How?……What had I done? The end of the road was here. It should have been the worst of nightmares. I wanted it to be because I wanted to feel something. I wanted to care, except that it all seemed too late for this, as it did for everything left to me in life.
That was how it felt. It seemed seismic, but equally it didn’t. It was just another moment of life, without ceremony – whether I was ruined or not to the world what did it matter. That was how it seemed to me in my isolated world. I had been lost, confused and at war within for some time past. This was just another lash I had inflicted upon myself, another familiar silent humiliation in a troubled existence. An humiliation now too far. I should never have been in this position, but I was; I judged myself harshly for wasting my life. But I was aware too that this could – had – to be a new start, it had to be, right here, right now in this unimaginable world, if not I was dead.
I was riddled with a long running, and an all out, gradually and erratically encroaching sense of despair. No one knew my situation. I had no family. In a foreign city, my native country long left behind, no location anywhere seemed like home. Here I had some acquaintances but no true friends. I had trouble in reaching out. To have asked for help, perish the thought, that really was too hard, and anyway my life just did not matter enough: that was the message I had rammed home to myself time and again. I did not deserve help. What was the point? This position was self inflicted: caused by my own particular set of circumstances. And thus, it was something which I could only face alone. This was my imperceptibly vague unconscious sense, such a sense gave me strength, something somewhere within relished the adveristy. Help, anway, was not something I knew how to receive since I did not know what it was that really mattered to me. I did not have a sense of the values that were me, just as I did not have any constructive, nor remotely focused, notion of what I actually wanted from life. I was stuck in my own particular problems, that were, and had become, me.
No place to head to, nothing to go for, owing to this my life for a long time had been defined by my inner emotional turmoil. Urging me on to get it done with, and bring to a head this very situation I now, for real, found myself in – where the road before me in my life had run it’s course, these were just a hint of some of the whole range of negative projections I imparted into my life. Homelessness really, had been a long time in the making. In making it real there would be no more doubts, the place would have brought me to true turmoil. I used not to be able to imagine anything worse for me than to be homeless. It was an end point, a point of hopelessness. The darkness within had, now finally, taken me here. Somehow though it was disappointing, I had expected more of an occasion. At least there could have been bitterness rather than numbness to this tragedy. There are no end of places our inner darkness may take us too, and whatever fresh low it has led you too, it will never, just never, be satisfied.
My internal narratives needed to change. I had to base my actions, like my sense of self notion on light and not darkness. I had now to do this more than ever, and I had to begin to do this quick.
The middle of March. Mid afternoon. The streets were quiet; the weather overcast and mild on a windless, still, day. Small comforts. Crucial. If the weather had thrown up a cold, stormy gale it could have broken me, so fragile and susceptible was I, I may have taken it as irrefutable proof that everything was against me – arduous weather that day may have been a battle too far.
The one other comfort was money. With something inhand I still had some security. It was not much, 45 euros, but it was something, the crucial thing was that I was not penniless as I took those first steps out into this chilling world.
This moment, as I say, was a long time in the making. One year before was the time when the clock to this moment began absolutely to definitively tick. I was no longer, as in years past, heading in it’s far away remote direction, I was now on a track that was leading me directly there. Out of control forces within had set in motion this final impending freefall, that was being lived in real time. Inside I was in a place of chaos. I was nonchalantly oblivious to the ramifications of, exactly, what I was doing. Equally there too was a vicious visceral awareness that I was playing with my own life, that I was ushering in – almost sadistically willing – a cataclysmic armagedon……..with a callous indifference I was playing with my own self ruin. I was highly depressed although, again, in some ways too everything was all a bit of a joke. Muddled in my own self aggrandising contradictions, whose confusion imparted a vacuum which sadistic forces easily filled. The drama of creating my own ruin became my one of form of creative expression, spiteful self tragedy was a means of escaping from my real pain that I needed to know, and that – as so often was then the case – was too much for me when some of this inner pain had prior to this come out. Creating self inflicted worries is an all too easy distraction in life.
I had a lot on my plate. Years of denial and repression had taken a colossal toll…..the price of this was now great. On the one hand, in the months before I became homeless I had been fighting as I had faced up to some of my inner traumas. The battle of it all was substantial. In many key ways it had been overwhelming, because for a long time earlier in my life far too much had gone unacknowledged and unexpressed. The upshot was that in bringing to light harrowing pain, I was left depleted of energy and resolve in facing up to other, more mundane, things that were needed to maintain real life foundations. I had one core issue, which my whole life seemed to revolve around. I could not get past it. It was hideously big. It felt insurmountable, and so it caused me despair. Self abusive behaviour was one reaction to this, which deepened the hole of misery I was in, a hole which a dark, self ruinous, part of me wanted to fall even further into. Facing up to my inner demons then was crucial, but the repeated shocks from this, that I kept on living, left me for long stretches of time feeling like nothing. The constructive action of facing pain caused me crippling shocks that undermined my positive intentions.
In this period I had very little in life, but I still did have a secure room and a roof over my head. But this in itself was an inverted comfort made depraved since the most gruelling part of my day often was when I was lying in bed and trying – to a then increasing futility – to go to sleep. That was when some of the worst things within came back to me. My saving grace of a bed and of shelter felt like a torture to me as I lay in bed , alone, wide awake in internal stifled agony. I often wondered to myself what was the point in living like this.
I had a job….though I never liked it, but I kept on doing it. When this job of itself came to an end was when the clock began to really begin ticking one year before. Initially I had some savings; these were not vast, but they did a least cover me for a bit, though time was definitely limited. I was lackadaisical in my efforts to find something. I lacked confidence. I lacked conviction, and yet I had always prided myself on being determined. But I was indifferent, negligent, to my own well being. I only half heartedly cared about finding a job. I loosely knew the consequences of this would create my worst nightmare, but so down was I in life that the nightmares implications were vague and inconsequential to me. Homelessness meant abandonment and true aloneness, and this had always been, somehow, familiar to me. Recreating what we know, however much it may hurt us, is a comfort if it reproduces what we know and perpetrates our definition of our sense of place in the world. But to do this to myself, in the absolute material sense, as I was loosely aware, meant potentially obliterating everything. The act of harmful actions, and of an impending self caused chaos, at least contains emotion. There is a semblance of adrenaline in the warped excitement of frightening urgency. If I could have felt properly scared, then maybe in that, there would have been some connection to my innermost vulnerable and tender emotions. In all this there is something, because to the person like I was then, who is greatly depressed, one feels so flat that one feels incapable of enacting anything of constructive significance. The long lost life affirming buzz of emotion seemed severed. And, so therein, for me, lay one of the allures of self harm, because in that there is power. I had power to enact things, no matter how harmful these may have been to myself. Harmful actions which I inflicted upon myself were a habit, an addiction even: they were like a drug, they gave an intensified -if virulent – high of adrenaline, but alas it was never enough.
Nothing constructive or materially life propelling had happened for a few months, until with winter setting in I was on the uttermost brink. I realised the rent could no longer be covered. I was about to be homeless. It was all too sudden. I was not prepared. I was beginning to pack….. and then at the last minute I had a reprieve…. I had been offered a call centre job. It was luck that I had got the job because I was offered it a long time after the interview when others had turned the job down. Facing the street in winter, as I was then, had shaken me. I thought that that was the jolt I needed to wake me up. I repented my ways, and I thought to myself, for a couple of days after, that I would never again be so indifferent. I had gone as close as it was possible to go: I was a day away from the street. I had tasted it’s implications and the fright, the uncertainty, was not worth the candle. In my mind, I was sure, it was the end of the world, and so while I cannot say I was overjoyed – my connection to life was too stifled for that – I was at least relieved. Very relieved. To have been out on the street in the full fronted cold of winter would probably have been too much.
A part of me expected for things from then on to just get better. But no, life is not so simple. This illusion did not last long. Life often provides us with reprieves and second chances, but if one fails to both acknowledge it, and then to gratefully seize it full bloodily with both hands, then the chance, itself, will be discarded and, very possibly forever forgotten like an instant snack you grab when hungry but you discard in the bin after a couple of bites because it is not to your fickle tastes. When reprieves that come our way go unrealised like an unwrapped gift, then the opportunities which come to us, come to mean nothing, as one is too unaware to see and appreciate, and, therefore, gratefully take the chance that comes. How easy, from here, it can be to blame the world at one’s own difficult situation as one remains convinced that nothing good ever comes their way. For me, in this very time, with depression’s heavy mist weighing heavily within my head, I did not adequately recognise those gifts that life presented to me. This reprieve I had had soon did not feel like one at all. My imbued sense of powerlessness fed to me, in those dark internal days, the narrative that life was one bad thing after another. I did not have the sapience nor the conviction to seize opportunities and shape them to my advantage. The ticking clock to minute zero, therefore, did not stop, trouble lay ahead before the next quarter.
A couple of months later I lost the job. I loathed it. I wanted to lose it. Did I do enough to search for a new job?….probably not. But I did take care of some personal things. I wrote some difficult dialogues as I set about confronting some integral issues that lay at the root of my troubled mind….and who knows, since I cannot help but feel that the realisations I had in doing this served me very well later on. I really did explore some difficult internal places in this period. It took a lot out of me.
Minute zero however was hurtling in, the clock never stopped, it only got faster. Finally, it came to having one last two week window to find a job, or, otherwise, I knew that homelessness would happen to me (in the moment when it did). Early February, if I did not find a job before the middle of the month I would be out on the street by the middle of March. And, then in this very moment I got the flu. Exaggeration is easy, but really I think this was the worst flu I had ever had. It wiped me out, it affected my whole body, everything ached. It was when this happened that I became resigned to my fate. That small window I had to find a job I was shut up in bed. By the end of February when I had 80% recovered I effectively from then on just stood in wait until this apocalyptic day arrived.
Those last weeks when I knew what was happening for certain were, in fact, surprisingly becalming. No more uncertainty. No more fighting myself to sort my life out. It was not that I was courageous, no, I certainly wasn’t because in my mind to be homeless meant the end of life. To not try to do something to save myself cannot, therefore, be regarded as brave. Instead, in respect to, what it would mean when it happened I shut out the reality. Maybe I simply did not worry about what I could not control; or maybe I was merely burying my head in the sand. The moment when it would come still seemed unimaginable. I could not comprehend it, firm, concrete conceptions could not really take root. The challenge of it’s encroachment was my aloneness. I manifested it by telling no one, and of not asking for help. Partly this was because my self worth was so low that I was impervious to my needs; while also a part of myself had the desire to harm myself – and as so often was the way, up till then in my life – I let its impulse exert it’s influence over how I lived my life. On the other side of the sphere, I do have to wonder whether there was a strong, noble minded, idealistic part of me within that did have some courage. This part of me wanted to know homelessness. I wanted to go there, because I had to do it for myself as a way to know what this fear entailed. This most drastic, unimaginable of changes would test my innermost fibre. But the need of the moment, would, possibly unlike anything else I could do, reveal it to me: Only in a test such as this would I know, my free spirit, perhaps, yearned for some such adventure. To know my resolve was to go within and know myself. The deeper our known depth within, the richer our appreciation for life.
I let things be because I was readying myself for battle. This war against my destructive, cold, callous, self was my war and mine alone to fight. No one else could understand. No one else knew me well enough to know my life. This was a battle I had to fight alone. I had had through my low self worth, such a muddled sense of self that even if I had had that friend before me who offered to help me, so unclear was I in my mind of what I wanted in life, and of what goals to go for, that I wouldn’t, most likely, have been able to receive their help since, first and foremostly, I did not adequately, with a harnessed, clear and purely directed focus know how to help myself. Any help, in this time, may only have amounted to another wasted reprieve. And in squandering it it may well have fed my self recriminating sense of apathy and disillusionment with life. It may have turned my life’s vision into one of true irreparable hopelessness. In life we cannot help those who don’t want to be helped. In this period, in many ways, I fitted this category. For this I just let the final slow running impending countdown commence. I saw it coming and I readied myself. An event was coming, that was enough, the implications, the consequences were for another day. Simply knowing the date it would happen gave me silent time to prepare. And, whatsmore, it lifted me from a huge burden of uncertainty, this was something massive in it’s own small and very crucial way. Having time and a little space to prepare made all the difference in the world.
The flue that I had had left me exhausted. But, again, I have to feel that it worked to my advantage. I spent a huge amount of time sleeping. This was freeing; there were no battles about what to do with long stretching hours of day: I simply slept and recuperated my strength. The time was ticking but so be it, finally for the first time in a long time I was sleeping really well. For four weeks I knew it was definitely coming. No longer conflicted like before, I did not have to subject myself to the disillusionment of half heartedly forcing myself to apply for jobs. I did not have to worry about whether, and how, the rent would be covered. I was not in the same stupefying limbo as before, where I was an ordinary person living in a home but worried sick about the imminent possibility of losing this little piece of security for the sake of simply clinging to it. In the end it was simple, because I had accepted it. The worst might come, but I was no longer blindly and half heartedly fighting it.