In April 2014, when this crippling depressive episode started, I was sitting at home watching an episode of Monarch of the Glen. Although not the greatest television series of all time, it is one that means the world to me because of its, and my, connection to Scotland. Alongside Hamish Macbeth, it is one of the television series I return to whenever I’m homesick and eager to bask in the glory of Scotland. On this particular occasion though my homesickness overcame me and I said out loud: “I don’t want to be here any more, I want to be there,” whilst pointing at the glory of the Scottish countryside. It is a moment that has stayed with me because it was the moment that I realised I was no longer happy living in Australia.
I first moved to Australia in 2002 for one reason and one reason only; to be with my then girlfriend, Louise. I sacrificed my home (Scotland), my family, my friends, my education and my country of birth (England) to continue a relationship that had begun in the wilds of the Outer Hebridean winter. For a while, things worked out for me in Australia. My mental health was relatively stable, I had a job that (for a brief period) I loved, and my relationship with Louise was secure and loving. But then came 2006; my relationship with Louise faltered and failed, my mental health collapsed and I became deeply unstable, causing me to lose my job. And then came 2007; the loss of everything I owned, the end of my friendships and a complete breakdown in my psychological functioning. Since then, my “life” in Australia has been meaningless.
Certainly, there was a brief period of time in 2008 when things looked like they might work out, but that was a mirage, a mistake of epic proportions, and ever since my life has paid the price; homelessness, isolation and pain on a level most people couldn’t comprehend.
Although a large part of this has been down to my unstable mental health, an equally large part of it is that I know I’m not happy here anymore. I dislike the town in which I live with a venomous passion; there is nothing to do, nowhere to go and I feel as if it has been slowly sucking my soul dry for the last three years now. The unit which I call “home” is unpleasant, noisy and altogether boring. I dislike living here just as much as I dislike the town in which I live. It too, is a succubus attached to my soul, draining me of any passion, excitement and my ability to live. I have also lost any passion I had toward Australia as a country. I no longer enjoy living here. I no longer feel happy about calling myself an honorary Australian. In fact, I feel more disenfranchised and irrelevant than I have at any other point in my life, for it is hard living somewhere that you have no passion for.
As such, ever since I was discharged from hospital back in February, I have been seriously considering leaving Australia and returning to Scotland. But in doing so I would be risking much. I would lose my benefits. I would lose my home. I would, in essence, be homeless again; and I’m not sure I have the energy to rebuild my life from scratch all over again; which is what I would have to do if I returned to the United Kingdom, my home.
My desire to leave Australia has been so strong, I even had a discussion with my support worker about it, who agreed that I had little to keep me here. I have no friends. I have no family. I have no connection to the land. In fact, the only reason I’m here is because it’s where I’ve ended up. I didn’t even choose to be living in this town, I just ended up here during a particularly unpleasant period of my homelessness. And its hard living somewhere you don’t love. During this conversation with my support worker we wrote a list of pros and cons of staying/returning:
- I would be living close to my family
- I would get to see my niece & nephew for the first time
- I would be living in Scotland; a country that I am passionate about
- I would be able to cross off many items of my ‘things to do before I die’ list, as they are related to Scotland
- Cheese is infinitely better tasting in the UK
- Free medication
- Free health care (albeit on the NHS)
- Good public transport (albeit a trifle expensive)
- Benefits situation is complicated. Although I would qualify for job seekers almost immediately I would have to wait two years before applying for disability. And as I’m not stable enough to work or look for work, this could cause problems and potentially leave me income-less.
- Living with my parents on initial return to UK could prove troublesome as I am so used to living on my own.
- If things don’t work out with my parents, I would be at risk of being homeless again.
- Finding accommodation would be difficult, especially on job seekers allowance (which is approx. £60/fortnight)
So at this point in time, the pros of leaving Australia and returning home are winning. So I should go, right? But it’s not as simple as that, because of the risk I would be taking in terms of benefits and accommodation; two areas of life that are at lease stable if I were to remain in Australia, given I have the unit and am a recipient of the Disability Support Pension.
It all comes down to what I mentioned above; do I have the energy to rebuild my life from scratch?
And that’s a question I can’t answer at the moment.
So I’ve decided to turn to you, my wonderful blogging friends. Would you leave somewhere you have no passion for in order to return to where you felt at home? Would you risk homelessness in order to be close to family and friends? Or would you continue living somewhere you dislike, solely because you are the recipient of a reasonable benefit and have somewhere to live?
What would you do in my situation?