It’s funny isn’t it? We never realise a good thing until it’s gone. Never realise how good we had it until it’s over. That’s a bit how I feel now with group residential respite over. They’re running for one more week then they’re done. Gone. Over. Finished. Of course there will be other respite options but it will never quite be the same.
This was a respite facility for those with a mental illness – I won’t name the program or the organisation that ran it, that’s not important. Clients would stay for three nights in a supportive, relaxed environment at a low cost. All the cooking and cleaning are done so all that’s left to do is relax and have fun. Activities were brainstormed and voted on as a group and included so many different things!
I’ve been on so many adventures whilst staying there. So many activities I wouldn’t be able to do on my own because of location, lack of people to go with, or fear of new, unfamiliar situations. The Melbourne Aquarium, Abbotsford Convent, picnics and walks in different parks, a trip to Healesville Sanctuary, op shopping, and always stopping somewhere for coffee and cake!
I’ve come back home, this time, not only relaxed but with a renewed zest for life. Days spent doing “normal” activities with other people opens my eyes to what I’m missing out on. It seems that I come to accept, even forget, what life can be like. How amazing, fun, exciting, enjoyable life can be. It becomes normal to only leave the house for my two shifts at work, therapy sessions and doctors appointments each week. That seems normal and seems okay… until I go to respite!
Life doesn’t just have to be about surviving, although often it is. It’s so important to build pleasurable things into your day. Even sitting outside in the morning and having a coffee before you start your day, anything! I don’t expect my life to be fun and exciting 24/7 but being away and being thrown back into life makes me realise just how much I’m missing out on.
I will never forget the amazing staff either. “Amazing” doesn’t even come close. I truly don’t think I’ve ever met such wonderful, caring, loving people. Understanding that people like me, care about me, think positively of me is still a hard concept to grasp. I can’t quite wrap my head around it all. Yet, it’s with this continued exposure to unconditional positive regard that I’m working it all out.
I’ve come into contact with many, many staff at many, many different mental health facilities. Some staff appear to care but in reality don’t – it’s just words. Other staff genuinely care. Staff at this place were happy to chat about anything – big stuff, small stuff… the serious and the not so serious. They’d also not crack it at you should you wake them up at night because you were struggling.
I do remember doing that once – after hours of intense flashbacks and body memories and no amount of medication making a difference. Sometimes it’s okay not to do it all on your own. I also kept staff up a couple of nights in a row after being severely triggered by a scary movie (scary movies were then banned, my bad!) and becoming ever so slightly dissociated (read: “catatonic”, lol). Although I was often struggling with mental health issues whilst there (I mean, who wasn’t?!), I did have good days (just like at home) and there are some really good memories!
During my first stay (I think) we got to go go-karting! I’d never done it before and it was so much fun, definitely a hi-light of that trip and certainly not something I’d have been able to do otherwise because of the cost. There was a trip to Healesville Sanctuary and picnics in the bush, parks and walks along the river. The fresh air, the space, the trees were all so invigorating and peaceful. A trip to the beach last summer was pretty special too – hot sun, blue skies, warm sand and an iced chocolate!
I will admit that, on the way home from my last stay, I shed a quiet tear in the taxi. Just one tear slipped out. I truly do not have words to explain the loss I feel. That sounds a bit over the top and emotional, but going to respite was almost like going home. To a safe, loving, supportive home. It breaks my heart that I didn’t have that growing up and then to be losing the next best thing as an adult. I’m also surprised at just how attached I’d become to the staff, the house, the warmth and the security.
Whilst it’s sad that the house is going to be closed down and sold, I’m very grateful to have been a part of it. So with that I will say “Thank you” to the staff both past and present, those who I was lucky to meet and those I never knew for making a difference to the lives of people with a mental illness. For making a difference in my life.