When lockdown was first mentioned, I genuinely thought it was going to be a catastrophe for my recovery. I moved into my own flat in February, after spending 403 days classed as homeless because of PTSD. During that time, I was self-harming regularly, drinking excessively and experimenting with drugs.
The thing about being homeless for so long, was that I was always around other people. I stayed in Nightstop with families, supported lodgings with a lady and another young person, a hostel with 17 other young people and staff, and various friends’ sofas. Although I didn’t have a permanent address or my own space, I was never on my own which at times was beneficial to my mental health, even if I was surrounded by chaos.
If it wasn’t for the amazing friends I met campaigning during the general election, there is no way I would have been able to move into my own place, and lockdown would be looking pretty scary. When I did move into my flat, things started to settle down. It was strange not packing my stuff up each morning after spending weeks sofa surfing. I started writing about my experiences, did some public speaking and was nominated for a national award. I started counselling, and while things were tough, they were so much better than they had been. Things were on the up.
Finally, I had my own space, but the majority of my time was still spent with other people. I had friends over for tea, had meals at friends’, surfed and spent a lot of my time at Scarborough Survivors mental health and wellbeing hub, a local charity. There wasn’t a single day that I didn’t see at least one person I knew, most days it was several. I didn’t stay in on my own for extended periods of time, because I had got so used to being around other people, and I guess I didn’t think I’d be ok, with just myself and my thoughts.
‘it felt like the rest of the world had gone into survival mode and having spent so much of my life in exactly that, I felt this strange sense of calm.’
The day before lockdown was announced the decision was made to close Scarborough Survivors. That’s when panic set in; it suddenly felt real. The thought of not being able to go to Survivors, where although I’m a volunteer I still rely heavily on, for my own mental health along with receiving counselling.
The first few days were strange; it felt like the rest of the world had gone into survival mode and having spent so much of my life in exactly that, I felt this strange sense of calm. This was the most time I’d ever spent alone, but I kept telling myself I had been through so much worse. I’d been through years of abuse as a child, I was sexually assaulted when I was at uni, and spent over a year homeless. Lockdown should be a doddle.
One of the strangest things to get used to was the lack of noise. In all the chaotic places I stayed while homeless, I got used to always having some sort of background noise. The TV in the hostel kitchen, people singing in other rooms or the constant fighting and arguments. Most of the time I have the telly on, or music just so I feel slightly less alone.
After a few days I got into a bit of a routine, watching ‘This Morning’ while writing, exercising, more writing, and lots of webinars. My sleep was regular, and I was eating fairly healthily. I can’t pinpoint exactly when things changed, but at some point it did.
It’s now day 29. The past three days have been especially tough. The negative thoughts have returned but I’m doing everything in my power to stop things spiralling. I’m focused on survival; colouring, jigsaws, films and scented candles. I’ve cried a lot, and I’m so so grateful for the constant telephone support from Scarborough Survivors. I’m struggling with the lack of human contact and all I really want is a hug, which is pretty ironic when I spent so much of my life hating human contact.
The hardest thing is bringing myself back round when my PTSD is triggered. When I have a bad night with nightmares it’s much more difficult to get myself out of that headspace when I can’t be around other people.
However, by this point I thought my recovery would have gone well and truly down the drain. There’s been no self harm and I haven’t touched alcohol which I genuinely thought would have happened by now, so I’m pretty proud of myself. I didn’t think I would survive this long on my own, but I’ve proven myself wrong even if I am only surviving. I’ve come to accept that there’s nothing wrong with that, there is no ‘right’ way to react to the situation we’re in.
I know that there are so many other young people in a similar situation to me and it breaks my heart that they might not have access to small charities like Scarborough Survivors. I know they are a lifesaver for so many people in the local area and I definitely would not be where I am without them.
I just have to keep telling myself, this won’t last forever, and I’ve been through WAY worse.
About the author
Hannah Green is a freelance writer and activist. She writes about her lived experiences of homelessness and PTSD and these experiences drive her passion to change things for other young people. Hannah is a volunteer and trustee at Scarborough Survivors and also volunteers with the Wave Project. Hannah also loves surfing, skateboarding and generally being outdoors and active. @h_green21
Image by Samantha Naomi Moments ©