Memories of Place

May 16th, 2016 in Care and Support blog

An open door leading into a room with a bookshelf

Home Group client and author, Mark Ellerby, talks about the impact that being alone in his room has on his mental wellbeing and his ongoing experiences of living with schizophrenia.

Home Group client and author, Mark Ellerby, talks about the impact that being alone in his room has on his mental wellbeing and his ongoing experiences of living with schizophrenia.

For many schizophrenics leaving their room can be difficult because they are frightened, for example they might be scared of being spied on by the neighbours. In my case I didn’t dare go out at all for two years. My room was a safe hide away, but it was also a place of suffering…

The longer I spent my room, the stronger the association became. This produces a kind of constant state of anxiety. For example, staying alone in my room can focus my mind more on the voices and make the symptoms worse, more intense and more prolonged. I am often so worn out by these experiences that I don't have the strength to even move sometimes.

What makes a difference is being out and about with other people. Although I still get frightened, for example about other people reading my mind, I don't have the terror in the same way. The fear does not seem as omnipresent and powerful and eventually it wears off. I then get a well-earned breathing space and start to calm down.

When I lack strength, where I live can sometimes feel like more of a torture chamber, rather than the homely place that usually helps me to cope. The fear can destroy my feelings of belonging. However, the therapeutic value of having somewhere you identify with is very important to my care. While I sometimes associate my room with memories of my delusions, not all my memories are bad ones.

Often, I am able to associate the place with learning something about life.

Being in my room and having gone through so much there makes it feel like home. I have lots of positive associations there such as help from my friends and the support workers at the project and visits from my family.

One issue I have is that I am told breathing exercises could be a way to combat anxiety indoors. But the only way I seem to get my breathing to work is to get out and do some exercise, or to go somewhere scenic, or somewhere that is distracting like a cinema or shopping mall.

That raises the question of whether trying to do all the breathing work while at home is enough? I think the associations are simply too strong to spend all day, every day doing this.

I think my breathing is calmer when I get a chance to sit in the garden or talk to friends and staff in the project but simply practicing meditation and breathing is second best to the social side of life in our project. More space is created if we all keep our door open or sit in the communal lounge.

It is the aim for sheltered housing projects to provide a place that service users

can call home and I think the experiences of living in such places with schizophrenia can

mean there are sometimes difficulties with this. But these difficulties can be overcome. The balance of a comfortable, homely space and the support and social aspects of living in supported accommodation mean I have benefited greatly from living in the project.

Mark Ellerby has written a number of books about his experiences living with schizophrenia. Anyone interested in finding out more can find them on amazon.co.uk