When It Is Time to Leave Home
When it is time to leave home for the first time, regardless of our age, we all face it with different feelings. Some are rejoicing at the freedom of finally being able to leave family behind; some do it more cautiously, knowing it’s the right thing to do, the next step even; and others do it because they are either kicked out or forced for some other reason.
Some will have moved out when they were 17 and others may still be living with family in their 30’s. One thing I’ve learned is that living with a chronic condition means all the “norms” go out the window.
We live our bendy lives to the beat of our own drums!!
So what if you’re still living with family in your 30s or 40s? If that’s what you truly need, then that is OK. I know there are many people with chronic conditions who won’t be able to live independently – but you know what? I can’t live completely “independently” either.
AND THAT’S OK. We all need help in different ways.
When I moved out of home for the first time, I certainly didn’t like it. It felt SO strange to sleep those first few nights in a new place, a place so sparsely dotted with furniture you could have mistaken it for a place someone decided to squat in for a few nights.
I remember thinking at the time…. “I’m an adult; I should not be feeling like this. This should be exciting; this should be fun; this should be fine!”
But it was none of those things for me.
And, you know what, that’s OK too. I realised later that moving out was different for me than it was for most of my friends. I was comparing my atypical life to my typical life friends. Most of my friends weren’t leaving with the same history as me. Most of my friends weren’t as dependent on their parents as I was, for physical help.
I was blessed to move out with a friend I had known for a good six years, so I wasn’t exactly living with a stranger. That meant that I was able to have a realistic conversation with her about what I could and couldn’t do for myself. For example, I could manage to clean the kitchen but definitely not the bathroom. I could vacuum my room, but not the whole apartment. That was the beauty of living with someone who already knew me and knew my limitations. That was a saving grace for sure.
So what do you do when you live with someone who doesn’t understand all your health problems and doesn’t know you?
How do you negotiate that?
The first time I lived with a stranger, I went for a flatmate that was pretty easy going. She liked things to be tidy, but she wasn’t a super clean freak. She was happy for us to cook together or separately (which suited my dietary requirements). I opted to cook for myself which obviously increased my fatigue load, but at least I knew I wouldn’t get sick from my food.
We took turns with house stuff like taking out the garbage and vacuuming. I had my own bathroom, so I had to clean that (or get my mum to come and help me, more realistically). Sometimes I had to get my friends or my family to come and help me change the sheets on my bed – a task I find is notorious for shoulder subluxations.
But I totally managed. I did grocery shopping. I cooked, I cleaned. And I did it in my own time. That’s the important part. My flatmate was good like that. There was no cleaning schedule to follow or rules about who cooked first. Having my own bathroom made it super easy with showers and bathroom stuff. Obviously, not everyone has that luxury. (I swear, I am never living in a place where I don’t have my own bathroom! I’ve been ruined forever!)
As people with physical health conditions, we often get sent messages that we can’t do things, and more specifically, that we should stay at home and be “looked after” by our parents for as long as we can. I tend to disagree. Stay for as long as you need to, but when you are ready, take the leap. Don’t wait until you are forced or pushed (that’s too traumatic).
Moving out for the first time is a huge learning curve, but it’s also a HUGE boost to your self-confidence when you realise that you really can do SO much for yourself. So what if you need help with a few things or a lot of things? So what if your mum cooks you a meal once a week and sends you home with leftovers? Make the most of that stuff…
Ask for help when you need it. And take the help that is offered if you need it. There is absolutely no shame in that.
But also flex your independence muscles too. We were born to become independent and flee the nest at some point.
At 33, I like to consider myself mostly independent. But there are still things that I can’t do for myself, and probably never will. The bathroom – that is always going to be one of them. It’s either going to grow mould, or someone else is going to clean it… and I’m down with that.If you’re still living with family, are your thoughts about moving out? If you’ve done it, any advice for others? Let us know in the comments down below!
Michelle is a Senior Occupational Therapist working solely with adults with hypermobility and related conditions. Michelle is the owner of Hypermobility Connect, an online platform for people with hypermobility to connect with resources, health professionals & each other. Michelle practices OT in her private practice and provides education to health professionals relating to hypermobility conditions.