I have no concept of home. I might have bricks and mortar, a roof, a shelter, but I have no home. Home is a place where you go to rest, to relax, where you can just ‘be’, restock, restore, ready to face the next task or the next day. I have no such place. If I’m lucky I might not be practically homeless, but spiritually, mentally, I have no place to rest my head.
‘Home’ in the practical sense might be the place where I have to go and start my work caring for a parent. Where illness or disability means that I am the one keeping the house and family going.
‘Home’ might be the group home or residential home, call it what you will, that I share with other kids, damaged by a lack of care in what should have been our homes, with our families. Surrounded by kids not coping, volatility, bad behaviour, substance use, high emotional volume, where the place could blow up at any moment, where I could blow up at any moment. And this is supposed to be my ‘home’, the place where I can rest, ready to face another day.
‘Home’ might be the place where stress levels are unbearably high as my parent(s) or carer(s) try to make enough money to put food on the table, to pay the rent.
‘Home’ might be the place that I return to, to be abused or to witness arguments or violence. Where safety and security get left outside the door.
Know that for many of us ‘home’ is not what it is for you. While we might be returning to a building, we are not returning to a place that feeds us and spiritually nourishes us in the way it should. So when I struggle to hold it together, remember that I have not rested, I have not been restored. I am running on way past empty. Remember that if I am drinking or using drugs I am probably looking for the rest that my life does not provide. It might create more problems than it solves, but that moment of oblivion is worth it for me. I am so, so tired.
Remember the times that it might have felt like this for you, when either through busy-ness or through emotional difficulties at home, that you haven’t been able to experience a period of rest at home, where you can regroup, ready to face the world again. Well this is not a temporary state for me…. this is my normal.
Chances are I’m not telling you what is going on in my life, what ‘home’ looks like for me. All you will see is some of the outward behaviours of total exhaustion- ridiculously short fuse, volatile, not concentrating, withdrawn. Just think of what you’re like when you’re spent, add in the emotional volatility of my teenage brain and if that’s how you see me behaving, ‘spiritual home deprivation’ might be what’s going on for me.
So how do you fix this? Well obviously if you know what is going on at home for me seek out the appropriate services to practically help me if possible. If I’m at risk of abuse, social services; if I’m a young carer, social services and get me in touch with support groups. But so often the problem might be one that isn’t sufficiently bad to warrant any intervention from any sort of formal service. Financial difficulties and the associated stress can’t be immediately fixed. There are charitable organisations that can help with financial management, food banks that can help with getting food on the table, but the reality is that the stress isn’t going to go away any time soon. And for those of us in care homes, the stress isn’t going to magically disappear either. So what can you do for those of us with these sorts of ‘home’ problems?
Simply, where possible, provide us with a space that at least provides a hint of what our physical homes should be for us. Show us what a spiritual home might look like. Provide us with a space where we can ‘be’, where we can recharge, where we can rest. Might be a physical space, like your office, or a time space, where we go do something that I enjoy, where we don’t have to talk about anything, where I can mentally chill. It might involve helping me gain new skills like meditation, yoga or even some mindful colouring so I can learn to create for myself a mental place of calm, of restoration.
And in helping me to find some sort of a spiritual home you also end up showing me how good, solid, supportive relationships can bring me rest too. Bearing in mind that often my outward expression of home-deprivation is antisocial behaviour, forging this relationship with me will not only help me find rest, it will often foster the perfect environment for me to listen to you, to be open to your ideas, and to feel in a safe enough place and feel sufficiently recharged to address my behavioural issues. Particularly when my problems are extremely complex and run deeper than simply having no spiritual home, your providing a recharge point can fuel so much positive transformative change.
I am tired. So very tired. But you can do so much to help me in such simple ways, that can change so much. Provide me with some hint of a spiritual home and the scattered chaotic me will begin to find its way back together and ‘home’ won’t seem so far away.