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My Mental Illness Fortress of Solitude

Hobbit house tucked in the side of a hill

Yes, I realize the fortress of solitude in the post title doesn’t go with the hobbit house photo, but I liked it, so there you have it.  Anyway…

Home has had various meanings for me over the course of my life, and I think it’s probably more important now than it’s ever been.

I grew up in a small town and lived in the same house from birth until high school graduation.  I started university right away after high school, and over the next five years, I lived in student residences during the school year and then moved back home during the summer.  With all of that moving, home was less about a particular place and more about wherever I happened to be as long as I was with the people that mattered to me.

At some point during that time, I started travelling, and established a pattern of yearly backpacking trips.  Home became whatever hostel I happened to be staying at for the night.  If I started to feel homesick for Western food and toilets, McDonald’s would serve as my temporary home.

After I finished my first degree, I spent a couple of years living in a basement suite with a friend while I went to nursing school, then did a brief stint in a one-bedroom apartment before moving to the condo I’m in now.  I’ve been here since 2005.

A lot has happened here.  I’ve had two live-in boyfriends and many guinea pigs.  I lived here when depression first hit.  Paramedics and police officers have come knocking on my door.  My paint job and various other fix-it projects are completely useless, because I have zero skill at that kind of thing yet I’m too cheap to pay someone else to do it.  But it makes my home feel even more quirkily mine.

Home, specifically this home, has become important because I feel rooted here.  Most of the time I’m holding myself together by a slender thread, so having a safe space makes a big difference.  It’s my space where no one cares if there are Corn Flakes scattered all over the kitchen and the guinea pigs’ hay, with a little bit of poop tossed in, is all over the floor.

I don’t get lonely in this space, and that’s at least in part because I don’t want anyone in this space.  It’s my fortress of solitude (not that I know much of anything about Superman; I only know the reference from Seinfeld).  It’s just me and the guinea pigs.  The rest of the mostly unpleasant world is kept at a distance.  Granted, I’ve always been very introverted, but the need for a safe space is relatively new over the last few years.

My home also feels safe because it’s paid for.  One of my fears lurking in the background is of being unable to support myself (especially financially), and it’s very reassuring that I’m no longer paying a mortgage.  I live in an expensive city and I could end up with a decent amount of money in the bank if I were to sell and move out to the boondocks, but the thought of moving terrifies me.  It was something I’d thought about three years ago when I was unemployed for an extended period of time, but I have a hard time even imagining giving up my safe zone.

Having a sense of serenity is important for my living space as well. I want calm, quiet, and cozy, with soft lighting and some aromatherapy.

So, I’ve gone from being a girl who was at home wherever her backpack was to being someone who relies on the stability and grounding of home in order to get by with basic day-to-day functioning.  It’s not that venturing outside the house makes me anxious; my fortress of solitude just seems to be the only environment that doesn’t steadily drain my mental energy.

Is home important for your wellbeing?

You may also be interested in the post How Does Mental Illness Affect Your Living Space?

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44 thoughts on “My Mental Illness Fortress of Solitude”

  1. Who cares if the Hobbit home doesn’t go with the title. Your fortress of solitude can be represented however you want. And yes, home is absolutely critical for me, a safe place that I can hide when the anxiety or depression hit too hard.

  2. I’m very much a homebody now, despite being a traveler in my younger years. It’s the only place I can control my environment (at least my bedroom cause we have three kids), which is important for controlling my stress and anxiety, and therefore my health. I get it totally.

  3. My condo is definitely my safe space, specifically one end of the sofa where I always sit. I have everything there that I need: yarn (for crocheting), my iPad and Kindle. My phone, lip balm, water, hand lotion, and medication. I have a TV tray table that holds all this stuff lol

  4. To feel good and cozy in a home is an important support for my mental health! I was so anxious when I have moved in the beginning of the year after all my life in the same house but making (my bedroom particularly) cozy was so important and I feel me good inside!

  5. Superman’s Fortress of Solitude was in the Arctic or Antarctic and I would really like one like that sometimes.

    Because of autism, I get attached to familiar places and don’t like to move. Moving house four years ago triggered OCD which led to an escalation of my depression. I’ve never liked travelling much. I like to have my books and DVDs around me too much. Even if I don’t read/watch them, I like to know they’re there. OTOH, I live with my parents, so I don’t have a home so much as a room; kitchen, bathroom etc. is shared space. Mostly that’s OK, but sometimes there’s friction.

  6. I would definitely say I’m a homebody. It’s where I feel I can truly let my guard down and just breathe for a minute 🙂 (Love the Hobbit house! There’s never a wrong time to post that).

  7. Home is a funny thing, it can be our prison and our safe haven. When I lost my mum six years ago it always felt like the four walls were closing in on me, and I needed to escape. Now it’s my safe space. The house is not my ideal house but it’s my home and I’m lucky to have it. It’s where I can do whatever I want and be whomever I choose. Oh! I love the Hobbit house, in fact, I’m such a short ass I could probably live in it! 🙂

  8. I just recently moved out of my parents into my own condo. It took a couple months but it has finally become my safe place. It was important to me to keep things in my bedroom sort of set up the way it was at my parents.

  9. This is so relatable. I need this, too. When my ex and I had our house together there was no safe space, no fortress of solitude to which I could retreat. He wouldn’t allow me to have anything that was separate from him. Now that I’m on my own again, my condo is exactly as you describe, just with cats instead of guinea pigs. I’m still recovering from that relationship, even though I’d like to think I’m not, and these lines resonated intensely:

    “Most of the time I’m holding myself together by a slender thread, so having a safe space makes a big difference.”

    “I don’t get lonely in this space, and that’s at least in part because I don’t want anyone in this space. It’s my fortress of solitude… The rest of the mostly unpleasant world is kept at a distance.”

    Thank you for this post. You describe everything about the safety and security of your home perfectly.

  10. My fortress of solitude is my bedroom and bath in a townhouse.
    In all honesty, I think about this quite often… I personally don’t feel at home anywhere since I left my home in NY after my divorce. Since 2004, home is just something of memories to me.

  11. My home is very important for my wellbeing. I’ve struggled with having a sense of belonging my entire life, not really feeling like I belong anywhere because I was moving between the boarding school and my family home so much, and never fully felt it’s my place, and since we’ve moved to our current house a few years ago and I don’t have to move in and out all the time, I am able to feel a bit more rooted here and it gives me a sense of safety and security which is very important for me. I have no yucky memories with this house or my room so that is good too. And I have Misha here, which always helps me to feel safe more than anything else. Since I am an introvert too, hate change and live with a lot of anxiety, I really appreciate having my own place where I don’t have to deal with people if I don’t want to. We’ve just been on a short holiday for two days, me and my parents, and, as I usually do after coming back home after some longer time, my conclusion for me was that I’ll never feel better anywhere than in my room, and where Misha is.

  12. I so agree with you 💗 I also feel save at home. It’s so important to feel that way. Sometimes however I can feel too save and isolate myself which isn’t good but I’m grateful to have a home and live with my parents. So many people on the world are homeless and that breaks my heart. Everyone deserves to have a home.

  13. Home is important to me and I am sick if moving around, as you know.
    Here, where I currently live, I could live here as long as I wanted. But as you know with things that I have found here regarding my flat, I wasn’t going to stay.
    Then mum became ill and I would like her to live with me and mum is happy to do the same and live in the area I am in. So as you know, I added my mum to my council list I am on. I am hoping one day a property come up to bid on and we get it.
    To live one day in a council property would be home, unless I won the lottery and buy a bungalow.

  14. Thank you for sharing. 💕 I especially relate to – “It’s not that venturing outside the house makes me anxious; this just seems to be the only environment that doesn’t steadily drain my mental energy.” Home is a place of retreat, rest and reflection.

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