During my second and third years of university I lived in a tiny mid-terrace house with my housemate.
I still have the photographs from the day we went to view it. I was so excited about the idea and so proud that I’d managed to find suitable houses and arrange viewings that I took photographs of every room before we’d even signed the contract.
Even though there were three bedrooms there were only two of us in the house. This was an arrangement which suited us both as it meant that we didn’t need a rota to make sure the house was clean and tidy, there were never huge piles of washing up or queues to use the washing machine or the bathroom.
The fact the we were both medical (I was a nursing student and she was a medical student) was also useful as each of us understood the concept of shift work, working weekends and nights, extra long terms, practical exams and seeing things on a daily basis that made us wonder if we were actually cut out for our future careers.
Equally neither of us were party animals; we rarely drank alcohol and could count on the fingers of one hand the times that the other rolled in at some obscene hour of the morning. On the occasions that one of us did get in at stupid o’clock we did so very quietly.
My housemate was also very aware of my issues with panic, anxiety, depression and generally trying to behave like a normal, sociable human being. During our first year at uni she rescued me from various places where I had ended up stuck, completely paralysed with panic, often spending her entire lunch break trying to help me.
On one memorable evening she had to talk the halls porter into letting her into the block where I lived so that she could pick me up off the floor (literally) after a particularly aggressive and debilitating panic attack.
It sounds like an ideal arrangement; two similar and like-minded people living together but quite quickly it became apparent that even though the third bedroom was empty we did, in fact, have a third housemate.
We did not treat her well, depression and I, even though I really didn’t mean to be such an awful housemate.
We ate her food without asking when we didn’t feel able to leave the house to go to the supermarket, even though we knew that she didn’t have any more money than I did.
We left her to spend a large proportion of the two years that we lived together on her own because I spent so much time shut in my room.
By the time I’d spent a full day in lectures or a full shift on placement I was so overwhelmed and exhausted from trying to be normal that I just couldn’t cope with any more human contact. So instead of spending evenings together (the way that the Northern One and his housemates did) she spent hers either alone in the house or out with other friends while I sat upstairs with a book or a DVD and depression for company.
Depression made me a difficult, unpredictable and unrewarding person to live with and yet she never got angry with me or told me that my behavior was unfair. Equally, she didn’t lie down and take whatever I threw at her simply because she knew I had mental health issues. I can still remember shame I felt the day I realised she’d taken her biscuit tin from its place on the the kitchen window sill and moved it into her room because she always bought the biscuits and I always ate them.
When our contract finished at the end of the first year she could quite easily have found another group of people to live with and left me and depression alone together but she didn’t. Instead she continued to live with me (and by default, depression), helping me to deal with daily life and overcome my almost constant state of panic and anxiety by whatever means she could.
If I knocked on her door because I was having a panic attack she would drop everything to help me work through it, even though she was usually snowed under with course work or revision.
If I had an evening where I felt as though I could cope with being sociable she would happily sit and talk to me or watch TV with me.
When I was ill with the flu and could barely get out of bed for a week she looked after me, making me soup and going out to the pharmacy and to buy any food that I felt I could stomach. She didn’t turn a hair when she got out of the shower one morning to find me throwing up in the kitchen sink.
Both years we lived together she made a huge fuss of me on my birthday; buying me a card, presents and a cake and decorated the living room. On my 21st birthday she made me pancakes complete with chocolate buttons and strawberries.
Twice she helped the Northern One arrange a surprise visit because she knew how much I missed him and how happy seeing him made me.
I didn’t deserve her as a housemate and yet somehow I still have her as a friend, even though in the five years since we left university it would have been so easy to lose touch. Especially when you consider how hard depression tries to stop me from making and keeping friends and for the most part succeeds.
As one of my bridesmaids she stood beside me at my wedding while I made the most important promise of my life.
She was one of the first people (outside of family) that I told I was pregnant and to meet Squidge after he was born.
She was sent me flowers and cards throughout my pregnancy to remind me that I wasn’t alone.
When Squidge was born and on his first birthday she sent him beautiful, handmade presents that he will treasure forever.
As hard as depression tried to push her away and alienate her so that he could keep me all for himself, as difficult as he makes it to be my friend, she keeps coming back, time and time again.
So K, if you’re reading, thank you so much for being my housemate and my friend. I can’t truly put into words how grateful I am for everything you’ve done for me but hopefully this post might help me to explain.