|Fife Free Press|
I left my home four months ago because I was scared.
This is not a confession I make easily. To utter the words, never mind share them makes me feel, at the very least, uncomfortable.
A year ago, on a chance wandering down a street in Kirkcaldy, I looked up and saw the ‘for sale’ sign and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had found my home. The hallowed walls spoke of the past. It was a writer’s dream. And for 6 months, it was. Plot lines and characters launched into the starry dark nights above and my only worry was if I could not catch them all in time.
Then, my world changed. New neighbours moved in next-door and the music started. Bleeding through the walls 20 feet away from the early afternoon until 4 in the morning. The next week it was screaming fights in the street. Then strangers began to arrive at various times of the day and night.
I tried to tackle it myself. I knocked on the door and asked for some consideration. I tried to be friendly. I tried to be polite. Then I got annoyed, then angry, a rare occurrence for me. Then I started to feel nervous, as I sat at work and as the clock turned 4pm, my stomach would start to churn at the thought of going home. It went on for months. I started to feel unsafe.
Imagine, waking up in the early hours of the morning to the sounds of footsteps in the shared roof space as something is pulled along the ceiling above your head. Your heart gallops and for a moment, you wish yourself away, making yourself so small and so quiet you could almost disappear.
It happened every night.
When I complained it got worse. Banging doors, screaming and shouting. Strangers looking into my window and my roof space became a regular meeting place. I had no choice but to fight back to protect my home and myself.
I thought I was doing okay. I felt anxious and sick most of the time but I kept going. Soon it became obvious that the worry was imprinted, my fingers turned blue as a developed Raynaud’s syndrome and the words, my ability to express myself, stopped as I got writer’s block and that more than anything upset me.
Then one day, I came home and something had been left on my front door step. I won’t tell you what it was. I’m not easily intimidated, so when I say I was scared, believe it is true.
Two days later, I moved back in with my parents.
Rock bottom isn’t easy. I felt guilty for being a burden, as my parents, generous and loving, became part of this drama I had brought to their door. For a couple of weeks, having not slept for months, I cried myself to sleep. I wondered why this had happened to me.
And when my nerves became a little less frayed and I was able to sleep for a whole night, something fundamental occurred to me. Trapped within the stress and upset I had forgotten who I was. I’m very resourceful and if I want to achieve anything I move heaven and earth to make it happen.
So, I got to work.
It wasn’t easy, some days I felt like I was fighting against a tidal wave. Other days there were tiny shreds of hope and an inch of movement forward.
Conversations with family and friends were high jacked as they also confessed to their own experiences with anti-social behaviour, which had affected them to varying degrees. Some had moved home, others had reported it and to this day some still lived with it.
Every day, I told myself I won't always live like this.
Then one day, after 4 months of letters, e-mails and meetings. I received the phone call that told me that I could go home. I can’t fully put in words the raw emotion of the moment. The utter euphoria of knowing I could resume a life that had effectively been put on hold.
Some circumstances in life are meant to happen so you can look in the mirror and know who you truly are. I have learned to have courage when I thought I had none and I have learned to never give up, even in the face of defeat.
So, I share my story not for attention or pity but in the hope that if someone out there is going through a hard time or has similar issues and is wondering if there is light at the end of the tunnel…
I am here to tell you that there is. Don’t ever give up on the life you want to live. Fight for it.
And if I may offer some practical tips for dealing with anti-social behavior, it would like it is this;
Create an incident log of dates, times, what happened, witnesses and reference numbers.
If you speak to anyone, always follow it up in writing.
Speak to your neighbours and get as much support and corroboration as you can. My neighbours have been wonderful.
Don't be shamed into silence. Speak to friends, family, Victim Support and The Samaritans and ask for the help you need.
Don't be afraid to call the police. I wish I had done it earlier.
Contact your elected officials. Get support from local councillors, MSPs and MPs they are there to help you. Their support has been invaluable to me.
Don't ever give up hope. You won't always live like this.
I would like to thank those who took the time to listen to me during the last few months. You love and support has meant the world to me and without it I would not be back at home embarking on new adventures.
A lot of people helped me get here and these two simple words cannot fully express my gratitude.
I’m home for Christmas.
I’m home for Christmas.