Safe space

“It’s very important that I get home. I recharge. It fills me back up with happiness.” – Susan Calman

Anyone who’s spoken to me recently has heard me obsessing about Susan Calman’s* new podcast, Mrs Brightside. She speaks with a number of comedians about their experiences of mental health issues, mainly depression and anxiety – two of my fave frenemies. It’s been interesting bingeing episodes one after another on my long commute to and from work, hearing things that make me feel a little bit less not-normal and the experiences people share, even though everyone’s experience of their mental illness is different.

One of these things is the importance of having a safe space. For me, a safe space is the place I can hide when my mood makes it hard to deal with the world. It’s a place where I don’t have to explain myself. It’s the place that I go to recharge and fill back up with happiness.

My safe space is my flat. More specifically, my safe space is my bedroom. It is cosy and comfy, and the place where I can be emotionally messy and it doesn’t matter. That manifests itself in the physical mess of a lifetime of failing to put my clothes away properly, but also in the honest skype conversations I have with friends, the failure to get up on time again as I struggle to rally for the day, the smudgy mascara from another spontaneous cry. And all of these things are OK, because it is my safe space.

I think it’s one of the reasons relationship breakdowns hurt so much – romantic or platonic. We have invited someone into our safe space and they have violated that trust, maybe actively, but more commonly, by not living up to the expectations that we want for ourselves. My safe space is certain; it won’t let me down.

Even little kids get this. A friend of mine works with three year olds. She recently led a conversation with them about having a safe space. They could name the places they felt safe – in the car with their family, in their parents’ bed, anywhere in their house. Their space. Because my friend is a beautiful human, she worked with the children to create a safe space at the day care, where they could go when they needed a rest and a recharge. They wanted it to have plants. So it has plants.

*Susan Calman is one of my favourite humans. I have loved her for years as one of the BBC Radio 4 comedy regulars guaranteed to make me laugh. I came to love her even more when I spent a week driving round Scotland listening to her book, Cheer Up, Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate, where she talks honestly about her depression and anxiety.

Image credit: @bymariandrew

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