How Living in Manchester Exacerbated my Mental Health

by Maddy Bloxham

Imagine it now, you’re Twenty-Two. You’re meant to be young, having fun and not living off mum. Now, imagine the reality: the only one of the above that is true is that you’re young. Solution? move cities and move away from your loving friends and support network. Outcome: this is awful.

Fast forward ten months: this is really awful.

Moving cities to move away from myself

This is probably the part where I’d sing LCD’s ‘New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’ but change the words from New York to ‘Sheffield’. Sheffield is my favourite place in the world (yep, you heard). However, I did briefly fall out of love with it for a while back in 2017. My heightened depression, loneliness and general lack of purpose or direction started to consume me. Rather than accepting that I needed real help again, I decided that moving to Manchester (still the North so it would probably be ok) would solve all of my problems. I would suddenly be happy, and more importantly, people would voluntarily stop in the street to comment on my natural glow. I should also say that a big part of my decision to move was due to my boyfriend (now ex) living there. Either way, all of my reasons for moving were quite stupid yet proven by my track record, I do love bad decisions.

However, I would like to commend myself for being brave enough to do it and for at least being hopeful I’d be happier. I would also like to commend my amazing friends for being there for the following ten months when I had lost all hope.

Regardless of the fact that my mental health began to gradually plummet from the moment that I moved, culminating in me experiencing a psychotic episode and needing the care of the home base treatment crisis team for three months, my hatred for Manchester is not based solely on this. It derives from a few very big, very important factors which I will detail briefly below.

I think my biggest issue with Manchester has to be the complete disregard its citizens have for the red man. It’s a busy city and there are a lot of crossings which I’m sure the council has invested quite a lot of money into the building, fitting and powering. However, no one in Manchester seems to give a care about this. They seem to have the same attitude towards their value of life, as every single one of them walks across the road whenever they feel like it. I don’t know if they are aware that cars are generally bigger and more powerful than most Mancunians. If I didn’t already feel lonely in Manchester, this was amplified every day I left the house (which became increasingly rare) when I was the only one waiting for the green man.

Issue number 2: Northern Quarter. I don’t think I really need to expand on this. All I will say is, prepare to be judged in every place you enter in this part of Manchester by people who are painfully insecure and have adopted the same personality and appearance of everybody else who stands beside them in their judging barricade. (You might be lucky enough to break through the barrier and enjoy a quiet drink where you can order a Stella and not have to pretend to like sour beers after paying a what you described as a ‘totally justified’ £9 for an ‘independent and deserving product’ to a colleague once.) To conclude on the Northern Quarter: no one is friendly, and nothing is cheap.

This leads to issue number 3: how difficult it is to make friends there. I think making friends in your twenties is a difficult enough challenge. You end up merely having ‘work friends’ (work friends are people that you dismiss as ‘just work friends’ and segment into their own category). Up until this point, I’d relied on making friends under forced circumstances:  school, to university, to the floundering after graduating where the majority of evenings are spent in the pub amongst fellow empty, yet thirsty, acquaintances. You then have to creep into the next phase of life, where people other than you have accepted that they’ve accelerated into the phase of ‘real life’ now and they have to get on with it. The growth of new friendships requires some form of graft and this has to fit in around work, making dinner every night and your lunch for the next day, going to the gym or thinking about going to the gym and making small talk with your housemate. If this wasn’t difficult enough to swallow, it’s time to introduce Manchester into the equation: the city where no one wants to be your friend, but they do want to make you feel unwelcome. Most importantly, don’t expect people to smile at you in the street or across the table in a beer garden. Do expect people to grunt at you, tell you to move and in some cases offer you crack.

The Positives

This is the point where I will admit that it isn’t all bad in Manchester via a list of the only positive associations I have with it: the cleanliness and enjoyment of journeys on the Metrolink, Its close proximity to the home grounds of Stockport County FC and the Sainsburys in the Regent Road retail park in Salford.

The Negatives

On a perhaps more serious note, things which I don’t feel comfortable to disclose and discuss unravelled during my time in Manchester; and they unravelled uncontrollably so. Therefore, I unfortunately now associate it with these bad memories and moments.

I felt trapped in a city that didn’t want me there; a city that I didn’t want to be in either. My mental health had stripped me of my identity, personality and confidence. I spent most of my time residing in my flat, which luckily was a very nice flat, too scared to leave. When I did leave the flat, upon advisement that it ‘couldn’t hurt to get outside’, nine times out of ten it hurt. It hurt so badly so that I couldn’t bear to be in my own skin anymore, let alone imagine a future in that skin.

The Outcome

However, I am grateful to Manchester in a way- it was so awful that it made me be more proactive than ever to ensure I escaped in one piece. If I hadn’t moved there, I might not have realised how strong I am and how many different personalities I actually have. This new found strength has allowed me to manage these multiple parts of me, and even quell the toxic ones. Most importantly, at the root of this, it’s made me think about me; I’m back in Sheffield and we’ve fallen in love with each other again. I might not have fallen in love with myself yet, and maybe I never will, but I’ve fallen out of bad habits and bad relationships. The demons of my mental health haven’t left me, but the persistent and inherent dread I associated with life is thankfully left behind in Manchester.

If you are based in Manchester and struggling with your mental health, the following options are available for support: The Sanctuary (telephone and/or overnight face to face support in Moss Side, Manchester) 0300 003 7029 (6pm-1am 7 days per week)

Crisispoint (telephone and/or overnight face to face support in Collyhurst, Manchester) 0161 238 5149 (8 am—12 midnight 7 days per week)

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