The topic of me moving back the states has come up again. It was while talking to my mom on the phone and she said that my sister thinks I should just “come home”. They are not the only ones who have suggested this but no one seems to understand my predicament. There are a wide-range of multiple obstacles, consequences or reasons why I have continued to stay in England.
Firstly, medical care! Here in the UK, I am privileged to have access to the NHS. I have Type 1 Diabetes, Myopathy in my legs, Arthritic in my hips (and I suspect also in my hands and knees), anxiety and depression. Thanks to the NHS, I have free prescriptions, free doctor visits, free appointments with consultants and mental health care. Are you hearing me? All of my medical care is FREE!!! I do not have to worry at all about having enough money to get medicine or see a doctor – ever! This, for me, is a huge factor in staying here. I am terrified at the thought of trying to cope with medical stuff in the US. I know there have been times when I would not have been able to afford my insulin but didn’t have to worry because I lived here. I honestly do not know what would have happened if I had been in the US at these times. It’s likely that I wouldn’t be here to write this and that’s a very scary thought.
Second, income! I have battled for years to get the benefits I am entitled to here. I don’t feel I have the strength to start all over again over there. Also I have heard such horror stories of claims taking years to be awarded and some not being awarded at all. The US system is based on how much tax you have paid in and I haven’t paid much in since I only worked part-time jobs for a few years before moving over here 18 years ago. The US want recent taxes paid as well so the little I contributed years ago doesn’t count at all. When I think of the process of applying for benefits in the US, I foresee a long, complicated experience of having re-prove my illnesses and fight for any scraps they might deem fit to give me. This again is a daunting prospect.
In addition, I have limited funds due to existing on benefits (for health reasons). I therefore would have to leave everything I own behind and start all over again. This may sound materialistic but consider basic things like my car, bed, couch, phone, computer, sewing machine, overlocker, fabrics, TV, vacuum cleaner, dishes, towels, lamps, clothing (I couldn’t possibly take it all), spiritual items (I have a trunk full and more of those!), plants, books, craft supplies, knick-knacks and souvenirs amongst other things. I have several items that I cherish that would not be able to go with me or be replaced – such as a 1932 Singer sewing machine, numerous crystals and Wiccan objects, photo albums, momentos and souvenirs. When I moved here 18 years ago I arrived with 2 suitcases and have had to build up from nothing. I don’t think I have it in me to do that all over yet again!
Not just that but also I wouldn’t have any money to live on while fighting to get any benefit. I wouldn’t have a car (which is a necessity where I grew up in VA) to get around and no money for public transport (even if I could be brave enough to use it!). So what would I live on? How would I get food, clothing, medicine, doctor fees? And how could I get to the doctor if I had the money? Or to the shop for food if I could afford it?
Third, immigration! At present I have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK. Due to the number of years I have lived here, I am entitled to benefits, medical care and what-not. I can stay as long as I wish and come and go without any problems. However, if I leave for 2 years or more, I would lose all of that. I would only be able to come back on a visitor visa for up to 6 months in a year. I wouldn’t have access to the NHS nor any benefits (rightly so).
The ONLY way around this is to get citizenship here (I would be a dual citizen of both the US and UK). But it currently costs about £2,000 for all the fees and what-nots to become a citizen here. Again I have limited funds and cannot afford this. If anyone wishes to donate money to me for this purpose, please feel free – I would forever indebted to you!
Fourth, my youngest daughter. I am the only family she has here now since her father moved out of the country. Yes she’s an adult now. Yes she’s moved out of my house and in with her boyfriend. And yes they may marry one day. But for now that is all new and unpredictable. I feel I should be here since she has no other family here.
Fifth, the weather. In Virginia it gets too hot in the summer for me. When I went to visit 2 years ago, it drained me and I was exhausted the entire time. Yes it rains a lot here and that adds to my depression but the heat has a far worse effect on my physical health. This summer in the UK, the temperature went up to low 80s (F) for a few weeks and I was in a bad way. My legs, ankles, feet and hands swelled up to a painful extent. I was dizzy and exhausted. I could do nothing at all as every movement was a painful, energy-sapping struggle. Yes there is air conditioning in the US but I still wouldn’t be able to cope with going outside since the temperature reaches nearly 100F most summers. It is also an oppressive heat – normally humid and sapping. The thought of how it would impact my physical health is not a good one.
Sixth, quality of life. What would I DO over there? Granted I don’t do much here but I know my options even if I don’t utilize them here. I have a garden and a greenhouse so can potter about with plants (which I love!). I also have house plants to tend which makes me feel needed. I have my sewing machines and supplies so I can create new things when I am up to it (like costumes and clothing). I have a ton of crafting supplies that I could keep myself busy with. I have books and my kindle which I do use to read and escape. I have my computer to entertain me and to use for looking things up or getting ideas and information. I volunteer at a sewing group for a charity which keeps me busy when I feel up to making things. I have my car and can go for a drive (not often due to anxiety while driving) or go to places like the parks or into town. I have a few friends and do get together with them or go to events with them.
I no longer have any friends in the US and am not that great at making new ones so wouldn’t have a social life at all. As said before I wouldn’t have a car so couldn’t get out whenever I needed or wanted to do so. No trips to the park to get away into nature or enjoy the weather. I wouldn’t have any of my sewing or crafting supplies, nor my books to keep me occupied.
Seventh, family. Aside from my mother, my family are an issue. My children in the US do not speak to me (therefore I wouldn’t be able to spend time with my grandsons). One sister doesn’t speak to me. One sister didn’t seem to be willing to make time for me when I was there 2 years ago even though it was the first time I’d been back in 16 years and had 3 months forewarning that we were coming over. Uncles, aunts and cousins have never stayed in touch and we’ve never been close. I have no living grandparents left. So that’s the family.
Eighth, my divorce is not yet final. I believe it would be very complicated to start the process in the US after all this time away plus I would no doubt need money to do it. Here I am able to access funding for the divorce costs and as it’s already going through I see no need to stop it now.
So it isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s not a simple case of “just move back home”. I truly wish people would understand all this or at the very least try to put themselves in my position. I feel pressured move back to the US. I feel guilt for being here. I feel guilt for thinking of leaving here (because of my daughter). I feel regret for having moved over here in the first place. I feel stupid for not foreseeing the consequences of moving here. I feel torn between the UK and the US.