How I Created a Place to Feel Safe When I’m Sick

A carefully curated room provides a columnist with safety, security, and peace

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by Claire Richmond |

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My favorite room in our home is the three-seasons front porch. It overlooks the west side of our house, where, this summer, we planted a pollinator garden. Nine months out of the year, this is where you’ll find me writing, meditating, or reading.

Lenny will perch on the couch to bark at other dogs walking by. The porch is also where the whole family will sit to eat dinner when it’s too cold for the back picnic table or when there’s a storm to watch through the windows. The space is currently looking much spookier for Halloween, as we’ve covered the windows with purple cellophane to achieve an eerie nighttime glow.

Shortly after moving into our 102-year-old bungalow in Des Moines, Iowa, we remodeled our front porch. Three of four walls are made up of windows, which helped me achieve the bright and airy vibe I was going for. We painted the walls the lightest of grays and installed dark wood-colored vinyl plank flooring. A couch and wicker egg chair serve as seating options, and we decorated the walls with macrame, rattan accents, artwork, and garlands.

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This room was once merely an idea, or a series of them. When we moved in, it’d been sponge-painted pink and had wall-to-wall Berber carpet. I’m uncertain how the previous owner used the space.

Four years ago, when we pulled back the carpet to expose brown and gold asbestos tile, I had even more questions. Did this room always hold so much power within our home? Was it always a sacred place of refuge for the inhabitants?

The need for a safe space

There was a time in my life when I felt like acute hepatic porphyria had taken everything from me: my job, my social life, my exercise routine, my very freedom. I was left alone in my house for stretches at a time, too weak to leave except for doctor appointments. When I was depressed or in the throes of an acute attack, I needed a place to go that was safe. I envisioned an area of my home that was warm, welcoming, evoked safety, and was unapologetically me.

Safety means I don’t have to worry about being bothered with the pressures of the outside world. I can choose to check my email or get on my phone. Safety means boundaries and letting my central nervous system decompress. Because I live with chronic symptoms that can be severe and scary, it’s hard to find security in my body and, by extension, my home.

When I feel safe, I can be present and attend to my body’s needs without shame or judgment. I’m not worrying about what the rest of the world will think about the fact that I’m still in pajamas at 1 p.m.

How to create a sacred place

I needed a place to practice my boundaries that I could easily find when I was ill or low on energy and needing inspiration. So, like, every day.

In my mind’s eye, this room would evoke the core desired feelings of security, protection, and peace. I knew that by filling the front porch with items I loved — artwork, colors, soft textures, crystals, blankets, books, candles, herbs, and incense — I’d begin to be in alignment with my truest and highest self.

I meticulously put this room together, gathering new and old things that sparked joy. I created a Pinterest board to find the look and style I was going for and considered all five senses when putting the room together. The primary use was forefront in my mind, and for me, that was reading and writing. I built my room around good light and comfortable seating.

Side by side photos show the southern half of Claire's front porch, before and after she renovated it. The "before" photo shows a mostly empty room with pink walls, carpet, and a few boxes. The "after" photo shows the room with new paint and flooring, as well as a large sectional couch, lamp, rug, and accent pieces.

A before and after of Claire’s porch, looking to the south. (Photos by Claire Richmond)

Side by side photos show the northern half of Claire's front porch, before and after she renovated it. In the "before" picture, the room is empty, painted pink, and carpeted. In the "after" photo, the room has new paint and vinyl plank flooring, as well as a wicker chair, small ottoman, artwork, and other accent pieces.

A before and after of Claire’s porch, looking to the north. (Photos by Claire Richmond)

It’s a big responsibility to tend to the energy of a room I created to help me manage illness and depression. It’s up to me to maintain the sacred, to maintain that feeling of coziness and warmth others get when they walk in. I clean regularly and organize, too, keeping the front porch free of clutter and unused items. I placed an altar in the room to honor my commitment to the care of this place. Now it’s a living, breathing space I tend to regularly, at least every moon cycle and season.

Starting with an unused space in my home, I cultivated a vision for a place that would help me feel safe and inspired. From where I sit on my front porch, I can see the outside world, even if I’m not in a physical or mental place to connect with it.

Note: Porphyria News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Porphyria News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to porphyria.


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