Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake… oh what a fortunate peace that would make… No, this is not a declaration that I wish to die. I do not. Despite how it reads. Rather, this is more-so an aphorism of just how horrid the things that lurk behind my eyes really are!
Last evening, as I lay on my bed tucked safely away beneath the fabric of my sheets, I readied my body and mind for restful insentience. The tools I had learned while willfully incarcerated at the rehabilitation centre at the helm. I was navigating my breathing while being mindful of my ephemeral thoughts. Instead of growing agitated towards the nagging and less than amiable congeries that often populate my thinking space before slumber, I merely accepted that they were there and then gently coaxed them to the rear of my wounded yet healing mind.
Through the speakers of my phone began to play a mindfulness meditation designed at engendering sleep. Before long I could feel the satisfying weight of contentment hover over me. It gently pushed against me, forcing my body to melt into the fibers of my sheets. And soon after that, I began to drift away.
It didn’t take long for my poisonous mind to wreak havoc though. As I fell deeper into sleep, the black poison of memory began to ink itself across the back of my eyelids. Specters from the past began to re-emerge with frightful clarity.
I saw a face. A ghastly image of a bereft woman. Her eyes wrinkled in sadness. As the image began to staple itself with immovability, my ears began to bring life to it. First, execrable sobs tormented my hearing from deep within. The intensification soon brought about terrifying wails of inconsolable agony. A sick orchestra of grief pierced the chambers of my ears. The screams became deafening. The sad woman, even sadder. I was now trapped within an echo-chamber of pain and suffering. My mind had locked me into a twisted game of remembrance and sleep. I knew who the woman was – I had seen her in life once before, some years ago. And I knew why she was crying – I had failed to save her son. He lay on a cold basement floor. My partner had just told her that he was dead. Her world tore itself apart.
That was how it had played out that day. And now, it was playing itself out again from behind my weary eyes.
As the screams grew louder and the image more intense, a strong sense of helplessness and fear began to replace the once serene calm that I had held. The awful wails grew so loud, it was as though I had placed my head between two mercilessly throbbing speakers. Louder and louder it grew. Until finally, as if to have been spring-loaded, my eyes snapped open and I was thrust into the real world.
A dream that had felt like hours had in fact played out in minutes. A veracity told to me by the hands of the clock on the wall. My eyes stinging with obfuscation. How the hell could this be? Minutes?! I was asleep for only minutes?!!
The first sound to replace the wailing woman was that of what appeared to be Velcro tearing apart from itself with a staccato of monotony. As the fog of the dream lifted and the reality of the here and now settled into me, I became aware that the sound I was hearing was my wildly out of control breathing. In and out through my desiccated mouth. Upon that realization I employed every ounce of pertinacity to reign it into a more acceptable pattern. Soon I was able to give employment to my nose and my chest began to settle into a rhythmic seesaw of in and out.
I lay back down onto the pillow and reset the mindfulness oration. I pressed play and followed the hypnotically soothing guidance of the narrator. Slowly and bit by bit an ease began to rest with me. I began to feel as though I could fall asleep again. And so, I did.
My deep, slow breaths began to push the reality of this world away while inviting the ethereal space of restfulness towards me. I’m not sure how long it took, but my battered mind began to bleed from its folds once more. This time, sights, sounds and smells all came scurrying back like ants savagely trundling atop of bits of discarded food. I was no longer in my bed resting; I was standing beneath a starless night’s sky readying to visually feast upon the Pumpkin Man. (See same titled blog post – click here).
In my odious nocturnal recall, most of the factual events and linear navigation of that night faded away. What I was left with was a sprawling field of unkempt dew-kissed grass, given life by only that of a pale moon overhead and a mangled metal mess of what used to be a white Ford F-150.
In my dream I begin to walk hesitantly towards the vehicle. It’s as though I already know what awaits me, but I continue to walk as if to be tethered to what lurks in the shadows. I can hear the grass slither apart from itself as I lumber ever nearer towards the demon in the darkness. In my hand, a shaky flashlight illuminating a Godless path. As I get closer to the truck, the smells grow ferociously more cogent. I can smell death, brain and human meat. It is repugnant. It forces me to gag and then cough. Each time I do I am unable to bring in enough air to feel comfortable. Breathing becomes hard.
Now, I am standing outside the crumpled hole that used to be the driver’s side window. Reluctantly I bring the beam of my flashlight into line with my sight – the man is revealed – the Pumpkin Man. His head brutally broken and damaged. Smashed like a pumpkin on the roadway. A sickness grows in my stomach. No air. I have no air…
It now feels as though I am drowning. I have nothing to breathe in. A small voice begins to yell, “wake-up! Wake. Up!” As if by some divine miracle, I do. But when I do I am confronted by a desolate landscape. I can see nothing even though I can feel that my eyes are open! Panic begins to set itself deep into my bones. As it does, it reminds me that I have arms, and so I push against whatever is in front of me. And as I do the world around me comes flooding into view. My face had been buried into my pillow. My arms now held my sweat soaked body above the sea of blankets and pillows.
My breathing was once again rapid and shallow. My eyes, still acquainting themselves to the reality of my apartment. They began to swell. An amassing line of tears grew to the lower lids of my eyes. I blink. I begin to feel the salted descent of heat glissade along my cheeks. I open my eyes in time to watch as two droplets of grief fall from my face and land as if to have been bombs dropped from planes on high, decimating a village of fabric and fibers below.
I am propped up by two shaky arms. My breath, fleeting and spastic. My skin dusted in sweat. As wakefulness takes hold, I remove myself from the swath of blankets that have been dampened by my angst. I need to change my sheets, I have sweat through them all.
A quick look at the clock tells me that my time in hell was one-hour and forty-five minutes. The auto-play on my phone had started another mindfulness video. Deeming it useless at the current moment, I begrudgingly halt its progress and throw my phone down atop of my now baron mattress.
I flee to the bathroom to sprits some cold water onto my burdened face. A quick glance in the mirror informs me that I must have been thrashing around rather intensely during my unsolicited trip into the past. My hair, a frazzled mess of sweat and chaos.
I throw on the only other set of sheets that I own and attempt to settle myself once again. Nonsensically fearing that the guided meditation that I had been using was somehow cursed, I switch to a different one. This one I had first heard while in treatment at Bellwood.
The video begins, and the soothing spoken word of the narrator touches my ears. I fall willful victim to her soft sonant. Once more, I find rest. A terribly evanescent rest…
My sleep is poisoned again. I am helpless against it.
In the blink of an eye, I am standing beside a dead girl. She is only upright in a sickening contort due to the assistance of the rope that had taken her life. This didn’t feel like a dream, this felt as though I was right back there on that day.
She was a girl that was too young to die but die she did. My job was to confirm the obvious, and so I did. I pronounced that girl dead in her bathroom. Her family remained outside in the living-room, hoping atop of hope for a different result. A result that I was simply unable to provide to them.
Her suicide note had been hastily scrolled to the mirror in vibrant red lip-stick. I read it that day. It was however at this point that the dream took over…
The note was no longer hers, it was my mother’s. Line by line, I began to recite my mother’s terrible prose aloud. It enveloped my ears like fire devouring skin – painfully.
Before I knew it, the body was no longer that of a lifeless young girl – it was my mother. I lunged into action. A mad dash to try and save her. The rope would not loosen. My hands would not cooperate. Nothing would cooperate. I began to grunt then groan until I was fully evolved into a roar of frustration and panic. The harder I tried the more futile everything became. And that’s when I woke – pawing helplessly at my pillow, trying to save it…
The confusion wore off quickly this time around. But the feeling of loss did not. It lingered like an infected sliver in my soul.
Now that there is no booze on-board, the nightmares are viciously potent.
This was how my day started. I would be lying if I told you that my mind did not think of booze. Of course it did. But it also thought of me. The sober me. It thought of how far I have come in only a short time. It reminded me that booze did not help me back then and it would not help me now. So, I’m happy to say that I am still sober!
And that despite how the day started, it actually turned out to be a pretty damn nice one. The weather was perfect, the coffee – delicious, the barista – stunning, and the company near-perfect.
I may have nightmares – for now – but it does not mean that I am relegated to live in one. I will choose how my days go. And I will do so without the fallacy of booze’s crooning fables. I will live my life because I can. Because I deserve to. Because I am alive. I owe it to those who aren’t and to myself.
But, if you should be so inclined, send me a little wish tonight, yeah? Of peace and protection from the tapestry of torment that lives within my aching brain. Maybe it’ll help? …
I am a Paramedic and a mother of an addict. Your words hit my heart with such intensity and gratefulness too. You get it. I am sorry for your suffering. Love Marina
Thank you so very much!