I thought I had it all under control – or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say I thought I had myself under control. I had erroneously begun to believe that I had managed to oust the worries and troubles that plagued me as child and adolescent. After all, I am not the same person as I was back then. So many trillions of tiny little moments have happened to separate me from the old versions of me that linger in the past. In many ways the lens with which I view the world has profoundly changed (for better or worse I don’t know).
But last night it all came back to me. It savaged me like a pack of wolves to their prey. I felt the old self-hatred burning like an inferno. I had a slew of nightmares that made me sweat into my sheets. I woke at intervals, with impressions and images from both my life and the nightmares scorching into my skull. The sweat would not stop. I felt like I was dying from the heat of an internal blaze. The horrors of my own mind rose up: the beast I thought I had managed to tame was let loose. The cord had been cut. It looked at me with hungry wrathful eyes and I knew it was gluttonous for revenge.
The feelings I thought had gone away had only been repressed. They simply lay dormant, waiting for the right moment, biding their time. Their return was inevitable. All it took was a moment.
In the morning I lay in bed feeling sick and fearful. The sheets were damp. I was damp. My hair was damp. My clothes were damp.
Even my eyes felt damp.
I don’t know how long I waited until I got up. I am scared of staying still for too long. I know what it means, to stop moving: to surrender. Like an insect staked to a board.
And though I wanted to surrender, I knew what that meant too.
I started to feel hot again and realised I was also in shock. I couldn’t believe that I was back in the clutches of this grim turmoil. I think somewhere in the murky depths of my consciousness I was always aware that all these things were lurking, but it was easier to pretend that they weren’t. One image that came to me in the night was the picture of the falling man from the Twin Towers. I have no idea why this was. I think it epitomised my feelings. To fall, in quiet but appalling grace, from a building you know is doomed to crumble.
To the present tense:
as I write this, I notice that by my computer is a notebook I bought to write down my thoughts and ideas. On the front is the illustration of a struck match, with the words ‘Girl on Fire’ etched into the flame.
Ironic. It was meant to be a note of inspiration. I had wanted to be a girl on fire; fuelled by determination and hope. This was a fire I had not expected: ignited by anguish, self-loathing, fear, detachment and despair. I am fuelling the flame, but I am also the one being devoured.
I need peace. I need stillness, acceptance, calm.. I need freedom.
Something to put out this fire.