I opened my eyes to find a brown wooden ceiling. Deep brown wooden panels that covered the length of the room. I blinked for a moment, absorbing the sights around me. My head was fuzzy and my eyes had difficulty focusing. I glanced around me and observed that I was surrounded by a sea of brown. Brown walls, brown ceiling, brown tile floor. The room was warm. I stood up and walked over to an air conditioning unit, resting in the window sill. I pressed the on button, noticed the green light illuminate, but it wasn’t functioning properly. All I could feel protruding from the vents was warm, moist air. Like a blow dryer, heating the room rather than cooling it.
I looked around again. Why did this room feel so familiar? My head hurt. My panning gaze stopped on a big, brown door, that I assumed was the portal out of here. I walked across the room from the faulty air conditioning unit and towards the door I hoped would lead me out of this eerily strange room. I jiggled the golden door knob, but it seemed to be locked. Locked from the outside. Strange.
Slices of light from the window to my left caught my attention. I quietly crossed the room, making my way to the opening. Stepping gingerly so as not to make any noise. Breathing softly, so as not to make a sound. Why was I being so intentionally quiet? Was I nervous?
My head really hurt.
I arrived at the window without making a peep. My fingers gently grasped the wooden tassel at the end of the pull cord. It was cool to my touch. An unexpected side effect because the room was warm, and gaining temperature by the minute. I rubbed my fingers on the wooden tassel and noticed the smoothness. I pressed my fingers into the wood and tugged the pull cord down until the slats ran parallel to the floor. Light penetrated the room causing me to avert my eyes momentarily while my pupils adjusted.
I surveyed my outdoor surroundings. There was a black roof that extended from the window over what looked like a patio. Beyond that was green grass running to a white, chain-link fence. Beyond the fence was more grass and then a section of trees. Tall trees that blocked whatever was lying behind them. I moved further to my left so that I could get a broader view. I strained my neck to glance further down the surface area of the roof. It looked like a road…or a driveway. It appeared I was in a house.
I couldn’t remember anything from before I woke up. Whose house was I in? What was I doing here? Throbbing in my head continued.
As if it magically appeared before my very eyes, I suddenly noticed another door. Right next to the very door that was locked. Perhaps this door led to my escape from this befuddling room. I approached door number two and tried the equally golden knob. The cool knob turned with my hand and I pulled the door away from the frame. My eyes settled on clothes, draped from multi-colored hangers. The apparent closet was full of clothes. And jewelry. Shoes. Belts. Scarves. The closet smelled fresh and clean. As if these clothes had recently been washed. Not musty from being cramped up in a closet while going unworn.
No, these were someone’s clothes. I stepped further into the closet and realized how large it was. There were more articles to both my left and right, invisible to me until I stepped inward. As I turned around to gaze back out into the room, a shimmer caught my eye. It was a mirror, mounted on the inside of the closet door. I looked at the reflection, and…
Gasp! It all came flooding back to me. I quickly spun back around to face the clothes. My clothes. This closet was full of my clothes. I flung through the hangers hoping to find something contrary to my epiphany, but only further confirmed it. My shoes. My jewelry. My everything. I darted out of the closet and into the room. My eyes widened as I crumbled to the floor.
I sank further and further into the cold, brown tile. I was in my bedroom. In my parents’ house. Trapped upstairs with no way out. I suddenly recognized all my belongings filling the room that was closing in around me. How did this happen? And why couldn’t I remember anything?
No! This was not happening. I leaped towards the window and gripped the metal frame surrounding the glass pane. I pressed my feet into the floor and powered through with my legs hoping to open the window. But it wouldn’t budge. I repositioned and tried again. But still, nothing. Exasperated, I pounded my open palm on the wall, unconcerned about disclosing my presence. It was obvious, I was not here in secret.
Sprinting to the window with the air conditioning unit, I surveyed my options. Either try and lift the widow and let the air conditioning unit tumble down to the ground, or try and pull the unit out and maybe I could squeeze through the tight opening. At this point, I had zero concerns for the well-being of this old air conditioning window unit. It was the one obstacle standing between me and my escape. I positioned my feet close to the wall and took a firm grip on the window unit. Deep breath. On the count of 3, I’d pull with all my strength.
1, 2, 3…
All the strength I could muster was no match for this stubborn window unit. Alright. I was going to kick it out the widow then. Who cares if it plummeted and shattered.
In one powerful motion, I pressed up through my left leg and propelled my right leg forward and towards the window unit. Nothing personal, I just needed out. The force of my kick and the steadfastness of the unit collided and sent waves up my entire body. My foot throbbed in pain as I collapsed to the floor.
I composed myself and stood up. I crossed the room, getting as far away from the window unit as possible. A running start. That’s what I needed.
1, 2, 3…
I lurched forward gaining force as I encroached on the window unit. I powered through my last step and flung myself forward with all my energy. Again, my foot met the unmovable unit and I was sent reeling towards the floor. I flung my closed fists towards the ground in frustration. I had to get out of here!
I sprinted to door number 1 and viscously shook the knob. It was still locked. I couldn’t breathe. I was trapped. With no way out. I pounded on the door as tears streamed down my face. I opened my mouth to scream, but couldn’t muster a sound. Sheer panic overtook my entire body. And then…
I awoke with a rapid thump in my chest, gasping for air. Sitting fully upright in a matter of milliseconds. The oversized t-shirt I wore to sleep clung tightly to my skin. Beads of moisture covered my skin and plastered my shirt to my sweaty body. The neck was already stretched out and hung limply around my collarbone. I grasped at the neck of the gargantuan t-shirt yanking it downwards, ensuring that nothing was remotely close to the circumference of my neck. It didn’t help. I attempted to take deep breaths to sooth my petrified heart, beating more intensely by the second. Not effective. I tried to guide my mind in a new direction, shifting my focus. But nothing was assuaging the sense of sheer panic wreaking havoc through my body.
Moments after catapulting from dream to reality, my brain yearned for clarity. My eyes darted around my bed room that was flooded with light from my lack of curtains. My focus slowly sharpening as my gaze slowed. There was no one in the room but me. This was my bedroom. In my apartment. In Longview. The stillness crescendoed into a deafening silence. Penetrating the stillness making the lack of movement chaotic.
This was the third night in a row I had suffered through this nightmare. A reoccurring dream that haunted me several nights a week. They varied slightly, but all ended the same. With me being dragged back to my parents’ house and trapped with no escape. The worst part wasn’t even the dream, it was the reality that I awoke to. A heightened stage of panic. Crazy scenarios running rampant through my head. Was I being watched? Were my parents here to kidnap me and drag me back home? Was this my subconscious warning me of impending doom? I wasn’t in a position to take these dreams lightly, so I proceeded with precaution. First I needed to secure the perimeter.
Slowly lifting one blind, I peeked out my living room window. My heart beat becoming more noticeable as I examined my outdoor surroundings. Grass. Sidewalk. Street. Cars. A bird walking along the top of the short brick ledge running parallel to the grass embankment. My eyes fixated on the small, black bird as he paid no notice to me. He was being watched, but was completely unaware of that fact. My heartbeat quickened and my body felt tingly. I removed my finger tip from the edge of the blind and let it slide back into its rightful position.
My mind reeled as I began the daunting task to mentally prepare myself to step outside. I could not go back there. Memories of my parent’s house flooded my head. Again, my heartbeat quickened. My legs felt heavy and immovable. My Fear became almost paralyzing as the possibility of being taken back became more and more real. Breathe. I closed my eyes and took another breath. I quietly removed my keys from their hook to the right of the door. I selected the apartment key and readied my hand.
I exhaled and unlocked my front door. I pulled the door open and surveyed the outside. No one was there. Gulp. I stepped out of my apartment and pulled the front door closed. I locked the door, and checked the handle to make sure it was truly locked. I forced myself to take another deep breath, and took the first step towards my car. As I rounded the corner of my apartment building, I surveyed the parking lot, but I never stopped my stride. They weren’t here. I briskly continued the path to my car, unlocked the door and got inside.
I let out a deep sigh of relief. They weren’t here. I let that phrase resonate through my entire body. Relief washed over me, forcing Fear out of the car. Almost. I knew Fear would be right here waiting for me when I got home from my day of work. We would pick up right where we left off. We always did.
Author’s Note: Plans. Plans. Plans. We all have ‘em, and we all realize that it’s impossible to always keep them. Being a recovering perfectionist, planning was my safety blanket. If I knew what was coming, I could be prepared for it. If I didn’t know what was coming, I was left to my own, under-equipped devices. A situation I wanted to avoid at all costs.
What I have come to peace with, after many, many instances contrary to my natural instinct, is that you can’t spend your life planning everything. It’s an impossible battle to fight. Not one of those “its only impossible until its done” sort of things. No, it is not physically possible to plan everything. You can’t predict every outcome. Situations arise you couldn’t have dreamed up if you tried. And you know what, it’s a lot less exhausting rolling with the waves.
Life is like surfing. I can look out at the ocean, and see there are waves. I can plan to surf those waves, but what I can’t plan for is the strength, magnitude, and frequency of those very same waves. I can see waves, paddle out to the surf and be met with stillness. I can also observe stillness in the water and be met with a gargantuan wave that knocks me off my board.
What I can do is to anticipate when a big wave is coming, put in the hard work to get myself into position for it, and then let the wave do the work. I cannot make myself ride a wave that isn’t there. I cannot will the waves to come. All I can do is realize that ultimately, I have no control over the waves, but if I relax, work hard, and learn to trust my gut instincts, then I can enjoy a beautiful ride.
*This was the first post I wrote when I decided that I wanted to start a blog documenting my experiences. Why this particular subject? Because palpable fear was something so raw and so present in my life for such a long time that this instance came to mind immediately. I’m glad to be in a place now where Fear is not my roommate anymore.