Burning

I vividly remember the dream. I walked slowly into a forest at night. Dark shadows filled every nook and cranny. No moonlight pierced the canopy of trees.

Trees stood around me. They were old and lonesome, and they beckoned to me to approach. When I did, I realized that each tree was open, baring it’s interior for me to spy.

I approached one to pry into its secret life inside only to discover that it glowed with a raging fire. Smokeless. Hidden. Its soft life was being consumed by a fire burning from the inside out.

The next tree held the same secret fire eating away its life. The fire glowed, and bits of ash formed and fell, and the shell of life thinned.

And the next tree revealed the same.

And the next.

Until I was left looking at my own hands that glowed with the same internal fire. My skin blackened and turned to ash and flaked away. My flesh being consumed from the inside by a mad fire daring to escape.

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Thoughts in Hell

For years whenever I closed my eyes, I was submerged in a bog. A mirey glue held me under its surface. I couldn’t close my eyes to rest. I couldn’t close my eyes to nap. Going to bed at night was an exercise in strong denial. It makes me want to cry just remembering it now.

The bog was thick and deep. I could not feel anything solid underneath me, and I could not reach up to the surface. It was all encompassing, and I was suffocating in the black, slick waste.

I would pull myself one arm at a time upward trying to reach air. I would grab and pull and attempt to get myself out of the wretched mess, and eventually, my face would break the surface, and I could breathe. I was still trapped, but I was breathing. This imagery went on for years. My eyes would shut, and I would be trapped in sludge.

I think back on it now, and the emotions are strong. It makes me want to sob remembering the terror.

There came a day when more than my face broke through. Somehow, my hands broke the surface, and I attempted to grab something to pull myself free. To my horror, the bog was covered with razor sharp rocks. Points and edges of the rocks were honed to a fine edge. Grabbing hold would slice through skin and muscle on my hands and cut to the bone. My head was free, but I was still captive to this vicious muck.

I can’t remember when it happened, but I gathered the strength to lift my torso out of the mire. The rocks sliced through my hands, but I denied the pain and wrenched my body upward. I remember being exhilarated by the ability to twist from my waist up in the open air. My legs remained encased and unusable, but I felt exultant. I could move.

This exercise took years. For ages, I remained in the bog, and I saw it every single time I shut my eyes. Even to pray.

I don’t remember now which came first: the smoother surface or lifting my entire body above the razor-like rocks. Still, that day did come when I stood above the bog ready to move.

Was there celebrating? Was there exuberance? No, for I found myself at the bottom of a pit. The only way out was up a slope of razor-like rocks. Again, the pain. More pain. Fierce, blinding cutting pain. Searing behind my eyes.

For years, I languished sunken in a putrid mire. Now free of that black bog, I faced a mountainous climb up rocks meant to slice me to pieces. And I did begin to climb.

I don’t know how the healing began or even when, but the day came when I could close my eyes and not see myself in the bog or being sliced to pieces trying to escape. It was sometime after my fifth anniversary of sobriety. I spent a great deal of my life self-medicating with gin. The pain did not stop on my first day sober. It did not stop in the first year. It was sometime after five years of continuous sobriety.

It also came two or three years after my bipolar diagnosis, and the beginning of medication.

Today, I am relieved to report that I close my eyes, and I see nothing. Blessed nothing.