“I want you to think of a safe space in your mind.”
I panic. This should be an easy thought. Even in hypnosis, I feel everything in my mind freeze at the therapist’s command.
Dear God, find a safe space. Something - Anything. I feel my body begin to angrily twitch in reaction to the stress of my mind. My brain bounces between places in my life, staying longer in some, desperately searching for a safe landing. The first house I ever remember. Navy blue painted shutters, wiggly water mattresses, small square windows that I can’t reach...my brain trips as if buckling in anxiety. No, this place isn’t safe. You’re scared. You don’t understand what that means. Why is that wrong? I won’t ask anymore. It’s better when you can’t be heard.
My mind leaps and the next house comes into view. The tan one with the maroon walls that mom painted one summer into the prettiest shade I’ve ever seen. The one with the green carpets and sailboat bordered walls. The one that smelled like cinnamon all the time and th-- NO. No. No, this place isn’t safe. You have to leave, please. Find somewhere else. Do it quickly. The twitch of my body has become a noticeable jerk.
Another jump, another place. My grandparent’s house. Mustard yellow walls with orange, brown floors. Fluffy carpets so comfy I just lay on them and stare at the ceiling. Sledding hills across the street that let me go so fast that I think I can touch the sky and rooms that hold...that hold, hold, hold. Oh no, please. Please. Please. I can’t keep going. The muscles of my neck begin to strain, my body going rigid, this is so much worse than the jerking. I’m frozen, trapped.
In a desperate scramble, my mind empties and Holland Lake comes into view. My body collapses and stills. My mind quiets. A tear slides down my face without conscious effort.
I’m okay. I’m safe. I’m alone on the dock. It’s not a pretty dock. It’s made of old, gnarled wood. Discolored from years of rain without any treatment to protect it. But that feels real. It made it through all of the ugly and it’s still here. Here just for me to sit on and let my toes reach the water.
The therapist begins to describe a deeper journey into my psyche, but I know I need to stay on the dock. There’s something I need to know. Why this spot? Why am I safe?
Memories begin to sift and play over the water. My front seat to the film of my life. I see a young version of me running along the pebbled beach. She smiles. I remember this day. I reach for her to try and stop what happens next, but the memory plays. She falls hard onto the ground and the boys with her laugh. Her eyes well and she cries, but stands up. She keeps running after them, tears falling, but keeps running. I watch. I remember. I learned I was strong here.
Memory fades and is replaced. A younger version of me walks on the dirt road at night alone. She’s scared. The shadows of the trees stretch uncontained by the light from the moon. She doesn’t like the walk home at night. The crunch of the gravel echoes through the path. But she keeps walking. She walks and starts to sing. A song that has no meaning beyond the one that she gives. I watch. I remember. I learned I could be brave here.
The night memory is replaced by a day. The younger me is on the water, tubing behind a boat. Knuckles white, legs flailing, smile so big it can’t be comfortable. She comes up onto her knees. I know the look - I can’t help but smile watching it - she’s going to ramp off the next wave. She’s going to see how high she can get; is today the day she defies gravity and flies? The wave approaches, she crouches farther, but I feel no fear for her this time. She is in control. She launches and loses her grip. For a moment, her body suspends in air,. It’s beautiful. But the moment ends and she crashes into the water. Smile on her face as she resurfaces - I watch. I remember. I learned how to fly here. I learned that for a brief moment, I didn’t need to be contained by anything.
The memories slow and a young me comes to sit next to me on the dock. She has a tear stained cheek, but she sits quietly next to me. I look to her face and I know. I could be alone here. I could be whoever I wanted to be here. I didn’t have to hide here. I could sit on the dock and stick my toes in the water and be me.
“This place is safe?” I ask.
“I think so.” She says.