This morning, I woke up from a dream where I was speaking in front of a small group about my experiences. Before you think that’s an ambition of mine, let me tell you flat out that the idea alone scares the crap out of me, and I’m pretty sure facing it in reality would make me pee my pants. I often have bad dreams about doing things I’m frightened of (putting my uniform back on and going for my first shift in 10 years is a recurring one, and had one of those last night too) so this is nothing new.
The thing I remember most specifically about this dream was how I looked, and then, how I started my little speech by trying to explain why I looked that way. In that limbo world between dream and waking, before you realise the world still sucks sweaty donkey balls and you have to face it all over again, the opening of this speech, not the words specifically but the meaning and breadth of it, made sense to me. It still does, so let’s see if I can capture that here.
If you’ve read the About page, you’d have learned of the recent few years in my life that a friend called my own personal Dark Night of the Soul. A very poetic term referring to my descent into all the most horrible things of complex post-traumatic stress disorder and the super fun birthday gifts that often come with it: alcoholism, clinical depression, agoraphobia, mild OCD, and so on. If you’ve ever worked as a first responder, picture the calls you’ve attended for people who live like this. Remember how they looked, remember the smells, the dirt, and general conditions of both the person and their environment. Go back to all the empty liquor bottles on the kitchen counter. What I remember from those calls was the thought that I never wanted to wind up like that, and yet, I did.
Standing at that podium in front of a group of well-dressed folks, some in pressed uniforms, all looking quite dapper, I was wearing a wrinkled shirt I’d picked up off the floor that morning. My hair was actually washed, but it was long, and not that sexy styled long some men can pull off, but raggedy middle-aged-I-don’t-care long. My beard hadn’t been trimmed for weeks. I probably had an odour, but was too used to it to notice myself, and can you even smell in dreams?
I started off by bringing attention to all of these things in an effort to provide an example of how deeply one can sink when the primary issue is magnified a thousand fold not just by lack of support, but often pushback from the employer, colleagues, family, and friends. It wasn’t a costume, either, worn just for the event. I remember explaining that although I was on a better path now, finally digging out through the snow that had fallen around me, ignored, for years, the sidewalk out front was still far, far away. That is who I was in the dream, and that is who I am today.
Not very long ago, I posted this status update to Facebook:
You may have noticed I’ve made all of my most recent posts open to the public. Anyone can read them now, even potential employers (as if).
I’m not afraid of posting negative things as much as I’ll try not to for my own sake, I’m not a zen master (and I bet even they get annoyed sometimes), but it’s more for the sake of honesty within myself. I still have trouble walking out my front door and probably will for some time to come, but I can leave my blanket fort behind while I am here, with you, and that is a huge step on its own.
It’s in that same spirit that I’m sharing this with you now, before I even shower and oh boy do I stink.
And miles to go before I sleep, wrote Robert Frost. I think I finally get that now.