We all have our demons. This is how I dealt with some of mine.
My eyes have seen many strange and fantastic things under the influence. My body has played tricks on my vision and been debilitated by the poisons that I have swallowed. But it is my mind that has shown me the greatest wonders. It is my mind and its messages that have taught me more than any solution or substance ever could have.
As a young child, I’d always been a dreamer caught between two realities: one, an existence of pure loneliness and solitude—and the other, a place of power and creativity where I held the confidence and charisma of a ruler and had the power of the gods. I dabbled between the reality presented to me by my biological existence on the planet and the reality presented to me by my ever curious mind. But these creations of my imagination were only temporary, for as the cold hard truth of humanity and the everyday became the norm, my mind was slowly consumed by numbers, fractions and fragments of words that needed tending. I began to realize that there was one reality that was winning out, and it wasn’t the one in which I got to feel I was in control.
It wasn’t until my adolescence-when the chill of the prairie winter and the chlorinated water of the public pool would have it out on the battlefields of my middle ear-that I once again became aware of the power of my own mind. With the onset of this yearly fever I would be forced into a stupor of inner ear pressure and an overheated forehead that would bring on the most tormented of slumber. Sweats would turn my bed into more of a swimming pool than a mattress. I would lay there awake at night sweating, screaming at the top of my lungs, eyes wide open, completely unaware that my mother was sitting there beside me, just trying to calm me down. And in my head, all that I could see were the insides of close rooms in sewers and the pipes that lined the walls. And it was always the dripping that got to me, always the incessant dripping that drove me. I was in a place so far from the comfort of my home, I was locked in these rooms, forced to listen to the never ending drip of the water that would surely erode my entire mind if it had the chance.
But I outgrew these lonely underground places before the erosion could make its way through the floorboards. And along with my new found hairs and long lanky limbs, the inside of my ears finally decided to grow up too and stop picking on their caretaker. Unfortunately, for my unwilling mind in these years, the dripping pipes were only just the beginning. As I seemed to reach exhaustion with the self-conscious torture that I put myself through, I began to receive another vision. With eyes closed I would see the face of the most pristine skin imaginable. Creamy and olive, smooth and perfect. An eyeless mask lay before my inner guide: a sign of perfection to last but for a moment. The cracks would then begin to set into the perfect formless flesh, and slowly the skin would turn sickeningly pale and dry…broken and torn like an endless desert of segmented and curling earth, dehydrated and dead.
But the face would only visit when I was at my most depressed and anxious, warning me I was reaching my rock bottom. Visions that would scream at me, that it wasn’t my skin that was cracking and falling apart, in fact it was my mind. The not so gentle ebb and flow between a place of perfect harmony and this landscape of terror and decay would become all too familiar. And so the drink came easy, in its pretty brown bottle or its tall and clear decanter. It came like it did to most of us, simple and stately, bringing with it a whole new reality of quick and silent bed times. A darkness also came in those pretty glass bottles that the label never advertised. This darkness, that felt, for the first time in a long time, a welcome escape from my mind that was not only telling me to slow down and breathe, but also warning me of the demons that I held inside.
And so I spent the next decade of my life numb. Years went by, moving between cities and traveling over water and continent, taking in as much as I could and coaxing myself through the hard times with anything I thought could help lead me to a place of peace. And even though the booze wasn’t there every day, it was always there to put me to sleep if I needed it. That was until my inner guide had finally had enough of all the hiding from my mind. 10 years later on just an ordinary day, it finally occurred to me that it was the bottle that was keeping me imprisoned.
So I put it all down as simple as that and moved on. But within days I would wake in the middle of the night, and feel a darkness inside the room with me. I could feel it lurking above me like another set of sheets and even the corners of the room seem rounded with the thick ebony darkness becoming solid in its tangibility. I would peek for a moment from the safety of my duvet and be consumed with fear, watching the darkness shift, change and jump toward me. And then it would all become still. But the fear would lurk on within the room and keep me hidden under my covers. A 30 year old boy escaping the boogie man and wishing the lights could be brought up on ghosts. Thankfully, even these visions would pass with time.
And now here I am in awe of the visions of my yesterday and waiting for tomorrow’s to come. I’m past the night sweats and the demons lurking in the corners. Here I am, outside of the sewers and away from the porcelain faces that crack and decay before my eyes. I’m free from the bottle and its hidden darkness, but I’ll never be free of my mind. I’ll never be free of the voice that tends to scream instead of whisper while it blasts me with its chaotic picture shows. Except now I don’t want to be free of it. For it’s our fear of ourselves that keeps us hidden under the blankets at night. It’s the fear of ourselves that gets us wasted to numb our so-called pain. We are the ones that cause our skin to crack and blister because we are the ones that make us ugly. We are the ones who are dripping away in the cold lonely sewers of our mind, slowly eroding ourselves.
And when we stop to breathe, even for a moment, we see the things that eat away at us can easily be halted. When we turn the light on, it’s not the sewer, the vacant mask or the shadows that we see. It’s just our vulnerable selves asking for a little love.
This piece was originally published at The Good Men Project on June 28, 2013 –> On Pipes, Porcelain and The Boogie Man
Trevor Ellestad is a writer, an herbalist, and an ex-yoga teacher who spends his days creating plant-based magic at Vega. Trevor keeps a tidy home with his partner and their as of yet un-named spider monkey of a kitty cat in Vancouver, BC. At night, Trevor likes to surround himself with plants and obsess over the seemingly simple lives of cats and robots.