Let's Get Real

Entry by: Alex Fleet

12th December 2018
They say, in the therapy sessions, that I should have a place to go to, a favourite place I’ve been to that I can remember. Somewhere I can go to in my imagination where I am safe, relaxed, at ease. Then, when things become too much and I am in a terrible place, I can mentally withdraw to that safe, favourite place and ‘regroup’ as the current fashionable phrase says.

So I say to them that, well surely, if I go again to that lovely place for real, I will be sent back to my terrible place. In the same way that you can look through a window both ways, you can walk through a doorway both ways, look down a toilet roll tube both ways.

But they say no, it doesn’t work like that.

So I tell them my secret place. I share with them my lovely place that I already do go to in my mind when I am stressed, and together we, my therapist and I, go there, in our imagination.

Months later I am near that secret place, for real.

I am walking up the hill, the air is warm, heavy with the scent of pine, the gentle breeze silent except for its stirring of the trees above me. I can feel its coolness on my skin: the pine needles underfoot are soft, like walking on a thick carpet. As I approach the top of the rise, I anticipate the view and sure enough a last few paces bring me out into the open, a small clearing with the view of the great valley opening before me.

I breathe deep, feel the freshness coursing through my veins, the tingling in my very tissues of this wonderful place. I close my eyes to savour my senses, then, after a while, open them again to wonder at the majestic view. The hills are before me, marching into the distance like great hump backs of whales, rough hewn and magnificent.

But as I look, the restless shifting of the breeze becomes mingled with the sound of traffic, car horns, the erratic stride of feet along the pavement, the sound of rain on the window, the smell of the stuffy office, the humid heat of a room closed against the outside world, the cold winter streets of the city outside the therapist’s office grey with rain sheeting across the steamed window.

And it comes back, the stress, the fear, the panic, the sweat, the trembling.

I look at the view unseeing for I am in that therapist’s office again, trapped, trying to rid myself of the torment I am struggling to cope with. And then with a shudder and a gasp of breath I am back, back in my terrible place, with horrible things happening around me, I’m on the point of having a panic attack and I cannot cope any more with being there. I need to get to my imagined place. But I am in that lovely place already, not in my imagination but for real: but I am not here: I have returned to my terrible place.

They lied. The toilet roll tube of my therapy was two way.