Journal: Miscellaneous Memories
12 June 2017
I am eight, trying to sleep on the living room couch at about 2 a.m. staring at the digital clock, watching the digits tick up. All I could hear was yelling, echoing in my eardrums, incessantly bouncing off the walls inside my head. I was paralyzed and unable to move; my limbs were frozen in the warmth of a summer night.
I always had difficulty sleeping in my bed as a kid, and when I did sleep in my bed, I woke up to urine stains in my mattress. I usually elected to sleep in my parent’s bed if I was allowed, mom on my left, dad on my right, protected on both ends. I never wet the bed in my parent’s room, but I could never avoid the nervous sweating and teeth grinding that my body became accustomed to. And after this night, I would also have issues sleeping on the couch. I would avoid this couch, choosing to sit on the floor or on one of the forest green lazy-boy chairs. When this couch was disassembled and thrown out, I wouldn’t say goodbye; rather, my boots would feel lighter.
No one in the house was actually yelling. If anyone were to walk through that room, they would instinctively sneak on the balls of their feet because of the quiet stillness. The yelling was internal, inside my head. It was a man’s voice, degrading and berating my every existence. “You worthless waist of space!” “What? Do you think you’re deserving of love?” At some point, the yelling merged into a dream-like setting even though my eyes were open and staring at the glow of the clock—3 a.m. There was now a face to assign to the voice: a rough and rugged man, maybe in his thirties, with an excessively angular jaw and a five o’clock shadow. He was dressed as a drill sergeant, a dark, puke green uniform wrapped around his barrel-shaped body. My mother was present and watching me being yelled at by this stranger, not preventing, not intervening, not objecting nor consoling, only watching. My eyes were still open. The screaming is hard to describe. I don’t know if it even felt like truly audible noise or if it just seemed so loud that it had to be coming from outside my head. I would hear the yell and it would travel inside my head and bounce around, echoing and getting louder with each echo until it was unintelligible. My head felt like a cavern with a siren on full blast. It was so loud it hurt, and I didn’t know how to stop it, especially since I couldn’t budge an inch. I felt fear of the voice; I felt isolation and betrayal because my mother didn’t help me; I felt worthless because of what was being yelled at me. I felt more emotions than an eight-year old should ever have to hold onto and process.
4 a.m. came and I was still awake. The yelling was beginning to wane. The room was returning to its apparent stillness for me. I was exhausted yet simultaneously unable to sleep. I did eventually doze off, and I awoke feeling strangely refreshed. It was a while before I thought back to that night.
This was not the only time I’ve been lying in bed, unable to close my eyes from the perceived screaming. It was simply the first. I used to always call these events my night terrors, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to question whether or not it was actual re-experience of trauma. The same yelling, the same loudness, the same paralysis beckoning me at any time of the day. The catatonia that takes over is troubling—both to me and the people around me. I am unresponsive and vacant. My mind travels thousands of miles down, lost. I don’t know what demons I have yet to face—long ago buried away memories and experiences—that I’m going to have to face one day.
Photo: elevator shaft in Front Street Building Co. in Dayton, OH
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