Dreams of the Liminal

Last night I dreamt I was in rural Wales, in the very south-west of the country. I had a lot of bags with me, my mum and ex-girlfriend with me, and for someone reason a bass guitar that had once belonged to someone famous. The back room of the guitar shop where the bass was for sale became our base of operations, and we were doing our best to figure out how to get back to Newcastle.

Information was scarce. We could plot a journey, buy a ticket, but the main problem was that we didn’t know where exactly we were setting off from. There were towns that I’d clearly made up — with names like Anwich and Alnwick (which does exist but not in Wales) and Aber-something, all stereotypically Welsh and provincial — but alongside our positioning in space, time was also a complete unknown, alhough it was most certainly the evening and getting later, as trains became few and far between as we dillydallied.

In the end, I sent my mother and ex on their way, having sorted them out ahead of time but finding myself falling at the last hurdle. I had a plan but needed to return the guitar and get some things left at the shop. On my return, I realised I’d actually left my luggage at the station, which I’d travelled quite some way away from. I didn’t want to go back there because my plan was to depart for Newcastle from somewhere else, but now I had to. My thoughts turned to where I’d sleep. I resigned myself to sleeping on the floor of the station I’d just left and waiting in purgatory until the morning.

I woke up before any of this liminal travel situation was resolved and was left wondering what it all meant. It was a somewhat banal stress dream considering the reality of the day before, which I had spent in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary having an acute mental health crisis.

For the most part, when my mental health isn’t great, it manifests as an anxious guilt and shame. The main somatic symptom is an anvil on my chest. My solar plexus is transformed into a black hole from which no emotion can escape. I’d felt like that for a few days, apropos of nothing but some incongruously triggered adoption trauma and attachment anxiety. Then, in preparing myself for my weekly therapy session, the big black balloon burst. Whatever was being held in that emotional abcess seeped out all over my body as a nervous and self-destructive energy.

A friend came over, whose kindness I will never, ever forget, but the feeling would not go away. In the end, it felt like A&E was the best place to be — on the one hand, as the best place to preempt any sort of self-injury, but on the other, as a way to get in touch with a crisis team and make myself known to any community support systems that might be in place.

It was a very surreal experience, but I think it was also ultimately a positive one. Still, it was my first time in A&E without any clear physical ailment to be seen to. To confess you have shown up to an overcrowded and stretched hospital for your own safety is deeply embarrassing, but thankfully the team there were endlessly understanding and even appreciative. What had felt like an extreme course of action as I paced around my living room was eventually confirmed as the right thing to do.

It also turns out that six hours in an NHS waiting room is a good way to distract yourself. By the time I’d been both physically and mentally accessed, I mostly felt numb, calm, exhausted. But the relief on the long walk home was also comforting. I felt utterly depleted with nothing left to feel. The only sensation left was that I’d survived something. I’d ridden the wave and come out the other side relatively unscathed.

My arrival in Newcastle has felt somewhat jumbled. Outward appearances have largely been social, joyful, drunk, euphoric. It was meant to be a fresh start; it has been a fresh start. But there is an inevitable amount of baggage I have brought with me, which has been left unpacked, for the most part, as I go about making friends here.

With friends made, I have felt the inevitable creep of other lives returning, knocking at the door, ready to make themselves at home again as I fall into a new sense of stability. My train dream, though banal, felt appropriate. In my unconscious rush to return to the present, I am struggling to negotiate what parts of my old lives to bring with me, mentally at least. Perhaps the dream of picking and choosing is itself a fallacy. It’s all coming with, whether I like it or not. Pretending otherwise has not been particularly clever. It has caught up with me.

At the time, I must acknowledge that I invited it in. I have wanted to take some time to process, reflect, transform myself by actively thinking about and processing the recent (and not so recent) past. The next six months are intended to be a liminal space, a transitory space for my mental health, where I hope I can find a more concrete sense of stability than the flux of the social. But in consciously beginning that process, I underestimated just how hard things would hit me.

On this occasion, the return to blogging was not enough to weather the overflow of thoughts. I knew it was a bad omen.

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