Everyone has a wall built around themselves, there to protect them from the dangers occupying their world.
For some people, their wall only consists of a few bricks. Looking more like an ancient ruin than an actual wall. They are the lucky ones. The ones that haven’t had to experience trauma. They haven’t needed to protect themselves from the world.
Other people like me, their walls are sky high with no chance of escape. No way out. No way in.
Mine resembles a tower. So high up in the sky that all you can see of the world below is clouds. Grey storm clouds covered my world in a dark haze. The room at the very top of the tower, the one I am trapped in, is pitch black. My only constant friends are the shadows that blanket me, adding another layer of protection from my world around me.
By the age of eleven, when I started high school, my wall was higher than most of the teenagers that mulled the busy, old buildings of the school. Only a few rays of sunlight and happiness managed to break through the wall I had built. The traces of the cracks in the wall are still visible. Well, they would be if it was light in here. Instead, you can feel them as you run your hands and fingers along the bricks of the wall I had built. Every groove and crack, fragments of happiness in my memories.
But half of my memories are gone. Unretrievable in the depths of my mind.
When I was seven, I had an accident. Tripping over a discarded coca-cola can, I flew headfirst into the very corner of a wall. Splitting my head open. I didn’t even realise I was injured until everyone else started freaking out. I didn’t even feel the pain.
The doctor’s said that I will be okay. No long-lasting damage. Just a scar that will fade over time.
But here I am over 10 years later with no recollection of what happened before I fell. Why my wall was so high, even back then.
A couple of years after I fell, more bricks were added to my wall. My Great Grandad fell ill in front of me. He coughed and coughed, couldn’t catch his breath, and when he did breathe his chest rattled with such ferocity that he had to be admitted to hospital. I remember going to the hospital to visit him. I remember him apologising for scaring me and telling me that I would have to be brave. So when he died I didn’t add more bricks to my wall. I was brave.
But I couldn’t be brave any longer when my Mum was rushed to hospital. She collapsed whilst at work. Meningitis. More and more bricks were added to the wall protecting me from the world around me as each day passed where Mum was in the hospital.
My wall stopped being built when my Mum came out of the hospital and I started high school. But slowly, brick by brick the wall grew around me, blocking out the passing comments of classmates about the way I looked, talked and acted. To protect me more, I changed. Trying to fit in with the people around me, I lost a part of myself.
All that led me to was the hospital with an eating disorder and a belief that I wasn’t good enough.
The wall around me kept growing as did the shadows that I thought would protect me from the world.
But nothing could protect me from what was going to happen next.
The three words that made me build a tower so high.
I have cancer.
You never want to hear those words, especially from your Mum.
That’s when I was sixteen, getting ready to choose what I was going to do for the rest of my life.
How could I possibly choose something as important as that when brick by brick, layer by layer, the wall around me became a tower?
When I had lost myself?
I didn’t know who I was anymore.
And yet the wall kept growing, and every day I lost more of myself as the shadows blanketed me and kept me company. After years of treatments, chemotherapy, radiation, and scans, it was just me and the shadows. No sparkle of happiness broke through the walls I had built around me.
Just me and the shadows.
For years it was just me and the shadows, with a dark haze over my view of the world from the tower I had built.
But I had had enough. Of the darkness. Of the shadows. Of the tower.
But most of all, I had had enough of being alone. The world passing around me is like a blur.
I did the only thing I could do, being all alone in the tower I had built. There was no one there to ask for help, so I prayed.
But not to a God, to anyone who was listening to me. I had long given up on there being a God when my Mum was diagnosed with incurable cancer. I think most people do.
So I prayed. Hoping that the universe would listen to me.
That I wanted help out of the tower I had built around me.
No. I needed help to actually experience the world that was quietly passing underneath the dark haze of the shadows and clouds blanketed around me and the tower I had built.
The universe silently listened to my screams and cries for help, unable to do anything but look down at me with pity. As I was the one that had built the tower around me, I was the only one that had the power to break down the tower I had built.
But I didn’t know where to start.
How could I when I had lost who I was?
At least I knew where to start.
I had to find myself.
Which trust me, is easier said than done. Especially when all you can see through is a dark haze and you’ve made friends with the shadows.
I started at a part of myself that I had hidden away.
A part that I could easily find again.
A part that would find me peace as I went on the hardest journey I would ever go on. To find me.
My love of music. I had long abandoned my love of music. I love music from country to rock to pop to rap. All kinds of music and everything in between. However, I had hidden that part of me away, ashamed that I was listening to music that was different to everyone else I talked to.
So I started there.
Listening to music. My music.
Not before long, listening to music offered a glimmer of hope in the shadows of the tower I had built around me. Coupling music with my long lost love of nature and the sea brought me peace.
Eventually, the dark haze that I had once viewed the world burned off in the morning sunlight of happiness. Because with peace comes contentment which will at some point lead to happiness.
For the first time, I’m experiencing the world passing below me from the window in the tower that I had built around me. As I was experiencing the world, I spotted something.
Connecting my tower to another’s.
Just as high as mine but a few years older.
Someone who had experienced just as much trauma as me. I must be connected to them in some way. What would be the harm in reaching out to them?
“Hello?” I shouted across the bridge to the other tower.
I was surprised to get a response back. A southern accent. American. Male.
We spent hours talking to each other across the bridge. Laughing. Smiling. For both of us, it was the first time in years that we had smiled and laughed. Months passed and it was the happiest that either of us had been. Together we were happy.
Even in love.
One morning, I woke up to him shouting across the bridge.
“Sophie I want to see you”
I didn’t answer. I was too afraid. Too anxious.
“Sophie, I'm going to come across the bridge. Meet me halfway”
I didn’t know if I could. If I could leave the tower. If I could cross the bridge. If I could meet him. How could I leave my tower? It was all that I had known. I was the one that had built the tower, to protect me from the dangers in my world.
But I had to. I had to leave the tower.
“Okay” I shouted across the bridge, my heart hammering against my chest.
Shaking off the shadows of doubt that were holding me back, I escaped my tower. The tower I had built.
Step by step I walked across the bridge. The bridge that connected me to him. Connecting the tower I had built to the tower that he had built. Halfway across I saw him. To most people, he looked like a typical red-headed redneck.
But to me, he was so much more. He was the brave knight, dressed in shining armour that had battled a fire breathing dragon to save me from my tower. The tower I had built.
At the sight of him, my bright blue eyes lit up like they held all the stars in the galaxy.
“Eric” I shouted, smiling the widest, truest smile I had ever smiled.
Running at him, I wrapped my arms around him when I reached him. He too wraps his arms around me bringing us into a hug that we both needed. A hug that felt like home. I am home when I am with him, and he is home when he is with me.
Together we stayed on the bridge, between the towers that we had built. Experiencing the world passing below us. Together.
I expected the towers that we had built to crumble as we experienced the world together. No longer requiring the towers to protect us from our worlds.
But they remained.
I’ve learnt that you can let go of the traumas that helped build the tower, but they still happened. We still experienced them.
But we can choose to escape the towers we have built. I chose to escape the tower I had built.
Because I didn’t need the tower to protect me from the world.
I have him.
He is my world.
And in him I found the parts of myself that I had lost in the tower I had built.
Because I could be me. The truest form of me.
To escape the tower I had built.