The door closed and the darkness swallowed me. I was given a moment before being locked in to take in my surroundings. A bare cell, a bed, washbasin and toilet.
It had taken a lot of courage for me to embrace this weekend, a time for me to reflect on my life and see if I could cast off some of the baggage I carted around with me.
It wasn’t to be a weekend of darkness; this was just what they called a time for me to reflect on my own self with minimal interruptions.
Our instructor had outlined that in the darkness he wanted us to try and meditate, to find a mantra that worked for us and to use it to keep our thoughts on track.
My initial reaction was one of panic; I wasn’t used in any way to being alone in the darkness. I was a light on in the hallway sort of person, which of course I knew was from childhood trauma.
Under the door there sneaked the thinnest sliver of light from the corridor.
I settled onto my bed and thought of the mantra I might use, and all I could think of was the one used in a children’s book, the little steam engine, “I think I can.”
I berated myself telling myself this was a serious business and I had to take it seriously if I wanted anything to change.
I stopped and listened for any other sound. Through the walls on both sides, I could hear a slight murmur. Obviously, those occupants were on track.
My mind was so used to blocking the past I found it difficult to open it up. There was so much I didn’t want to recall, times when the abuse was overwhelming, times when I felt I had sold my soul to the devil and the shame of that haunted me.
The purpose was to uncover all those issues and stare them in the face. At one point I found myself in tears. I never cried, and I wondered what had happened to allow me to react with such emotion.
A noise outside woke me from my thoughts and a small door opened at floor level, and a tray appeared. The door snapped shut, and I discovered food, I also discovered I was hungry.
The sandwiches and bottle of water were dispatched quickly. I lay down on the bed and thought back to where I was before the food arrived.
It was then the faces of my tormentors materialised, hideous contorted images their savagery fresh in my mind, I found myself trembling, fearful once again, I turned my body to face the wall unable to deal with them again.
My breathing was laboured, I wanted out, the room began to feel as if it was closing in on me and I felt myself dripping with perspiration.
I found my mind repeating: “Breath in, breath out”. Over and over until I found myself feeling each breathe being drawn in, my body calming, my mind gathering control.
I don’t know how long I lay there before the door opened and the instructor walked in.
“You’ve had a rough night,” he said extending me a hand to get up from the bed. “Shall we go talk about it?”