Remember when we were kids, and we built forts out of blankets and couch cushions? Some of us got really creative, and we made massive forts and added Christmas lights, and snacks. There were passwords to gain entrance and rules that changed with the direction of the wind. Yeah, those were the days.
The first fort I remember making was when I was six or maybe seven. I had moved from dad's back to my mom's house. She moved with her first husband to Oklahoma City. He was in the army, and they lived in a single-wide two-bedroom trailer. It was brown and tan and had a small wooded porch attached to the front door, and a massive tree in the front yard. I can't remember what kind of tree it was, only that it was there.
I took the mattress off my bed, propping against the frame, creating a cave-like structure, then spreading the blankets over the tops blocked out the real world and sealed in the fantastic, magical world found within.
Inside the cave fort was so comforting, I was able to hear myself think, and for the first time that I can remember, my creative brain was loudest, and my love for storytelling was born. My first story was about a girl who was kept in a dungeon by a nasty troll covered in warts and slime. Every time the girl would try to escape the ugly dungeon troll would grab her and throw her back into her cell. One day, while staring out between the rusted bars of her cells only window, a pickup truck pulled up, and a handsome cowboy got out, tied up the dungeon troll, and set the girl free. She thanked the cowboy and ran barefoot into the woods to find her family of traveling hill folk.
Little did I know then that what I was really doing was developing a coping mechanism. When life got scary, I would build a cave fort, and hide in it until the coast was clear. As an adult, I learned to control my environment, and only allow people I trusted into my life, and into my sanctuary.
But in March 2020, a dungeon troll attacked my peaceful sanctuary. As time marched on little by little, my defenses were attacked, until I was so vulnerable, I found myself waking in the middle of the night, frozen from fear and anxiety. I would hide in my bathroom and read in the dark on the cold tiles until Mr. Man woke up and needed to get in. One night I woke up from a nightmare so bad I unintentionally woke up Mr. Man. He tried to reassure it was all just a bad dream and that everything was going to be okay.
He adjusted the fan so that it was blowing right on me and laid my bear blanket down. Crawling into bed, he held my hand until I fell asleep. When I woke up the next day, I explained my dream and walked through what terrified me about it.
That day I decided something had to change, hanging out in the bathroom in the middle of the night was not working for me. I needed to find a way to get my mind off things, feel safe, and if I fell asleep, I wouldn't be woken up when the door banged against my body.
That's when I dreamt about the magical cave fort, and how it saved me once before. So I took a sheet, and laid it on the floor, used my bear blanket for the top. I had to reset my kindle and charge it up, loading books I wanted to finish. The next time I woke with a nightmare, I assembled my fort in the dark and read my kindle until I dozed off.
Our brains do strange things to us when we are overly stressed. I thought I had outgrown my need for a safety cave, but it turns out that sometimes our brains only need the pure comfort of a bear blanket, reading fort, and a great story to bring peace to our hearts.
It took me a while to put the pieces of the puzzle together. But with the support of my husband, my children, and my amazing friends who get me. I am starting down the road to mental health wellness.
Sometimes the traumas we survive in our youth get buried, and over time we believe them to be gone. Only to have an event resurface them, in ways we don't recognize or understand. Be kind to yourself. Please don't pass these little warnings off. Reach out to the people around you and to professionals in your area. I have said it many times before. It is okay to NOT be Okay. Now I am living proof that these words are exact.
Be Kind to Yourself. Be Excellent To Each Other. <3 (Bill and Ted)
~Until next time <3