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This Is Real.

I have always had very vivid dreams and nightmares. The most vivid dreams always end the same way. If it's a good dream, I wake up and feel disappointed. I will roll over, flip my pillow to the cold side and pull the blankets over myself hoping that the repositioning of my bedding will help me fall right back into whatever happy place I was just ripped from. Very rarely does it work.

Nightmares usually end by a sudden gasping for air or the feeling that I am falling to my death. Usually covered with at least a thin coating of uncomfortable sweat, I feel frantic. There is a few seconds where it was surely real and all I can do is thank a God I don’t even believe in for taking me out of that horrible scene. I remind myself, you did not actually just get off the terrifying ship in the middle of the ocean that kept going under the water over and over. And no, you did not just spend the last three days trying to escape your horrific death while running through a labyrinth of stairs and cages for the criminally insane. And no, your world hasn’t changed completely. Everything is going to be completely fine. This time, in those few seconds between sleep and awake, I think life is normal and just like it is supposed to be, before realizing I am wrong. I remember that right now, in this moment, the nightmare is real. Sure, this may sound as dramatic as a teenager yelling at their mother...


Maybe this is an overreaction to a situation that isn't even comparable to so many others. But right now, in these moments, in my body, it feels like waking up from a nightmare…looking for that soothing relief that everything will be just as I left it, only to find the mental equivalent of having a bucket of cold water thrown on me. Aside from never really leaving the house, life is not all that different. And yet, this situation is killing me. I spent years being terrified of this kind of scenario. Now, as an adult who understands realities, I am not afraid of death like teenage Candace was. It's all the underlying thoughts that just keep coming back. I was right to not want to eat anything that wasn’t prepared by me, or packaged in a way that I could prove to myself wasn't tampered with. I was right to not want to touch anything that I wasn’t a hundred percent sure was clean. It was the smart thing to not feel comfortable eating in restaurants…who knows if they washed their hands. Better yet, what if they are malicious and put something in my food? People are malicious. It's what we talk about every week. I was right to want to be alone and dwell on all the things I can and cannot control. This mindset is how I very quickly unravelled. Going from a relatively healthy teenage girl to a shell of my former self and I can see myself falling back into certain habits that I didn’t think would ever creep back into my mind. I am more in control this time. I recognize the thoughts for what they are and hold them at bay. Panic doesn’t take over when I eat something that I didn’t cook. I am not psychotic about sanitizing my hands when I haven't left the house for what feels like years. I am not allowing my mind to fall into total chaos and throw out the years of work I have put into myself. Here is the problem. The longer I am home, secluded from my normal routine. Secluded from my friends and the people who have become my family. The more that I get totally comfortable with not leaving the house. The way that my body so easily falls back into a night owl, which is when my mind likes to get a little more generous with the creeping thoughts. The longer that these things are happening, the more fearful I get of the eventual return to whatever our new normal will be. I cannot wait to be within six feet of Fabia. The thought of going to work and being with all the people who I've shared a large portion of my time with the past year feels like a dream. I fantasize about doing all the normal things that I didn’t know were going away. Sitting in the bookstore on the floor in front of the true crime section for way too long. Wondering around stores that I have need nothing from but just wanted to get out of the house. Spending the night in a place other than my own home. The longer I cant do these things the more afraid I am that I wont be able to anymore. I am starting to feel all the irrational creepy crawly thoughts like before. What if I am home so long that the fear of leaving has fully set in and life feels impossible. These are the things that make me wake up and think...

'It wasn’t a nightmare. This is real'.

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