The comfort of a child's imagination

      When I was a little girl nightmares would invade my sleep. In them I was always being chased by men in a black car. I would run into a building, dash up the stairs and they would follow. I could never make out their faces, they were just shapes. Somehow I would dodge them once on the top floor - on the landing, and then I would descend down the stairs....but I wasn't running, I was floating as I dove down the flight.
       It seemed like the nightmare would replay itself over and over until I woke up shivering in fear and trembling with exhaustion. Waking up I would need to catch my breath. For as long as I can remember this nightmare reoccurred throughout my childhood, and even at times when I turned into an adult woman.
      I learned at a very young age how to avoid sleep. A reaction that turned into a habit which also followed me into adulthood. Anyone who knows me well knows that when I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed I will be up during the wee hours of the night attempting to keep my mind busy with whatever it is I can find.
     When I was a child I did this by creating stories in my head. Ones that allowed me an escape from the pain I really didn't understand that I was experiencing.
      My favorite "go to" story was about the toy chest that could be found in my closet. At the time we lived in an old Victorian era building - on the top floor was our apartment. Truly it was an elegant apartment. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows and a hallway that seemed to go on forever.  That third bedroom was actually at one time in its history considered the maid's quarters. It was just off the kitchen and for the most part separated from the rest of the apartment.  The closet inside it was a small walk-in. And that room was all mine.
      I would lay in my bed with my eyes clenched shut, blankets over my head. My cocoon of safety from the

darkness shrouding my room. That is when I would take comfort in my story. The one where once inside the closet I would close the door after turning on the light. I then would open that old toy chest and crawl in as I moved aside my dolls and stuffed animals to reveal a secret passage, a door at the bottom of the chest.
    Upon lifting open the door a staircase would come to view and at the bottom was a store, a toy store filled with all my favorite and most wanted items. My Siamese cat, Kelly, would always be with me. He protected me, and knew all my secrets. The only living soul other than myself and those who had harmed me, who did. Kelly was good at keeping secrets.
    There I would stay, in that toy store of my imagination. Sometimes the toys would come to life just like on the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Still to this day when I see the movie I think back to those nights and my special story.
    As the story played out in my head I would drift off to sleep and if my nightmare woke me up, I would start the story all over again. Little did I know then I was coping - kicking in a survival mechanism. Nor did I realize I was being creative - all that I knew was that it was what I needed to do to get through the night.
   It would take years and some counseling before I realized those nightmares I had were because as a child I was overwhelmed with fear and confusion. The Boogeyman did not live in my house but he did live next door, in the apartment next to us - and another one lived with someone I was close with.
    As twisted as it may sound to some - in a way I am thankful that as a child I was basically forced to use my imagination and be as creative as possible to find comfort. When I was a teen my form of expressive creativity turned to writing and poetry - as I went through my journey of healing I relied heavily on my ability to express myself through writing. Being creative while under pressure has been the one tool that has kept a roof over my children's head, and food on that table as I juggle life as a single mom and survivor of domestic violence.
   For every negative in your life, there is a positive that will propel you towards hope...just be creative and use that imagination...and you will find it.


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