When I was a boy, there was a walk-in closest at the top of the stairs. It was more like a tiny attic. I remember it full up with boxes and hanging garment bags, which were stuffed with moth balls. I never knew their contents; I don’t recall my parents every going into them.

From time to time I would go into the closest, shut the door, and experience darkness. It was the only place I knew with a complete black out. I often went when things were quiet so I could not hear anything as well. It wasn’t necessary to do, but I would close my eyes. I would wrap myself in a blanket, and experience Nothing.

Sometimes I went there to get away from it all. Sometimes I went because I hoped to go somewhere. I was thrilled by the stories of “Alice in Wonderland”, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, and “The Phantom Tollbooth.”  I was waiting for one of these retreats to open Time and Space revealing some other dimension.

I liked the Nothing. I imagined while in this state I had ceased to exist. Nobody could remember who I was; I had never been. It was calming and thrilling. The curious thing was I do not remember experiencing this as Death. What I was experiencing was something different.  It was a total sensory deprivation, long before water tanks were conceived.

I never made this journey alone; I always brought one item with me. It was often my teddy bear. Sometimes it was merely a familiar blanket or toy. Apparently this anchor kept me safe for the journey that I would not completely dissolve into Void. My transitional object would allow me to return, if I wanted.

In these Journeys, I don’t remember thinking about anything, nor was I scared. As a boy I liked a night light, as the night time dark was unsettling. This total darkness was an ineffable something else.

Nobody ever knew I did this. There was no ‘Where have you been hiding? We’ve missed you!” to greet me when I came back.

Once in a while, when I am having a sad or painful day – or when I am just curious – I will enter the present walk in closet, and shut the door, and stand still.  While is dark, there is no sensation of Nothing anymore. To do this feels foolish, not comforting. There is a sense of disappointment too. There is no time warp, no door to another place (either external or internal). I am a middle aged man obliged to stay where I am.  There is no need for a teddy bear or any safety object, as I am firmly anchored here; no chance of dissolving away.

I think I would give a lot to re-enter that walk-in closet at the top of the stairs.

I never told anyone this, not even my analysts.

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