This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to change beds; one man would like to
suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health beside the window.
It always seems to me that I should feel well in the place where I am not, and this question of removal is one
which I discuss incessantly with my soul.
‘Tell me, my soul, poor chilled soul, what do you think of going to live in Lisbon? It must be warm there, and there
you would invigorate yourself like a lizard. This city is on the sea-shore; they say that it is built of marble
and that the people there have such a hatred of vegetation that they uproot all the trees. There you have a landscape
that corresponds to your taste! a landscape made of light and mineral, and liquid to reflect them!’
My soul does not reply.
‘Since you are so fond of stillness, coupled with the show of movement, would you like to settle in Holland,
that beatifying country? Perhaps you would find some diversion in that land whose image you have so often admired
in the art galleries. What do you think of Rotterdam, you who love forests of masts, and ships moored at the foot of
My soul remains silent.
‘Perhaps Batavia attracts you more? There we should find, amongst other things, the spirit of Europe
married to tropical beauty.’
Not a word. Could my soul be dead?
‘Is it then that you have reached such a degree of lethargy that you acquiesce in your sickness? If so, let us
flee to lands that are analogues of death. I see how it is, poor soul! We shall pack our trunks for Tornio. Let us go
farther still to the extreme end of the Baltic; or farther still from life, if that is possible; let us settle at the Pole. There
the sun only grazes the earth obliquely, and the slow alternation of light and darkness suppresses variety and
increases monotony, that half-nothingness. There we shall be able to take long baths of darkness, while for our
amusement the aurora borealis shall send us its rose-coloured rays that are like the reflection of Hell’s own
At last my soul explodes, and wisely cries out to me: ‘No matter where! No matter where! As long as it’s out
of the world!’
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