The Elemental Touch

When my throat closes, I feel like I’m drowning.

Deeper and deeper I sink in a bottomless pit, with no ending in sight, I continue falling. It’s not a free fall, either. In fact, I wouldn’t even consider it falling. Instead, it feels as though I’m being tugged by an invisible force that has wrapped itself around my body, chaining itself to my ankles, tightening its grip around my neck in order to suppress any noise of resistance.

When I try to open my mouth to speak, nothing comes out. Small amounts of air slip between my teeth, making their way out into the elements. It is the only sign I’ve got that I’m still alive and breathing- just barely. The rise in the burning sensation in my throat persists, strengthening its grip with no intention of loosening. My vocal cords swell with fiery exhaust, not being used to speak, therefore being left to rapidly decay within the flames that consume them.

On the outside, I am drowning in a water-filled, bottomless pit. Within, I am consumed by a parched drought brought on by fire, fire that tramples everything in its path without mercy.

Between these two elements, air is suffocated. Compressed. Dissipated. Cast aside like it means nothing at all, because between the current and the flames- air proves to be useless. You can’t breathe underwater, where the current sweeps you off your feet, kidnapping your body in order to engulf you far below. You can barely catch your breath when you face fire, who’s smoke travels down your throat, choking every last breath of fresh air that resides comfortably inside. Discomfort replaces the feelings of where air used to reside, exhausting your body to an unmovable state of fragility. A frail state of mind that warps consciousness, disrupts inner peace and disturbs any solace you’re able to discover deep within your core. Here, you surrender to the state of suffocation, except you’re the one pulling the chains around your own ankles; you’re the one who refuses to throw the fire extinguisher to your own self, instead reaching for another match. You are your own worst enemy, forgetting that you could be your own big break. I am my own worst enemy, but I still have the nerve to say “I love you” to myself.

I pick apart my skin like it’s burning through me. I try to cure the scars I’ve created by dousing them with water, hoping its soothing tendencies rid those marks from the redness that occurs when they’re disturbed. I pick myself apart to cover myself back up. It’s a cycle I’ve broken before, but there are different forms of relapse. It becomes harder to stop once you start. My face becomes the battleground where my anxieties land with their weapons ablaze and bombs ready for exploding. They cut like knives deep into my skin; the knives look like my own fingernails, scratching and cutting until they turn red.

When I watch myself do this, my reflection wants to stop it. Every fiber of my being cringes with disappointment and inevitable sadness at the fact that I destroy something smooth like silk, turning it into sandpaper. I cover it like a blanket, hoping I’ll just forget. But I don’t forget- I never do. My brain reminds me of what I’ve done when my thoughts turn to their bad side; in the moments where I’m plagued by my own doings, ashamed. “Shame on you“, I whisper to myself, “look at what you do to yourself. Your touch is soft, but you choose to scratch. Why do you do this to yourself?” Then I still feel like I’m drowning. I want to cleanse without drowning, without burning, without scratching. When I get depressed, I drown. When I get anxious, my thoughts set me on fire.

Fire and water- two opposing elements. In me, I am both.

Every time I push myself out, I pull myself right back in. This cycle makes me exasperated; I feel as if the air has been punched out of me. I feel like I want to disappear, to rid my own self from myself. But when I open my eyes, I reach for my figure, for my skin with hands that don’t want to harm, but want to heal. The touch of softness I extend to others must be introduced to myself. It is through moments of imbalance where my eyes open more; where I actually see myself- not the anxieties. Not the depression. I acknowledge that while they are part of me, they are not all of me. I am Air. Earth. Fire, and Water. They coexist within my being, much like how I coexist with my shadow side. Acknowledgement is the first step towards the path of balance, understanding is what follows when you decide to take that step.

I take one step forth. I grasp for air, I look for grounding on earth. I try remembering that I can breathe, at any moment I want. Despite what plagues me, my breath still supports me. When I pull myself too deep, the intake of air lifts me up, surrounding me in a bubble that brings me back to surface. In the flames, the earth burns as well. The fire doesn’t last forever, eventually I ground myself, rid my throat from the chains and my body from the flames. I loosen the strains that keep me constricted in the hopes of giving myself freedom. Freedom to move freely, to reach for the air, bathe in water, connect to earth and ignite my path with fire.

Air and Earth remind me of balance, Fire and Water teach me to be resilient.

In myself, I strive for both.

I am, I am, I am.

About the author
From my soul to yours. Follow Ryan on Instagram or read more articles from Ryan on Thought Catalog.

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