Adjusting your own mask first

The long stretch of silence is broken by your screams. You are drowning and calling for help.

My heart starts to beat faster at the thought of you in trouble. Immediately I try to swim out to save you. At first, I’m full of determination and energy. I race as fast as I can to try and reach you but each time I think I’ve found you, you are not there. You have disappeared and I swim around trying to find you.

Your cries come again. They are so loud that they wake me from my slumber. I set off once more on the quest to follow them. Your blood curdling screams ricochet through the water and I feel them vibrate through every fibre in my body. I can hear you and your presence feels so close.  I desperately try harder and harder to find you.   Every time I think I am close the calls start again but in a different direction so I find myself changing course. My heart sinks as I frantically and fruitlessly swim around in circles trying to locate you.

The next time I hear the cries, they are amongst several others. You are not the only one that needs saved. There are other screams from other people, as loud and sometimes louder. I set off towards the loudest cry but before I can get there I hear other stronger cries coming from somewhere else. I’m torn as to which direction to head in.

I find myself treading water. I don’t know who to help first. Soon the fatigue takes over, my arms and legs start to feel heavy like lead and I can’t move. My body is suddenly pulled down by its own weight. I can’t help anyone as I’m struggling to keep myself afloat. My cries are silent as I slowly start to sink to the bottom.

I awake, washed up on land. I lay motionless.  I’m weak and weary. I can’t go on. Your calls continue in the distance but they are drowned out by my own sobbing tears. I’m exhausted and I know I can’t help you. I calm myself enough to slow my sobs, however the moment that mine stop they are replaced by yours.  I put my hands to my ears in order to shut out the calls but it is futile. They still penetrate through the makeshift barriers and through to my breaking heart.

The guilt feels like a second skin that I know I have to shed to breathe.  The only thing I can do is retreat. I can’t be anywhere near anyone. I need to escape the noise, the chaos, and most importantly the endless pleas for help. I silently sneak away from it all.

In the calm I am able to regain my strength, my energy and myself.

It’s not long before the high pitch pleas for help return. This time before racing off to the rescue, I dabble my toe in first to test the temperature. It’s warm enough and I’m strong enough to go this time. I steer out into the water wondering where you might be. I pickup and put on my mask knowing this time I can go deeper and further than I could before.

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