When I was a youngster my paternal grandmother was burning leaves in her front yard as was practiced in our small town at the time. My brothers somehow own the memory of the day when I fell into the fire. It is a tale they find amusing though I have blocked out the event and there were no scars to authenticate their memories. I guess it could be said I was baptized by fire. To my understanding this is, was and never will be something a person would seek whether your interpretation is religious or secular. One of its many meanings is reserved for soldiers who are literally trained by the fire of battle. It is basically a severe ordeal experienced for the first time. It will either kill you or make you stronger.
I was quickly immersed in a hell where my life was threatened by delusion at least and possibly in fact. For any who have experienced delusions they are only unreal in hindsight (if one is fortunate enough to be released from that perspective). To say I was terrified would be accurate. I sat at tables with criminals picking food from my tray as I was convinced to eat or drink would result in my death at the hands of my fellow inmates. I was witness to the screams of another inmate beaten by the hard plastic cups of his peers. The smell of the dreaded disinfectant they used on the blood was also nothing new to me. I was so thirsty at times I would quickly lick my hands in the semi-privacy of the common toilet area.
When they ran me off the Range for the second time because of my erratic behaviour, I was destined for the Hole. Here I could consume but I was also consumed. I had no anchor to reality and easily disappeared beneath my delusions.
Obviously, I have risen from this immersion in hell but what have I pulled from the ashes? I am not naïve enough to think my struggles are over but I am fairly confident I can withstand what might come my way. I have had much support from family, friend and professional in my years of treatment following this but I navigated the worst of my ordeal on my own. I don’t suppose a soldier looks forward to the next battle or the loss of comrades which is inevitable but they may have a sense of peace knowing the worst can be endured. It may be like the human immune system. When we are exposed to a virus we produce anti-bodies. Following our illness, exposure to the same virus is nothing. Interestingly, the modern word “immunity” derives from the Latin immunis, meaning exemption from military service.