I can hear them. I could always hear them… I just thought they were the voices in my head, or my thoughts, something… But at some level I knew the thoughts weren’t my own. Maybe I was a schizophrenic? But that didn’t seem to make sense either…My parents sent me to a psychologist but he just said I was a normal kid and told my parents I’d grow out of “it” – whatever that meant. I had told him about the voices and everything but he still said I was normal.
I didn’t feel normal.
I would see lights in my room, I had imaginary friends that certainly seemed 3-dimensional and real, I saw my stuffed animals come alive and play with me. And I heard the voices as if someone was speaking to me from inside my own head. I could hear them so clearly. I just couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Who would believe me anyway?
It was the 70s and 80s; there was big hair and shoulder pads but there was no internet. No google, no Facebook and libraries were still using card catalogs to look up books. Where the heck do you even start in looking up stuff like this? Flying teddy bears? Talking stuffed dogs?
I was on my own, and there were things happening around me that I didn’t understand. But, I was young so while it likely should have scared me or seemed strange, it didn’t. I clearly didn’t fit in though. I was different, over emotional; Little Sarah Burnheart… Everything hurt my feelings and I would cry all the time. I was always upset about something. Except when I was happy… When I was happy, it was like flying! Generally though, I was a happy kid who fought a lot with her parents. Then again, I was stubborn, strong-willed and rebellious as hell so, there was that… I got grounded a lot in those days, but it never bothered me too much because my ‘friends’ were in my room to keep me company and I was ok on my own.
As I got older things continued to happen. I would hear voices in the bathrooms at school. Certain people I could feel coming down the hall before I could see them. And I could feel the energy of those around me as if they were touching me. Even from across the room I could feel them and my abilities seemed to be getting stronger. If a friend felt sad or upset about something, to me, the sadness would feel as if it were my own, as if I had experienced that event myself. I remember when a friend at school crashed his motorcycle and badly hurt his leg. He wore a cast or leg brace for what seemed like a long time and when I would see him walking around at school I could feel the pain from his leg in my own. It seemed so bizarre and again I wondered if I were imagining things, making them up?
I grew up in South Florida and was in high school when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. I was watching it from the side of the road with a bunch of friends on our way to school. We had binoculars and small tvs and of course donuts. And then it happened, the explosion, and I felt shaken to the core. We all did, but somehow this was different. A teacher from our school had been a finalist for the seat earned by Christa Mcauliffe so it was understandable that we would feel an intense sense of shock and sadness. But somehow this felt like more. It was like I could hear them in my head, could feel their fear in those last seconds. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach, head and heart all at the same time but I couldn’t explain why. And how do you quantify that what you are feeling is “more” than what anyone else is feeling?
I went to a private (read rich) school quite far from where I lived and routinely had problems with the over privileged boys who went there and thought they could do (or touch) whatever they wanted. Every day I had to be careful to not be late for class or walk the halls alone. But more than that, every day felt like walking a minefield of energies reaching out to grab me. There were frequent harassments, cat calls, groping and intimidating confrontations with boys. But how to do you defend against energetic assault and what the hell do you tell a grown up? How do you explain that while the boy who cornered you in the stairwell didn’t actually put his hands on you in a tangible way, you could literally feel his unwanted paws touching your skin?
As it was a small school, pretty much everyone knew everyone and, as a cheerleader and a soccer player, I knew most of the athletes. I learned quickly which ones I felt safe around and which ones to avoid at all costs. I would plan my path from class to class, staying close to some of the big guys I could trust who were going in the same direction. I would sit near the door so I could jet out quickly from some classes and from others I would stay longer to let the crowds pass, so as not to get caught in the energy swirling in the halls. Not a great way to go through the day. But, by high school, things had gotten so tumultuous with my mom, I was doing all I could to stay at school rather than going home.
My parents are amazing. I can say that now without any hesitation at all. I am truly blessed and we have a great relationship now. But, back then, not so much. My mom and I would fight all the time. Now I can understand how our energies would clash. We’d butt heads and just spin each other into argument after argument and some days it was a toss-up as to which was more of an energetic crapshoot; home or school. So, I involved myself in every after-school activity that held even a remote interest and stayed away from home as much as I could. Problem was, this left me at school after hours, which often meant less adults around and less safe people to hide amongst.
I did have a safe place though. I was so lucky to be part of an amazing organization for Jewish teens, the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), and there I was safe. At our local and regional SEFTY (Southeastern Federation of Temple Youth) events it was like a whole new world! I had never felt anything like the love and acceptance I felt there. I was the first time in my life I felt I could just be me, that I had true friends with no ulterior motives and what I felt from them was just love. These people are to this day, still among my closest and truest friends. There was (and is) something so special about being part of this group, this organization, and in many ways I think it saved my sanity as a teen.
One week at the end of each summer, we would all head to North Georgia to Camp Coleman. It was the best week of the year! But I could still hear the voices. Only now I could also see images in my mind of things that hadn’t yet happened. One night, a bunch of us were hanging out on the porch of one of the boys’ cabins when one of the boys got very upset. I don’t remember why and to be honest, I don’t remember a lot of what happened after he started yelling and the counselors attempted to calm him down, but I do remember what I saw and what I felt.
I was standing at the top of the porch steps leaning against a post when a dark shadow appeared and took a position behind the boy. I felt cold and started to shake and I grabbed on to the pole to not fall down the stairs. I don’t really remember what happened next because all I could see was that shadow. The counselors calmed him and he went inside but the shadow headed straight towards me. It looked me square in the eye, seemed to pass right through and then disappeared. I was frozen solid and had a death grip on that post! I could hear someone talking to me, telling me the boy was ok and everything was fine now and I could let go of the pole and go back to my cabin but I truly couldn’t move.
I had never encountered dark energy before. I had felt unpleasant, negative energies but this was “Dark Energy.” I didn’t even know what the hell that meant but it was several minutes before I could let go of that post and let my friends walk me back to our cabin. It took me quite a while to feel like myself again as I tried to convince myself it was much more likely I’d just imagined it.
But I knew I hadn’t.
As I went off to college the images kept coming and often in my dreams, only now they were images of people I knew. More and more I would see things before they happened. Sometimes it was a few seconds and others it was a day or more. But they kept coming… One night before a football game I saw images of my friend, a player on the team, being helped off the field b.c he’d been hurt. I was concerned for him but I was also afraid to say anything to him. What if he thought I was nuts? What was he supposed to tell the coach? That he wasn’t playing because a friend had a bad dream? No, it was better to just not got to the game and keep it to myself. But, when I went to the stadium after the game, there he was, on crutches! He had hurt his ankle in the game. Thankfully it was not a season ending injury but it was enough for me!
I couldn’t take any more! I wasn’t eating… I wasn’t sleeping… I was afraid to doze off or even close my eyes for fear of what I would see! What if everything I dreamt was really going to happen? Was I supposed to go around warning people of impending doom? I didn’t know what to do or who I could to turn for help. Finally, one night, as I sat in my bed, willing myself to stay awake, I asked out loud for this to stop. I didn’t want any more voices or visions. I didn’t want to see any more moving lights or shadows, no more dancing teddy bears, just no more. It was too much and I wanted it all to just stop. I wanted to be normal and I wanted to be able to sleep through the night without fear.
And with that, it all stopped. I wouldn’t be aware of these things again for a very long time.