It started far away from me. It was waiting at street corners and staring through keyholes, but I was untouchable to it. It could barely hurt me, barely see me, and I barely noticed it. I was safe in the embrace of childhood and warm glow of my elders.
But that was then. That was when everything was alright. My mind was clear, my thoughts were light and plausible.
Things changed. It grew stronger. It learned, and observed. It began to draw closer. It closed in on me and everything I thought I knew about myself and my life.
But my will still held great strength, I thought I knew what I was doing. How to fight it. How to seek help. But my explanations failed, and the confused stares of those around me disheartened my confidence. Yet they told me that everything will be alright. They lied. From then on I knew I was alone in the battle. A single warrior taking on the world and its army of the fallen.
I’d scarcely mind the strain on my shoulders, if not for the ache splitting my spine. Painful enough to warrant ripping it out. I dig my nails into my skin, a distraction from the pain and discomfort.
It was all I could think of, this thing, this feeling. Though it isn’t foreign to me, it still grinds my comfort into dust every time. It’s heavier now, engulfing, like a looming shadow. A presence behind me at every turn. I feel it clinging to me, like it’s hanging on for dear life, it’s dark and distorted, intimidating my very core. Forcing me into submission to do its bidding, its every whim.
But alas, I know there is nothing. I know that this monster can never be proven, never be caught. Never be stopped. Because in reality it isn’t there. Yet still the ache increases with each day, like vicious claws impaling my skin. And the pressure is crushing at the back of my neck. The tension grips my throat as it forces me into claustrophobia. Confined in solitude, alone. Until the mere thought of company burns my skin and scorns my flesh.
I am its life force. Without me, it dies. In an attempt to survive, its hold is strangling and draining. So much so that it darkens my eyes and clouds my mind. It shortens my breath and accelerates my heart. It wants me. Sadistically, it tortures me. And even as I groan, shake, and cry in the darkness of my own refuge, it still pursues me without pity.
It stares into the pit of my soul and ignites my darkest fears. Plaguing my mind night and day. Suffocating my will to fight. This thing, this monstrosity, knows me better than I know myself. The panic and hyperventilation has become my norm, And every day is like marching into battle.
This weight on my shoulders is drowning my light and murdering my soul, day by day. Its distorted body, shredded fingers and tangled hair haunts my nightmares. Screaming in my ears through its pointed, rotting teeth, its words sit painfully like acid at the back of my mind. Its discolored skin blends into the scattered remains of my life as I frantically try to pick up the pieces.
And despite my attempts to destroy it, despite the feeling of finally being free, it always finds me. Growing stronger, clinging tighter. Forcing me into withdrawal once again.
I feel the stab of eyes staring through me, watching my every move, waiting for a mistake, waiting for a wound to latch onto and rip apart. It unravels my world at the seams, destroys all the happiness inside and stitches me back up like nothing’s wrong. Stitch a smile across my face and send me off to the battle field, to face my demons with a forced grin and arms opened only by the strings tied to me by the puppet master, I am the marionette. It controls my every thought and pushes me forward into danger as I recline for reality.
But I know that I am not alone. Everyone is burdened with demons, taking different names and different forms. In classrooms, offices, and on the street, they cling to their vessels. Some sit high on the shoulders, others cling to the spine, and some are dragged along behind the victim, like shackles. Always following, always growing. Some stalk at a distance and others are so close you can hear their jagged breathing and thumping heart. They hiss at authority and snarl at comminations.
This is my demon. My burden to bare and it takes the summoning of a great strength, a power from within to stand and fight. To say “I am not afraid” to scream into the heavens “You cannot hurt me!” and you will repeat these affirmations until your throat is dry, your nails are bitten down to the skin and your head pounds. It’s time to stand up and push on, through the darkness, through the storm and lay waste to your insecurities, your enemies. I’ll allow the light to engulf me, droplets of sun rain down upon me and wash away my anguish and melt through my chains of restraint, to destroy the darkness and rip this monster from me.
It’s fight or flight and it’s time to destroy your wings and pick up your sword.