You

I wake up. The morning sun is bright and brilliant, its rays flooding my room with warmth as they gleam through my open window. The sky is a glorious blue, a gentle breeze sweeps through the window curtains. The birds sing what a beautiful day it is… And I try.

I try so hard to stare. Just keep staring out the window. Maybe I won’t see it. Maybe I won’t… Maybe I…

But I do see you. Like every morning I do see you. Standing by my bedside, arms open wide like a friend inviting in a friend. Every day I stumble out of bed and fall wearily into those arms, which begin to close around me, but your hug is not an embrace. You wrap around me until I am suffocating, sinking your claws deep into my fragile skin, a predator sinking its teeth into its prey. I feel you begin to rip and tear and shred until I cannot move, cannot stand, cannot cry for help. You have forced your way into my my thoughts, my words, my actions, my emotions, my fears… And you rip away the already shattered pieces of my heart.

“I will not stop,” you whisper, your dark tone sending a violent chill down my spine. “I am your illness.”

You crept in from the darkest place and carried the darkness with you to follow me, haunt me, becoming my constant shadow. You have caged me in bed for days, weeks, months at a time, engulfing me in pain and hopelessness, flooding me in tears and sorrow until I am floating down a frigid river of agony. You have dragged me to times where I became so empty I was no more than a skeleton. Unable to cope. Unable to make plans and follow through with them. I couldn’t see my family without forcing a smile, hoping the dam behind my eyelids would remain steadfast. Unable to face what friends I had left for fear they’d notice I was no longer myself. For fear they’d see my shadow. How could I tell them I’d rather be dead than crawl continuously through a life not worth living? That I’d rather let go than hold onto this existence that only breaks me? There is no alive here. Your heaviness has pushed me so low under your weight that I have met death eye to eye, tempted, as she whispered, “It is safer with me. There is no suffering here. Let go. You will have peace.” I was not afraid of the darkness. I was not afraid to die anymore. I was only afraid to live.

You push and pull me around against my will at my own expense, like an abused puppy on a chain. I am a lost child with no raft being swept under the unforgiving ocean of chaos by a current so strong I can’t pull myself out, despite how I gasp for air and relief. You push me to push those I love the most away until they go away. And when you drag me to pull them back, it’s too late. It’s always too late, they’re gone, and it hurts. You scream at me, “Trusting is dangerous! Don’t trust anyone! Even those you think deserve it will leave you because who would want you anyway? Leave. Leave them before they leave you.” The smallest glance from a stranger, the slightest uneven tone, the tiniest word out of place, the simplest change in an otherwise steady schedule sends me into a whirlwind of confusion, depression, and anxiousness. Your relentless persistence in unraveling my already unbalanced world has hurt me so badly the only relief I ever found was hurting myself. Your hate sank in so deep, and you turned it on me.

You’re always there, keeping my mind writhing in fear with your endless expression. “Everything is dangerous. Everything. Everything will hurt you. Everything that can go wrong will for you. You won’t make it.” You hold me in place, seemingly doused in concrete, in constant discomfort, restlessness, unease. I am afraid of others, afraid of myself, afraid of the very practices that once brought me the joy, my passions, my dreams. Now I am fighting to hold onto them, to keep them. You have left me shaking on my knees in the dew-soaked grass of a bitter morning in a front yard screaming. Why did you think I could handle this?! You put skipping beats in my heart, keep the air from my lungs, lay a quiver in every muscle, and thoughts in my head of unreal scenarios.

You call yourself mental illness. I call you by many names.

Depression. Mood disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder. Anxiety. PTSD.

Like a lover you hold me as I sleep. And by my beside you are when I wake. I feel you.

I wake up, a blessing, as tomorrow is never guaranteed with you. There you are by my beside, arms open wide like a friend inviting in a friend. But today. Today when I stumble out of bed I will fall to the floor before I land in your arms again. I have been pushed to the edge, dragged to the lowest of low, broken, beaten, starved. I have been told I am worthless, hopeless, have no future, that I will do nothing, be nothing, become nothing because I am nothing. I have been told that I have gotten nowhere, and will not get anywhere.

Today I lift myself out of bed because I am strong. Stand beside you because I am fearless. Look you in the eye because I am resilient. I will lower my lips to your ear because I am a fighter. I will smile because I know I haven’t given up yet, and I will not. And then I’ll whisper in your ear, as you have done to me for so many years, “I am not my mental illness. I am everything you are not. So don’t tell me I won’t make it through the storm…

I am the storm.”

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