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This monster on my back - you can't see him but he's there. Talons digging deeper into my shoulders, sliding through the skin like knives through so much butter in the red butter dish that belonged to my grandmother. Peering over my shoulder and waiting, always waiting, forever vigilant for any slips, any cracks in the facade that contains him that let him slide through to daylight.
Let him in to drip pretty poisons in people's ears, to insinuate himself into places and gobble up secrets he can fashion into weapons that never miss their mark.

This monster on my back who contains the deep dark void that swallows up light like so many black holes, that whispers all sorts of half-truths and lies in order to gain an millimeter more territory. The void is patient, it can wait for the opportunity to strike fast and hard, making the climb back out steeper and longer every time.

The monster on my back who counts every compromise, every mistake, every slight, every decision, every word, who judges harsher than Ma'at ever would. Who never lets anything go, forever recollecting in perfect memory, indexed and filed. Point and counterpoint in cruel deafening surround sound. These scales will never balance.

The monster on my back that never settles in its confinement, never stops rattling the bars, battering at the walls, alternating between sweet-talking and threatening. Tearing at itself and whatever is in its way. Silky court-trained liar, trained to exploit any and all weaknesses. Able to mask itself temporarily in cloaks of respectability, responsibility, and duty in order to whisper about how low you are, so much less than your peers and your family, how much you don't hold up the family name or standard. How weak, how much less worthy. No matter how much dedication, how much the work effort, how much overcompensating, it's never ever good enough. It's never enough. This monster on my back has a thousand voices, all of them deafening when they want to be. And the loudest of all is the small voice that whispers about what happens if I fail to maintain this impossible set of standards. How much others will suffer if I cannot maintain this impossible standard.

Some days it is all I can do to keep this monster on my back and not in my words or actions.

This monster on my back has two names: Depression and Anxiety. I wake up already in the thick of battling it, shoring up defenses, and putting up reinforcements, and I go to bed, hoping that the never ending battle will actually let me sleep and get some rest. Even with the aid of "store-bought neurotransmitters" it is still an uphill battle.

Between this and the chronic pain, I am forever in some state of exhaustion. Because of this monster on my back that never goes away.

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Dorothy Joan Gray

May 2017

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