This story is by Susan H. Osborne and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
In movies, monsters can be endearing or terrifying. They may begin with one
personality and end with another. The final scene usually displays a defeated monster,leaving viewers with a sense of calm. This is not a movie.
My monster is never endearing. He feeds on my weakness and is nourished by the overflow of my fright, making him even stronger and more powerful. The frantic beating of my heart provides the drumbeat for his victory march. His attacks are in the silence. There are no objects being thrown, no yelling. Whispers. So soft. So quiet. So paralyzing. In public I parade my acting skills — hiding my fear with the facade of a smile, pretending my darting eyes are simply scanning the crowd. I allow others to assume my flushed face is warm temperatures when it’s actually hot terror.
I once read a children’s book about a monster who got into the little boy’s bed at night because he was afraid of the dark and sought protection from the boy. My monster crawls into bed with me but not for protection for my monster doesn’t appear to be afraid of anything. He loves dark rooms, dark words, and the dark places in my mind. He delights in wrapping me in his suffocating tentacles. I plant my face so my tears will be absorbed into the pillow but there’s nothing to absorb the tremor my body develops. Another night without sleep or rest. There is no protection. My monster is in control.
Then come the rapidly fired questions. “Why did you say that?” “How could you be so stupid?” “Why are you always such a failure?” I have no answers. My monster sees my trembling and goes into attack mode. My chest tightens, making it hard to breathe. My emotions create their own amusement park ride – up, down, tight turns, dark tunnels, spinning, no escape until the abrupt stop – but there’s no amusement here. There is no stop. My monster will never go away, and I will never escape.
I don’t want my friends to know I live with this monster. They think their
occasional situations compare to my continuous assaults. They offer advice but they have no understanding. My monster finds their commiserations humorous and takes it as a challenge. I block their intrusions by building a wall of excuses. It does not work in my favor. My security wall becomes a prison wall, and my isolation gives my monster even more power. I soon discover my wall has no exit
Some days I am a swimmer at sea, franticly fighting the current in a futile attempt to keep my head above water until the sharks tire of circling, knowing it would be easier to stop fighting. Some days I am the bare knuckled fighter, dancing around the ring, taking hits that will leave permanent scars but fighting hard enough to land a few hits of my own. My monster tries to taunt me by showing amusement at my attempts to overcome, but his taunts give me courage to fight another day.
It is a constant battle, but I will not surrender to this bully, this monster known as Anxiety.