I have been running from something for a long time. This something haunts my dreams and infects my days with a dark, cloudy sickness. It contaminates my attitude and drains my energy. This thing was a giant, gruesome, mean, ugly monster. This monster was out for my blood and my happiness.
Everyday I find myself looking over my shoulder. Is it there? Has it snuck up on me while my back was turned? Am I in danger?
When I was young, the monster wasn’t much of a monster at all. In fact, it was a friend. A friend that lived in my head and kept me company while I grew and played and learned. This friend of mine would evolve into the monster that would chase me until my legs gave out. Until I had nowhere else to run. And once I was done running, it would look me in the eyes and devour me whole.
So, naturally, I did what any smart person would do: I ran away.
I kept running. When I was nineteen, I left my hometown for college. The monster followed. It crept in my shadow. The monster watched me grow from a child to a teen to a young adult. It lurked around corners and watched from the cracks of closed doors. It observed my every move. My triumphs, my failures. My laughs and my cries. It did what any smart monster would do. It educated itself on me. It learned what set me off and what got under my skin. It knew the things to say to stop me in my tracks.
I could hear the monster whispering to me sometimes. When I was all alone in the dark just before sleep came, I’d hear the monster telling me sinister things. “I’m coming for you. You cannot escape.”
The monster was planning something. Something that I wouldn’t realize until right before it was too late.
After college, I went back home for a while. The monster re-appeared in my closet. Sometimes under my bed. Sometimes sitting in the backseat of my car. It was everywhere and nowhere all at once. Always present, but never visible. Almost close enough to touch but always just a tiny bit out of reach. Always there to instill fear in me. To keep me running. To keep me quiet.
As I got older, I tried to talk to the monster. I acknowledged its presence. I invited it to join me in the open, in the light. “Let’s go get a cup of coffee, Monster. My treat.” Me and the monster could solve our problems together.
The monster didn’t like that very much.
Every time the monster came back it was larger. But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was it was angrier. More hateful. More poisonous. More vindictive.
I left my home again and traveled many miles to the state of Washington. A new place. I was surrounded by friends and beautiful land. It seemed I had outrun my monster. Happiness dangled right in front of me.
Until suddenly it didn’t.
I woke up one morning, and the monster was there standing at the foot of my bed. Bigger and angrier than ever before. I realized in that moment it might be the end for me. This had been the monster’s plan all along. I couldn’t see a way out. Any way I tried to look the monster stepped in the way, shaking its fists. It was all I could see. I tried to get out of bed, and it roared.
The roar of the monster echoed through my head. It paralyzed me. You see me and the monster were connected. I could feel its thoughts. They were my own. These hateful things. The monster wanted me dead. It was ruthless.
I tried to get up again, but my legs failed me, and I remained still in bed. Frozen as tears streamed silently down my cheeks. The monster was on the ceiling above me now. Smiling down on me, filling my brain with every mistake I’d ever made. Every happy feeling gone. It belonged to the monster. And the only things in my head were these endless thoughts of how terrible I was. How I was the worst, most undesirable, unlovable, waste of space to ever live.
The monster almost got it’s way that night.
I was out of places to run. Nowhere left to turn. It was time for the monster to consume me.
The monster crawled down from the shadows and closer to my face. It was my first time to see the monster clearly, and it made me cry harder. Much to my suprise, the monster looked just like me. And almost simultaneously, the monster recognized its prey was a reflection of itself.
My lungs filled with air, and I let out a loud, desperate sob.
The monster and I spent a few moments staring into each other. Accepting that we were two sides to the same coin. That one could not live without the other, and the monster did what any smart monster would do, and it ran away. Escaping back into the shadows under my bed.
It suddenly made so much sense. I’d been running from myself all this time. My own mind keeping me quiet.
I have done many things in my life that I am not proud of, yes. But I have also done many things that I am proud of.
It is hard for me to accept I am my own greatest win and loss all wrapped into one. That the same mind that keeps me alive on creativity and happiness is the same brain that would like to see me drown.
So, today, I began my journey of not running. Of standing up for myself even if it’s against my own mind. Protecting myself from myself. And if you’re reading this, I hope that you realize that you don’t have to run from your monster either, but that you can stand up to it. Face yourself. Be honest and vulnerable and flawed.
It is okay to be flawed. It is okay to be you.
The monster and I shook hands. “No more running,” we told each other.
You see, I’ve been very mean to myself. For a long time. And I want that to change. And I know it’s not something that is going to happen over night, but overtime, I think I could learn to speak again. To open my mouth when I have something to say, and not be afraid to have people hear me.
How silly is it to think that for years I have been scared of being seen or heard or even to exist? This monster inside my head made me believe I was unworthy to be alive. I’ve been ashamed to take up space with my body or to allow my voice the chance to be heard.
But you know what? I have some shit that I want to say.
I am done hiding. I am ready to speak. I am ready to be seen and heard. I’m not running anymore. I am planted and ready to grow.