Inner Demons

**Trigger Warning** This story has graphic and disturbing content and discusses severe depression.


“I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy.” Josh rocked back and forth, digging his fists into his sandy blond hair.

I felt my back pocket vibrate and took my phone out. “Ryan? Yeah, I found him.”

“Oh, thank God! Is he alright?” Ryan asked.

I looked back to Josh. He was still shaking and rocking, still saying, “I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy.”

“He’s alive,” I said.

“Where are you guys?” Ryan asked.

I took a deep breath. I shivered as I saw my breath turn into a puff of condensation because of the frigid winter air. I turned around and tried to make out what I could with the moon as my only flashlight. “I don’t know. It’s hard to see. We’re outside. I think I can make out a swing set in the distance. There is a playground right next to it…” I twirled around. “We’re in some clearing. I think. There are trees all around us…”

“That could be anywhere. Okay, hold on. I might be able to track your location from your phone.”

I shook my head. “Ryan, how the hell―”

“Don’t ask. I have my ways. Just sit tight and stay with him. Make sure he doesn’t go anywhere. I’ll be there soon.”

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Dungeons and Dragons Gave Me My Life Back from Anxiety

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been scared of everything.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I’ve had it my entire life, but I’ve only recently had a name to call it by. To sum it up, my brain responds to most situations with fear and a lot of it. I’m always expecting disaster, even in the little things. I find myself drawing up game plans for everyday things like buying gas or going for a walk. If I make a telephone call, you can bet there was some form of a panic attack involved, and I’ve lashed out at too many concerned friends and loved ones for “attacking me” when they were just trying to help. My folks will tell you that when I was young I’d run inside to wash my hands whenever I touched my sandbox. I thought I’d get sick otherwise.

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Questions as Daggers, Questions as Saviors

But you seem fine.
You look like you’ve been doing well!
You don’t seem depressed on social media.
Why didn’t you tell me you were feeling bad?

Don’t assume. You know what they say. I’ve gotten so good at hiding how I feel, shoving the emotions down so far I seem to misplace them altogether, that even those closest to me don’t see a thing.

I’m sneaky. I’m clever. I know the right things to say and do and wear. I know how to hide the scars, internal and external, and pretend like they’re not even there (are they even there?)

I’m sneaky. I’m clever. This gets me in trouble.
I’m often in trouble.

I don’t want you to take it personally. Really, I don’t. It’s not you, it’s me (really, it is).

The facade I maintain is one I’ve been perfecting for years, my fears of vulnerability stemming from a long list of disappointments and misplaced trust.

I don’t like to worry anyone,
don’t like to be the center of attention,
don’t like to be the one to drag the party down.

So, if I ask you for help, know that it’s taking every ounce of me to do so,
every last fiber of my being to muster up the courage to let my guard down and stand before you with my heart in a box of doubt, tied together neatly with my greatest insecurities and nightmare-inducing thoughts.

And I’m sorry if I haven’t.
Don’t be offended if I never do.

But you have a great life.
People have it much worse than you do.

I know. Really, I do. Guilt is my middle name. It seeps into my bones and erodes my body from the inside out. What’s left is nothing more than a pile of skin cells and disappointment.

People are starving.
Dying (why do I wish I was dying?).

I’m sorry. I am. That’s all I can say (that’s all I know how to say).
I’m sorry I feel this way.

I wish I could change it. I wish I could fix the world’s problems with a swish of a wand, with a big bandaid stuck across its oceans and continents, one that heals the hurt across the globe.

I wish I could do the same for my own mind, for my own heart,
for the hurt I endlessly feel as the days stretch on and the months stretch on and this life stretches on and on
and on
and on
and on.

I wish I could fix my problems as easily as magic or medicine.

Maybe that’s selfish.

Maybe that’s survival.

You can’t love anyone else until you learn to love yourself.

But you see, I don’t think I’ll ever really,
love myself.

I don’t think I know how (do I know how?).

Will I ever really learn, as easily as I learned how to write my name or tie my shoes or ride my bike across the pavement?

Will I get an eviction notice plastered to the door of my heart, a “Do Not Enter” sign stapled to the aorta?

Will it whisper softly,
As it beats,
to keep me alive?

Will I just be lonely forever?

Why are you on so many medications?
Why don’t you try exercising or eating healthier?
What about deep breathing or meditation?

You see, I know all of that, too. I lose track of the pills in my medicine cabinet,
all the dosages and names and bottles,
all of it blurring in my vision as I count the tiny circles and oblong ovals in my palm each morning and afternoon and night.

But, you see, it’s taken two years to figure out just the right combination of ovals to make the dark things less dark, the bad thoughts less bad.

Two years is a long time and sometimes I worry if it was time wasted (I worry that most of my time is wasted).

And sometimes the dark things are just as dark, the bad thoughts just as bad, anyway.

Sometimes my only exercise for the day is running away from my problems. This kind of running allows me to stay under the covers. Most days dragging myself out of bed feels like a marathon.

Panicking makes breathing difficult. Meditation seems unrealistic for my clouded mind.

I appreciate the advice, really, but I can’t emphasize enough how difficult it is to hear all of it day in and day out,
and day in and day out,
and day in and day out,
always constructing some combination of excuses to make them stop talking at me like I am a child.

It’s just not that simple, as much as I wish it was (I wish it was).

It’s not that big of a deal.
Stop overreacting.
You’re being dramatic.

But, you see, it is that big of a deal. Making mountains out of mole hills is my specialty and crying over spilled milk is part of my morning routine.

I know I’m overreacting. Trust me, I do. I know more than anyone that my thoughts are out of control and my actions are beyond what they should be. I know.

I know.

I know.

Dramatic used to have a positive connotation for me. I put my extroverted personality onto the stage rather than in my personal life, but here I am panicking under the showerhead because I’ve got six assignments due at the end of the week and my friend hasn’t replied to my text in two hours and 13 minutes but they’ve already opened my SnapChat and I watched a group of girls walk by me and laugh and I’m positive it was because I didn’t wear makeup that morning because it took me over an hour to convince myself to get out of bed and I ran out of time after pulling my limbs into the shower and I nearly died walking to class because I didn’t look both ways before I crossed the street and I haven’t told anyone that I did it on purpose (I did it on purpose).

That stage is now my life and I am constantly putting on a show where people leave at intermission.

Maybe it’s not that big of a deal.
Maybe I’m overreacting.
Maybe I’m being dramatic.

Maybe I’m me.

Maybe I don’t like any of those things (I don’t).

Are you okay?
How are you doing?
Do you need to talk?

Keep asking. Keep asking.
Keep asking.
Keep asking.

Because I may say,
“Yes, I’m okay.”
“I’m good, how are you?”
“No, I don’t need to, thanks.”
And I just might be lying to you (I am probably lying to you).

But one day I may get the courage to say,
“No, I’m not.”
“Not so good, actually.”
“Yes, I do, please.”

One day I might find the courage to ask for help even though it’s taking every ounce of effort not to run the other way,
not to shove the feelings down like I’ve done so many times before,
not to plaster that signature smile across my face like wallpaper, a sickening slap of paste across my lips that seals the sadness in tight.

So don’t be offended if I lie. It’s not you, it’s me (really, I mean it).

So keep asking. Keep asking.
Keep asking.
Keep asking.
Please keep asking.
Please don’t stop asking.

This piece comes from our community member Sandra Mercer. You can find her other powerful entry in our Coping series here.


Feel free to leave a comment for Sandra below.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.

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The Lie that Ableism Feeds Us

First let me be honest with myself and you.

I have been here before.

I have been so almost well that I start thinking that it might just be all in my head, that I could wield my will like a magic wand and wave all of this away.

I seem to have an almost recuperation cycle, where I begin to feel guilty, lazy, pathetic.

I day dream about doing laundry independently, washing dishes at all, taking dates out for fun nights on the town, walking by myself in the rain, hugging my children without coughing, being a “productive member of society” again.

That is always accompanied by a deep, subtle in it’s expression, but pervasive sense of self doubt which leads me to both question how I have handled my illness *am I just being lazy* and push myself to “try harder.”

Let me be clear, this always eventually results in my body crashing hard, usually in a pretty scary way.

Because my illness is real.

I am not being lazy

I am not just giving up

If I actually gave up, I would die. I am not actually exaggerating. This world, which by and large I am not in any way compatible with, would kill me.

But it is still hard not to listen to the world that measures worth in productivity, in hours worked, in dollars earned. It is hard not to listen to the well meaning people with suggestions and advice who just know I could do this or do that. It’s hard not to listen to the pity eyes and good intentions of loving relatives who are just so worried about me.

So let me tell you, and let me tell me

One more time

For the folx in the back

And the folx in the back of my mind
I am real and I am doing just fine

I am real and I am doing just fine
even when I would like your help, I don’t need your saving or your salvation

I have value

I have worth

I work damn hard, thank you very much

Even when I am not fine, I am doing the best I can

Repeat after me

Even when I am not fine, I am doing the best I can


A huge thanks to Selissa Leonard for this powerful and insightful submission. You can find more of her work by visiting her website, here.

Always remember that you are not alone.

You are loved.


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The Alpha and Omega of The Out of Body Girl by Joyce Hayden

The Alpha and Omega of The Out of Body Girl

By: Joyce Hayden

I. Flying Away/Blueberry Lane

At the new babysitter’s house, up past Jane drive, past the hospital-green water tower, in the new section of houses, it will happen. Your two year old brother will tumble out of the car, while you brush your mother’s cigarette ash off your red church dress. A coldness will rush at you once the woman opens her front door. Stand on the stone doorway alone waving at your parents, until the silver Buick disappears. When the woman barks: GET IN HERE AND SHUT THAT DOOR, cross the threshold from light to dark, from known to unknown. Place your hand over the knot in your stomach. Calm your fears that something bad will happen. Remind yourself you’re seven years old. You can take care of yourself. Don’t blink if you can help it. Notice every detail from now until 10 tonight.

When the woman places Michael in a room down the hall and points her finger to the back yard swings, say No. OUT NOW, she will bellow. Tell her you’re staying inside with Michael. Walk backwards toward the room he’s in; don’t let her see you shaking. When you’re in the room, watch cartoons. Let your guard down when he falls asleep. Awaken to a door clicking into place.

Scan the room for your brother. When you try to stand, a heavy hand will push you back. When you open your mouth to speak, that hand will squeeze your jaw. Wonder why your skin is crawling like ants all over you when his other hand works its way under your red dress. “Where’s Michael Where’s Michael Where’s Michael” will reverberate in panicked waves through your brain. It will happen as the big boy’s hand moves up your thigh, then higher. Your throat knotted, the blur of no words will send you outside the body, the way fluffy seeds of milkweed burst their pods, and rise.

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Poetry: An Aspiring Nihilist by Hannah Buckley

An Aspiring Nihilist

An American field ant can withstand pressures up to 5,000 times its body weight
But the step of one shod foot and its killed in an instant
Strength seems irrelevant if you’re dead

A Cross-River Gorilla has opposable thumbs and has a muscled frame that stands over 5 feet
The entire species straddles extinction due to the greed of another cutting down their home
Phalanges perfect for peeling fruit seems useless if your shelter has been stolen

A seemingly healthy 17-year old can drop dead in the middle of the ice during hockey practice
An athletic build and healthy lifestyle do little to alleviate an unknown heart condition
The full scholarship to a Division One school seems less impressive when you’re in a casket underground

Look at yourself from the perspective of the moon and you are nothing

Struggle silently
Or don’t
No one really cares

Repeat the mantra and soak in the hopelessness
Convert the dread to power, use it as fuel
Hedonistically approach each day

It doesn’t matter you failed that test
It doesn’t matter you gained some weight
It doesn’t matter you lost your friend

It doesn’t matter
It doesn’t matter
It doesn’t matter

But it still hurts


This poem comes from the talented Hannah Buckley. Follow her on her Instagram here.

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Morning Routine: A Short Story by Alessandra Ortiz

She wakes up with me every morning.

6:30 AM.

As I force my aching body up, slowly removing one leg at a time from beneath the sheets, she playfully pulls me back down under the covers. Her embrace is magnetic; too irresistible to break free, despite me wanting to. I let her win this battle and decide to lay awake with her for a little longer.

“I’d rather stay in bed,” she whispers to me, “than face the day anyway.” 

I nod in agreement. 

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Dreamless/Sleepless: Does Dreaming Encourage Sleeping?

Dreams have always been an interesting concept to me, mostly because I never remember mine. Sometimes I wish I did, but than again I don’t remember nightmares either. I like to think that my mind is so busy during the day because it never exercises itself while I’m asleep. It just goes to show that dreamers of the day are dangerous men.

I can admit I think too much for my own good. So much so that it keeps me up most nights. Every time I lie down it’s a battle just to silence myself. I want to believe it’s because I don’t dream. I can’t dream. I don’t know how. It’s difficult for me to accept that one moment I’ll be lying in bed trying to sleep and before I know it I’m waking up. Like no time has passed at all. Without dreams to bridge the sleep it becomes meaningless.

It becomes nothing.

Why would my brain want to stop working?

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TAAD: Elevator

The doors closed as I fell in.

I stood backwards;

With the future behind me,

And the past staring straight at my face

Like mirrors reflecting mirrors in a run down elevator

In the old motel just outside of town.

I was trapped.

In a cycle of endless space

Where time had frozen

And my body lay cold

Forever expanding.

Forever retracting.

I reached for my own hand

expecting warmth

I reached for anyone

But only found myself.

That’s when the power went out.

And I couldn’t see my reflection through the mirror clearly.

The elevator couldn’t descend any lower.

I broke the mirrors.

I faced forward.

I pulled open the doors

And I climbed out.

With the past behind me,

and the future staring straight at my face.

The doors closed as I pressed forward.

And now I won’t look back.

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