It’s in the quiet moments between appointments, meals, and talking to people that she feels it the most. The oppressing weight of her own warring mind. The cold breath that flutters over the skin behind her ear, rippling the skin, and making her shudder.
She tried to block it out. And when busy and surrounded by people with things to do, deadlines to meet, jokes to make, she sometimes manages to fool herself. But it only takes a hesitation, a moment of silence, for the doubts to start working their magic. Its all consuming, her need and desire to be surrounded by people, because alone, she cannot save herself.
When it happens, the current pulling her down, into the swirling dark depths, a kelpie’s enchanting eyes drawing her deeper, she tries so hard to break free. The tangles of her mind trap her, prevent her from moving, and suddenly, she is drowning. Every breath stings as the icy water clouds her eyes, her mouth, her nose, preventing her from breaking free.
Maybe it would be easier to just accept her fate, to allow the Deep to swallow her, to stop fighting. And so, for a second, she allows her muscles to relax, her arms to float next to her, to ignore the burn of her chest as her body craves the oxygen require to stay alive.
Surely it would be easier?
Eyes closed, she stops thinking, stops feeling. She lets the doubts and the insecurities and the fears and the false laughter fade away. She’s just floating. She is existing. The light, filtering through layers of water and alge, ripples green across her face.
And just as suddenly as she found herself fixed to the bottom, she is free. A hand to her shoulder, a friend who can’t see the despair in her eyes. And she is relieved. The cool feeling that had enveloped her in its grasp recedes, conceding defeat for the moment.
It’s never far away though, as she laughs, and makes jokes, and dances and battles with syntax. She can feel it looming as she closes her bedroom door, feel it creeping as she tries to sleep. It invaded her dreams, and turns happy moments sour in her memory. She tries so hard to be positive. It takes so much energy, but she is determined. She has faced the darkness, she has felt its vine like grip, the whisper of its voice against her neck. She knows how it feels. And she is determined to never experience it again.
She fills her time, keeps busy. Time passes. And for a while, she believes she has achieved the impossible. She has outrun It. It cannot catch her now. And her laughter becomes genuine. She doesn’t fear turning the light off, or being alone.
But sometimes, she hears the shuffling footsteps, the ragged intake of breath, the cold. She stops, and hold her breath, and starts to chant the names of the people who help her to see in colour again. And the footsteps stay away. Her skin is warm now, there is no voice at her ear, she isn’t swimming against the tide. She believes she is free.
It’s always there though. Like a shadow, waiting for the night to descend, it hovers out of her mind. It is a part of her, something she will always carry. But it doesn’t have to be dead weight, learn from the darkness. Keep looking forward, keep smiling, keep laughing.
Sometimes, after a long day, when the doors have closed and the television is on; when she is tired, she imagines she hears It creeping closer. And it’s in the quiet moments, the still moments when time is just passing her by, that she feels her skin prickle.