C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’ “
Sleep whispers my name. Darkness dulls my senses. Voices from without strike and slice at the tissue-paper veil I clutch around myself. Voices from within vibrate in double time my own heartbeat. I want to wail. I want to punch. I want to run.
How can you not see that I am crumpled on the floor in front of you? Didn’t you hear that catch in my voice? Why can’t you hear my thoughts scream “leave me alone!”
I smile bigger. Make sure my eyes are bright. Stand up straight. Lean in a little closer.
This creature is ugly. It’s an active dragon. The clever monster lurks behind me, just outside of my periphery. Soothing me into belief that I have conquered the demon, my guard lowers. Days, weeks, months pass without the fiend. I am free!
This isn’t a heart attack. There are no warning signs. Without breath, I am consumed. Freedom was an illusion, and I am inside. Within. Suffocating. Drowning.
The leviathan slithered into my soul at thirteen. And, my life has been a war zone to protect the beast. It drags shame and self-loathing and hate into the room like a rotting carcass. I dare not speak for I dare not be weak. Don’t let them see you cry. Don’t let them see you angry. Don’t let them see…
The only way to conquer this Grendel is to name it. Expose it. Shatter its chrysalis home.
The succubus shrieks.