The Monster That Hid Behind the Mask

***GRAPHIC CONTENT ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE AT RISK FOR A TRIGGER. PLEASE MOVE FORWARD WITH CAUTION.***

I close my eyes and I can visualize you perfectly. The way that you would smirk. The way that your hair fell to the side. The way that you would grab your stomach while you laughed. The way that you smelled. The way that I could feel your energy whenever I was near you. 

You had this way of making every girl fall in love with you, which was remarkable because you were never that attractive. You weren’t physically or emotionally desirable, and yet, I wanted you. I wanted to know what it would feel like to hear you say “I love you.” I wanted to feel that static that one would feel when you held hands with someone you cared about. I wanted to feel the electricity that would build up between our lips as you kissed me. 

You used to make me feel so incredibly special. I met you before I was even a teenager, and I know that the moment you saw me was the moment that I became your next target. What I thought was love was manipulation, and what I thought was good intent ended up having ulterior motives. 

I was vulnerable with you. I cried in front of you. You comforted me when I needed comfort. What I thought was safety was actually me falling into the hands of a monster. 

You see, as I grew older, I realized that those moments of sincerity were moments of secrecy. You knew what you wanted and went for it under the disguise of someone who cared. The older I have become I have realized that what I thought was you being genuine was you training me and molding me to be your next victim. You always wanted something of mine that was never meant to be yours, and you were willing to do whatever it took it take it. 

So you used your best weapons against me. I was no match against your manipulation. I was not prepared to mentally handle what was about to happen. I was too naive to decipher your words that ended up being lies. 

I was never a person to you. I was always just a body. 

Someone hurt me before you did. And I went to you after it happened. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to find out that someone got to me before you did. Oh, how it must have angered you. You had been working on me for years, and you expected something for your efforts. 

So you decided to take your reward because you must have felt by this time it was now or never. You did things leading up to the event, testing me to see what I was willing to do. Seeing where my comfort was. I was emotionally driven by your lies, but I was nowhere near ready to take things where you wanted them to go. So you took that upon yourself. 

When I close my eyes I can feel you. I can feel your face less than an inch away from mine. I can feel your breath. I can feel my body go ice cold. I can feel my body wanting to run, but unable to move. I can feel that feeling that I felt in my stomach like I was about to be sick. I can feel the fear. The terror. I can feel your hand going up my leg in an effort to touch me. I can taste your finger going into my mouth, and I can hear you say “suck.” I can feel you grab me to touch you. I can feel and remember everything as if it were happening right now. I hate you for that. 

People assault people because they like the control. They like the game. He manipulated and trained me for years to be his puppet, and sadly, he won the game. 

I still dream of him. I still wake up with drenched in sweat. I still wake up filled to the brim with panic. 

Sometimes he slips into my mind and I just freeze. I can feel my body go ice cold. And there is nothing that I can do about it except just try to get through it. 

I am trying my best to release the grip that you have had on me for all of these years. Oh, how I have been trying. 

I hate you for what you did and who you are, but I take comfort in knowing that karma exists. Whether it is in this lifetime or the next, you will suffer as I have, and that brings a smile to my face.

Breathe

I died on August 27th,1862. My wife held me as I took my last breath, while still attempting to save my life by holding her hands over my stab wounds. The last thing I heard her say was: “John! No, God no give him back to me! John!” I closed my eyes, saw black, and then that was that. An unknown amount of time later, I woke up, remembered that I had died, and then broke myself out of a wooden casket that was laid to rest six feet under the ground. It was difficult breaking myself out of the box and digging myself out from under the earth, but not needing to breathe made things a bit easier. 

According to a newspaper that I later saw lying on the ground, I arose on the date August 27th, 1863. I walked towards things that were familiar. Everything looked the same. The sun was starting to set, and the moon was ready and willing to take its place. The crickets were having their nightly conversations, the rats were running around scavenging for sustenance, and the locals were gathered at the town pub for their daily ale and drunken shenanigans. It appears that life never halted when I died, but I never would have expected it to. 

I walked the uneven cobblestone road until I found my desired location. Home. It was nothing to be proud of, for it was a humble dwelling, but it was home nonetheless. I stood there just looking at it. It was exactly the same as it was the last time I saw it. Well, with one exception. If you peered through the front window a year ago you would have seen a married couple in complete bliss. We would have been dancing to the sound of nothing, just to our bliss. We would have been sitting in our chairs near the fireplace reading the daily paper while listening to the wood crackle and the flames turned it to ash. You would have seen me unexpectedly grab her and ever so gently kiss her forehead, cheeks, nose, and then her lips. We had love in that house. Now all I see is pain and agony. I see her sitting by the fireplace, but there is no fire. There is no daily paper. All she is doing is sitting in what used to be my chair with what used to be my blanket just staring at nothing. Watching a home that used to be so lively now feeling so desolate of any form of happiness was something that I could no longer bear to witness, so I started to walk up to the front door. 

I knocked. Although this used to be our home, this was her home now. The wait for her to open the door was the most anxiety I have felt in a long while. I haven’t felt this on edge since August 27th, 1862. I could hear her walking to the door, with each creak in the floorboards telling me she was one step closer. Then the door was suddenly open, and I saw her for the first time in a year. 

We just stared at one another. There was shock, grief, doubt, and confusion in her eyes. All I felt was the need to hold her. 

John?” She said with an immense amount of disbelief. 

“Yes, my love. Oh, how I have missed you…” I took a step forward to her, and with my arms reached outward ready for an embrace, she took three steps back. I don’t know what I was thinking. Of course, this would be her initial reaction. Her dead husband, alive a year after his fatal stabbing. 

“I don’t know what magicks you have used, but if you think I am going to fall for this trick you surely are mad. Get out of my house. NOW.”

At this point, I could see the fury in her eyes. She was sobbing, shivering from this overwhelming emotion. What am I supposed to say to her to convince her that it was truly me? 

“Hazel, my dear, I cannot imagine what the sight of me must have you feeling. Believe me when I say when I woke up in that wooden box beneath the earth I was struck with a profound sensation myself. What can I say to you to help you? What can I do? What do you need from me?” I was desperate at this point. I just wanted her to know, and believe, that it was truly me. Resurrected from the dead. I found myself on my knees, just pleading for her to listen. She just stood there. Looking at me in terror. 

“My John died one year ago today, right here, in this very room. A rabid woman came in and stabbed him in the chest more times than I count with a rusty old knife. His blood was everywhere, in fact, the stains are underneath this rug. I felt his last breath leave his lungs as I tried to hold his wounds shut with my bare hands. I laid there, on top of his corpse, for hours until the coroner forced me to back away so that they could take his body away from our home. I lived through his death. I have grieved his passing, and I have spent countless hours talking to him at his grave. And you have the audacity to come into my home with your magicks and pretend like you are my dead husband back from the grave? You disgust me.” She was hysterical at this point. She was full of rage and had tears rolling down her face. She spat at me and then walked into the kitchen and sat at the table. 

“I will not tell you again, GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!

And so I left, not saying a word, feeling lost. I don’t know what I expected, but surely that was not it. In the life before my ultimate death, I was never the most clever man, and it appears that that fact about me has remained. 

I walked to the pub, where I could still hear cackles of laughter. As a dead man, I had no money, but certainly, someone would take pity on me and help me out with a place to sleep. It was dark now, and the dimly lit streets were a pathway to hopefully some sort of comfort. I reached the pub, opened the door, and walked in. 

I saw familiar faces laughing, embracing, eating, and reading. Life truly has kept moving forward in my absence. As I kept striding my way through the pub to who I believe is the innkeeper, I started to hear whispers.

Is that… That can’t be. No that can’t be John, can it?”

Don’t be daft, John has been in the ground for a year now at this point.”

Who is that foul man?”

“Excuse me, stranger, who are you?”

I turned around and saw a face that I had forgotten about. Many years ago I worked with this man as a farm laborer.  We hadn’t worked together long, just long enough to put seeds in the ground for harvest. Back then he was a man of few words, and I hope that he was also a man of few memories. 

“Just passing through, thanks.” 

“What is your name, sir?” 

He just wouldn’t give up. Do I lie? Do I come up with a false identity? 

“My name is John.”

“And your surname?”

“Listen, sir, as I said I am just passing through. I have been traveling for some time now and would like to just a moment to myself if it isn’t too much to ask.” 

All I heard was a “hmph” come from him, and I knew that my wish of solitude had been granted. I finally made my way to the back of the pub to who I believed was the innkeeper. 

“Excuse me, hello are you the innkeeper?” 

“Yes, what do you want?”

“Yes, thank you, my name is John and I was wondering if you had an extra bed?”

She looked at me up and down with a look of disgust on her face. I had a gut-wrenching feeling that this was not going to go well. 

“Yes, I do. Have you got any money?”

“No, I am afraid that I used the rest of it at the last inn.” A little white lie wasn’t going to hurt anyone. 

“Ahhh I see. So that innkeeper got paid for their services, and I am expected to just give away handouts? No money, no bed.”

“Yes well, perhaps we can work something out. Do you need help with dishes? Cleaning up a bit? I can do labor in exchange for a bed.”

“Once again, no money, no bed. Get out of my pub.”

I left with disappointment. I had no idea why I was back again, and now I have nowhere to stay for the night. I decided to head back towards where I came from, the cemetery. As I was walking I contemplated why I was here on this earth again. Was it God? Was it a medical miracle? Was I never really dead, just asleep? I tried to think about what was going through my mind when I was in the ground, but there was nothing. It was black. So why was I here?

I was close to the cemetery when I started to hear footsteps behind me. I started to pick up my pace, but when I did that the person started to follow my pace. I stopped, hoping that maybe the innkeeper had a change of heart, but when I turned around I was surprised to see who was following me.

“Who do you think you are coming into my town and not answering my questions as to who you are?” He was livid. I could smell the ale radiating off of him, and I could sense that something terrible was about to happen. 

“I told you who I am.”

“Yeah, John. But what is your surname? Where are you traveling from? Why are you here?”

“I am afraid that I am going to have to excuse myself. Have a good night.” I started to turn around when all of a sudden I felt a sharp, familiar pain in my left shoulder. 

“No one walks away from me, stranger.” 

I felt something slice into me over and over again, and I could do nothing about it. After the initial stabbing of the shoulder, I tried to push him off, but he was much stronger than I was. He had flipped me onto my back and started stabbing me in the chest. My last thought before my eyes closed was: 

This feels like it did one year ago…” 

And then, blackness. 

I wonder if the world can guess what day I woke upon. If you guessed August 27th, 1864 then you would be correct. 

The pub was still deafening with laughter, the insects were chirping, the rats were scavenging, everything was still the same. It had been one year since I had last seen my beloved, and although our interaction was less than desirable I just knew that I had to try again. 

So I followed the uneven cobblestone to the home that was oh so familiar, yet so different. This hasn’t been my true home in two years now, but it is the only home that I have ever had or will ever have. Other than the cemetery of course. 

I approached the home and just stared at it for some time. There were candles that lit the rooms and doorways. There was a small fire blazing in the fireplace. And there she was, in her rocking chair with a book in her hand. She was beautiful. Then again, she always was so this was not a surprise. As I was watching her I noticed a hand grab her shoulder. My defenses immediately went up and I was prepared to barge into the home in order to protect my wife. But then I saw her grab the hand, and not in self-defense. It was in a gentle, loving way like she could have expected someone to touch her. She kissed the hand while it was still in her grasp, and then he leaned down and gave her a loving kiss on her forehead. I couldn’t help but notice that they both were wearing gold bands around their marriage fingers. Is my wife no longer my wife?

I thought about leaving for just a moment. If tonight is like the past two nights that I was alive I will surely perish at some point. Do I need to put her through that again? Especially with how blissful she seems to be now? The answer was easy for me to determine. She may belong to someone else, but I have no one else to go to. I need help. I simply cannot keep living and dying this way. 

This was going to be painful for me to see her living her life with another man, but at least she is happy. Maybe he can help her help me. I walked up to the front door and knocked three times. I heard footsteps approaching at a casual rate and then, the door opened.

“What is this? John? Who are you?” The man asked with confusion taking over his face. 

“May I ask who you are?” I sternly asked.

“My name is Stewart, and I am the man of the house. What business do you have here?” 

“Stewart, hello. My name is John. May I speak to Hazel please?”

Ahhhh. Hazel. I see. This is some sort of trick. Hazel told me about how last year some demon claiming to be her John entered this home. This is a nasty trick. How dare you continuously put that woman through this pain…”

“Hello, John.”

And there she was. Standing right in front of me. She patted Stewart’s shoulder to let him know that he can back off, and so he did. She was so close to me that I could smell her. She smelled of lavender, her favorite fragrance. Stewart stood right behind her, but it mattered not to me. There she was. 

“Hello, Hazel.”

“I know what day it is. August 27th. A day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t thought about the events that happened exactly one year ago today. Surely you could understand my reaction, although I wish I would have listened more. You see, I thought you were some demon or warlock using magicks to play a nasty trick on me. But I have had this little voice inside of my head that maybe there was more to the story and that I needed to look into it further. There were talks of some stranger being stabbed to death the night that you visited me last year. Interestingly enough, I found out by the women who like to gossip that the sheriff noticed that the placements of the stabbing were identical to a murder thas he has seen before. Your murder, John. So I traveled to a seer, someone who could help me understand what was happening. I described in great detail to her about that night. The original night. And then what happened a year ago. She looked unphased by everything that I was saying to her, to the point where I was questioning my very own sanity. But then she said something that changed my life.”

She paused. I just kept staring at her, with my eyebrows furrowed together. Did she already know what was happening to me?

My dear, how you have felt so much pain. I can feel the agony that you are feeling. My whole body feels like it is being torn to shreds. But I am afraid if you want the answers that you are looking for then the agony will just become more unbearable. Do you truly want your heart to suffer more than it already has?” 

“Please. Tell me what I need to know. Is it John’s ghost? A demon? A warlock? How do I make this slow torture end!”

“My sweets, you were not the only woman in John’s life.”

“How dare you! That is impossible! John and I were in love, he would never run into the arms of another woman…”

“There is a woman in the town right next to yours that loves your John. In fact, the love that she felt for him drove her mad. She knew that he could never truly love her the way that he loved you, and she tried convincing herself that what he gave her would be enough, but the more he started to detach from her the fonder she grew on him. The thing about love, and the reason why so many consider it to be deadly, is because love can easily morph into something complicated. It can morph into an obsession. A lot of times this happens when one has never experienced the feeling of love before, so they almost become addicted to it. They crave it. They must have it and if they don’t then they want to make sure that the person that they want it from suffers. My dear, she loved your husband, but she ultimately became consumed with him and the idea of them having a life together. It wasn’t until your John told her that he didn’t want her and that he only wanted you was when she decided to enact something so heinous, so vile, that she could herself expect to meet the Devil himself upon her death. You see, she worked with magicks, and she has worked with them her entire life. Hazel, you must listen to what I am about to tell you. There is no such thing as light or dark magick. There are people out there that can choose how they want to use their magicks, and although this woman usually chose to only use her magicks for the greater good, this time she was mad enough to cast a curse upon your John. That rabid woman who stabbed your John on that night was a random woman, oh no. She was his ex-mistress. A woman who knew how to use magicks and wreak havoc onto one’s life. I have seen the curse that she put onto your husband. The curse is that every year your John will die the same way he has died all the times before. In a fatal stabbing. And this will continue for all of eternity unless he himself is able to free himself from the curse…”

“How? How can he free himself?” 

“He must stab the woman the same way that he has been stabbed. She must die by his hand and his alone. If she dies and John wasn’t the one that killed her then his fate with this curse has been sealed and he will live this way for all of eternity.”

“So John needs to kill the woman the same way that he has died. We can make that happen.”

“Never underestimate someone who works with the magicks, my love.”

“What is her name?”

“Deary, before I tell you, are you sure you want to help him?”

“Of course! Why wouldn’t I? Someone should suffer for all of eternity like that.”

“Sweets you just found out that he strayed away from you and into the arms of a madwoman!”

“Be as it may, no one should have to go through this. Sometimes mercy is easier than hate.”

“I see. Well, her name is Elda. I wish you the best of luck, my dear. If you need me you know where to find me.”

“Thank you, Seer. What can I offer you to make up for your help?”

“My dear, just help your husband. Don’t worry about me.”

“So, John, despite your wandering eye and your infidelity I have decided to help you. I loved you, John. We had what I thought was heavenly matrimony, and although you found comfort in her, even if it was just for a short time, it made it easier for me to move on. I love my Stewart. Stewart loves me and although it is a different relationship and it took some time getting used to I feel so at peace. And now I want the same for you.” 

I just stood there, staring at her in awe. I never wanted my Hazel to know about Elda. I have no idea why I did what I did. I have never in my life felt a love like the love that I shared with my Hazel, so I never understood why I also wanted Elda. 

“Hazel…”

“It is okay, John. I have made my peace with what you did, and now it’s your turn. Now. Do you remember where that terrible woman lives?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good. I have taken it upon myself to fetch a couple of blades that should do the trick. Remember what the seer said, only you can kill her and reverse this curse.” 

“Hazel…”

“Yes, John?”

“Did the seer happen to say what will happen to me once I kill Elda?”
“She did not. One has to assume that you will continue living out your days until you naturally perish.”

“Or I could die and stay dead…” 

“Yes, John. There is also that possibility.”

Stewart, Hazel, and I all jumped on horses and started making our way to the next town over. I, of course, lead the way. It brought up so many emotions while we were taking the path to Elda’s house. I always thought that the way to Elda’s was so mystical. Overhanging trees. The sounds of the wind. The crisp scent of the air. The greenery alone who have anyone stop dead in their tracks and marvel. With that being said, I could also feel the emotions that I used to feel. Guilt, self-hatred, confusion, just to name a few. It was a path that I never saw myself riding on again, and yet here I was. On my way back to Elda’s. 

I could see Elda’s cottage. It was covered in ivy, alone in the woods. If you weren’t looking for it you would never know that it was there.

“See that cottage up ahead? That is where she lives.”

Then, we all stopped. The horses started to make noises of terror, and all of the blood that used to sit at our cheeks vanishes. We heard this cackling. A type of cackling that screams danger. It was Elda.

“John. HA. I have been spending the past two years wondering how long it would take for you to figure out what has happened. I must admit, I thought it would take you much longer. I am impressed.”

“It wasn’t John that figured it out, you daft witch. I figured it out!” Hazel’s voice was already starting to tremble in rage.

“It wasn’t you, you tortured sow. It was the seer. You made little effort to help our poor, sweet John. No wonder why he came my way. You’re PATHETIC.”

Hazel stayed atop her horse, but the worry that I felt for her was starting to increase by the second.

“Elda, I know what I must do in order to reverse this curse.”

“Oh, do you now, John? You could never kill me, John. You might have been able to break my heart, but you would never be able to steal my life.” 

Elda was smirking. She was playing a game that she was certain she was going to win. 

“Do you remember those nights that we spent together, John? Our moonlight walks. Our dances in the sitting area. Our gentle kisses and our passionate lovemaking? We shined brighter than the brightest star on the clearest night. We were meant to be together. You loved me, I know that…”

And then Elda fell to the ground. I was stunned to see who had been standing behind her.

“Hazel! What have you done!” 

“I tried to stop her, John. I tried! But she got me.” Stewart was holding his shoulder, while blood was dripping down his hand. It appears that while Elda was speaking to me Hazel jumped off of her horse in order to attack Elda but then Stewart got in the way when he attempted to stop her.

Hazel then screamed and continued to stab Elda the same way that I had been stabbed. Blood was gushing out from the wounds that Elda received. Her lifeless eyes just stared at me, like she was trying to say “I love you” one last time. And that was when I felt it. The sharp pains that felt all so familiar. 

“This is what you get for coming back, John! This is what you get for driving my Hazel to murder madness!” 

Stewart took what I thought would be my final breath…

I woke up on August 27th, 1865. Everything was the same. The pub was filled with loud heckles. The insects were chirping and the rats were scavenging. The cobblestone leading up to my home was still uneven. 

There they were. Both Hazel and Stewart. Both looked absolutely dreadful as they sat in their chairs in front of the fireplace. There was one measly candle, leaving the house mostly pitch black. 

I knocked on the door and heard both Hazel and Stewart walking towards me. When the door opened, they looked unsurprised to see me standing there before them. 

“Welcome back, John.” 

Hazel’s welcome was less than enthusiastic. I couldn’t help but just stare at her. Usually, I stare at Hazel in admiration, but this time I couldn’t believe that it was actually her. Her hair was knotted and not kept, her teeth were yellow and rotting, you could see her bones underneath her grey skin and her eyes were sunken in with deep darks circles underneath. Stewart looked quite similar to Hazel. 

“Hazel, Stewart, what happened?”

Hazel started to open her mouth, but then she abruptly closed it. She then turned around and went back to her chair and just sat there looking at the fire. Then Stewart started talking. 

“When that woman, Elda, was speaking with you, her taunts drove our Hazel mad. When she jumped off of her horse I knew what she was going to do, so I tried to stop her, but her rage made her stronger than me. Then, the next thing I knew, she stabbed Elda until she died. Then something came over me. Like I was in some sort of trance. I just wanted you to die. So I stabbed you. And I killed you. We didn’t know what would happen to you. We didn’t know if you were going to come back or stay dead so we went back to that seer. We told her everything that had transpired, and to our dismay, she informed us of your fate. Since it was Hazel that killed that vile human being and not you, you will spend eternity dying. There is nothing to do be done. There is nothing to rectify. This is your fate.”

I just stood there, in disbelief. Eternity?

That is when we heard the scream.

“Just remember, I love you both.”

And that was when we watched Hazel take the blade that Stewart stabbed me with and slit her own throat. 

The End.

Feel.

What does it feel like to have a mental illness? 

Every person has a different experience, but here is mine.

Mental illness is a type of monster that wants nothing more than to isolate you, torture you, belittle you, and test you.

Mental illness will make you doubt yourself more than anyone else ever could, causing your own self worth to diminish with every word spoken from your mind. 

Mental illness will keep you up at night. You think about every single thing that has ever happened to you, you think about and play out scenarios that never even happened, and you question every choice that you have ever made.

Mental illness will make you feel like you are in a world of euphoria, where you have never-ending energy and you can take on anything that comes your way. If you wanted to, you could save the world with your love, positivity, and energy. You can spend hours exercising, deep cleaning, calling and texting all of your friends and family, and not feel anything but extraordinary. You could quite literally do anything and everything, and you try to because you feel so good. But then, you crash. You spend eighteen hours in bed sleeping despite your partner trying to wake you up. You ignore phone calls and texts because you don’t have it in you to speak to another soul. When you do wake up, you’re a shell of a human being that just does the bare minimum to keep your body alive because at that moment your spirit is gone. This can last for as little as a day, or even months. You never know. 

Mental illness is either eating too little or too much. 

Mental illness is watching videos at four in the morning on “at home stick and poke tattoos” and considering buying the equipment yourself because you could “easily do that!”

Mental illness is wanting to tell your friends and family that you are sinking into a low but you’re too afraid to tell them because they go through this with you all of the time. Also, they sometimes throw your mental illness in your face when they are displeased with you.

Mental illness is staring at the scars on your body that you gave yourself and hoping with everything that you have that you won’t pick up that blade again.

Mental illness is knowing what is happening to you but not having any control over it.

Mental illness is taking medication and having a therapist because life would be awful without those things. 

Mental illness is relying on animals to bring you a glimmer of happiness and a sense of calm. 

Mental illness is living past memories so vividly that you have to remind yourself that those memories are in the past and you are safe right now.

Mental illness is constantly having to listen to people tell you to “grow up” or “deal with it” or “snap out of it.” 

Mental illness is sobbing in the shower or on the floor of your bedroom because you can’t stop thinking of the worst. 

Mental illness is a curse. It’s a sickness that eats away at you. It is always there, taunting you in the background just so you know that it is still there and can hurt you at any time. 

If you know someone with mental illness, please take it seriously. Ask them what they need. Make them tea, put on their favorite movie, give them their favorite book, make them their favorite food. Do whatever you can to make them feel loved and cared for and valued because when they are in a low they can’t see how incredible they are. The pain is unbearable, and even a tiny bit of effort and love from the people around them could quite literally save their life.

Tattoos and Depression

I wouldn’t say that I have an addictive personality. I hardly ever drink, I don’t smoke, I take edibles, but not often, I don’t do hardcore drugs, I have sex, but just with my husband, and I guess you could say it is a “typical” amount of copulation for a couple who has been together for ten years, and I usually don’t overeat. I am not used to having that feeling of needing something so badly that it is all that you can think about, that is, until now.

I got my first tattoo when I was eighteen years old, and I regretted it immediately. It was a larger piece on the inner part of my left forearm, and when you are used to seeing a blank canvas to suddenly having something there that is permanent it can be a bit of a shock. I just remember waking up the next day in tears thinking “what have I done?” I promised myself that I would never get another tattoo for the remainder of my life, and I was going to try to save up enough money to get the one tattoo that I had removed. Then, six months later, I found myself in a tattoo shop getting another one.

Tattoo9

I love tattoos. I love piercings. I love the adrenaline rush that I get when I pull up to my favorite shop and see my favorite artists. I love the smell of the ink and the buzz of the tattoo gun. I love sitting in the chair and wondering what my next piece is going to be while I am getting something done. The music, the laughter, the swearing, the connections that you make with the person who is working on you, it all just makes my serotonin levels rise. I feel like I am in my own personal euphoria, and I soak up every moment of it. I don’t crave a lot of attention from others, but getting work done is such an intimate experience. You’re putting your trust into someone to alter the shell that holds you in it. They are changing not only your appearance but in a way, also your life. To me, that is beautiful.

Altogether, I have nine tattoos. I have gotten four tattoos in less than ten months, which is a lot for me. Two of those tattoos were done in the last twenty-four hours. I used to average one tattoo every year and a half to two years, so this is an interesting change of pace for me. I have been doing some thinking, and I think I have figured out why this flux of ink has been taking place. 

Although I am always thinking about tattoos, I tend to want them, even more, when I am either approaching or in a low. Interestingly enough, just a few days ago I had a therapy appointment with my therapist where we were talking about some newer feelings that were arising, and she expressed that she was worried that I was taking a step backward. I do feel like I am starting to revert to what my norm has been for all of these years, but I am desperately trying to nip it in the bud before it takes me down too much. Anyways, I think I have a correlation between my depression and my tattoos. You see, as stated in previous articles, my coping mechanism for a severe low or anxiety is cutting. I am proud to say that it has been a good stretch of time that I have gone without hurting myself, but that is where the tattoos come in.

Tattoo6

The moment the needle touches my skin I get giddy. Even when I am not in a great place mentally, I feel better. Whenever I would cut, it felt like a release. A break from feeling the way that I have felt for so long. I can breathe, and all my worries escape my mind, even if it’s just for a moment. Sometimes a moment break is better than no break at all. I have learned that tattoos give me that same relief, but it is even better. Instead of marking my body with scars, I am marking my body with images that bring me joy. There is only one tattoo that I feel “eh” about, but it will be an easy cover-up. 

Tattoo7

So here is my justification for my tattoos: They help me feel better. Mentally it is an escape, physically it helps me relax and my pieces have helped build my self-esteem. I would rather have my body marked with art rather than scars, so as long as I have the means to continue with my pieces, then you can expect to see me sitting in my favorite shop with my favorite artists.

Dream, Oh Dream

****TRIGGER WARNING: PLEASE BE WARNED THAT THIS PIECE TALKS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT.

Isn’t it amazing how one dream can ruin your entire day? Last night I had a dream about him, the guy that stole my security, amongst other things, and now he stole the opportunity for me to enjoy my day. I woke up feeling immediately anxious, and I woke up wanting to immediately break out into hysterics. I woke up wanting to die. 

The ironic thing is that it wasn’t even a bad dream. We were together, like in a committed relationship. I loved him and he loved me. We were laughing, having meaningful conversations, and even having consensual sex. The fact that I was so happy in this dream really fucked with my head, and the moment I woke up I felt sick to my stomach with disgust. How could someone who brought me so much pain be in a dream that could have been interpreted as something so beautiful? I felt so confused and overwhelmed, and it just added to the rest of the emotions that I felt. 

Usually, I take my time waking up in the morning. Since I loathe morning time and I consider it to be vile, it takes me some time to get adjusted. This morning, however, was not like my typical morning. Since I woke up feeling so awful from this dream, I already woke up fully awake. Plus, whenever I tried to close my eyes, all I could picture was him. Him and his grimy hands touching me, me smiling at him, me having feelings for him. Seeing those visions was too much for me to handle, so I decided to get up and distract myself. As luck would have it, I already had a therapy appointment scheduled for today, but I had a couple of hours to kill before that time. So I went to the store and walked around for a bit, picked up some medication, and then drove back home. 

My therapist has always told me when I am having bad thoughts to do whatever I can to distract myself. Whether that is writing, going out to the store, getting coffee, going for a walk or just hanging out with my animals, I need to just do something to distract myself. Since I woke up so anxious it was a goal of mine to try to calm down before my appointment, but I wasn’t able to help myself. After I left the store and pulled into my driveway, I just sat in my car. My anxiety was even worse than it was before I had left, and I felt as if it were physically impossible for me to move my body. Then my thoughts transitioned from thinking about my dream to what actually happened in real life. Thinking about what happened always does me in. My already horrible anxiety turned even worse, and for a moment, just a moment, I thought about how easy it would be for me to open my garage, pull in, and close the garage door behind me while leaving the car on. Obviously, I didn’t do that because I am writing this right here and now, but having those thoughts, as brief as they can be, still do some sort of damage.  

One of the biggest problems that I am having is truly moving on from that incident. I feel as if he has me in a chokehold, and after all of these years, my freedom is still at his mercy. I absolutely hate what happened, I hate him for doing what he did, and I hate myself for not being able to be strong enough to break free from his grip. In the past, I told you that I was fragile. Now, here is your proof. 

Luckily my therapy appointment helped me a lot. I told her everything that happened in the dream, how I woke up feeling, and how it affected my day thus far. One thing that was killing me that I needed help understanding was why I had that dream. Usually, when I dream of him I dream of what happened or scenarios that closely resemble what happened. But this was so different. You see, her answer was not as complicated as I thought it was going to be. She asked me there were any personality traits of his that could be considered “good.”  I had known him for a decent amount of time. I was eleven when we were first introduced, and the big incident didn’t happen until I was fifteen. So in that time frame, I saw things from him that I thought were great qualities, but at the end of the day, it was all a lie so that he could deceive me so that he could get what he wanted. He wanted me to trust him, and he was able to get that from me. So was he actually “good?” No. But the perception that I had of him was that he was. I told her about this memory that I have of him that I will never forget. My parents took a bunch of us to this fair that happens every summer, and I went off with him and his friend. I was wearing a skirt and a halter top, but I had to have been twelve at the time so it wasn’t too revealing. There was this one man that was running one of the game booths that just stared at me for the longest time. He and his friend didn’t like that, so they blocked his view of me in order to protect me. I just remember them both becoming visibly upset and rushing me away from that guy, and that is probably the one and only good memory that I have of him. That is the only time I remember him actually being genuine. 

So the answer ended up being pretty easy. I had a trauma and the body and mind hold on to that trauma. Supposedly, as an attempt to protect myself, my subconscious gave me that dream to try to push the negativity and the trauma away and to put him in a good light.  Dreaming of something that could be interpreted as “good” could help me move on from the bad. But I would like to give my subconscious a heads up about something. If given a choice, I really would rather not dream or think of him at all. So thanks for trying but next time just refrain from “helping” me. 

I don’t think that I will ever fully break free from him. That memory will always be there, however, I am learning that I have control over my life now. Whenever I think about him and what he did I can take comfort in knowing that he isn’t apart of my life now, so I don’t have to keep ripping open those wounds. Now is the time for healing, and although I will always have those scars, those scars will symbolize my strength.

Personal Boundaries

I have this tendency to love with everything that I have. When I genuinely and sincerely care about someone I will halt my life if they need me, I will make sure that they feel fully supported by me, and I will do anything within my power to help them smile and enjoy their life. When I love I love hard, and that has never been an issue for me until recently. 

I am starting to come to terms with a new life lesson that I am still trying to learn. As much as you might care about someone, there always is that chance that they really don’t care about you at all. And that, my friends, can be difficult to accept. 

I consider myself to be an intelligent being. I consider myself to be very intuitive, and I also feel like I could be considered empathetic. Although I don’t crave a lot of relationships with others, these traits allow me to still be good with other people. I can sit there and listen for hours to someone venting and seeking out advice, I can be a shoulder to cry on when someone is seeking out sympathy, and I can usually understand why someone may feel a certain way. I am just really good with people which is incredibly ironic since I am such an introvert at heart. The thing that I don’t understand about myself is that there are a select couple of people in my life that I am willing to do anything for even though I know that they really want nothing to do with me. Well, let’s clarify that. They don’t want anything to do with me unless it is convenient for them. And I have known this for a very, very, VERY long time, but I still hold on to that hope that one day our relationship could evolve into something that I have wanted it to be. So I keep being there for these people, I keep giving them everything that I have to ensure that they know that they matter to me, and each time that happens I am met with the same feeling that I always feel at the end: disappointment. 

Albert Einstein may have had a point with this one. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

I hate myself for this. I am a smart person, and I know that each time I am there for these people nothing will come from it, and yet I still have this need for it to be the way I have always envisioned it to be. I have always wanted a solid friendship, I have wanted trust and that feeling where I could go to them for anything. I have just wanted a friend. I have started to become resentful, which is dumb because I was the one who set myself up for disappointment. I have shown these people that they could take advantage of me because no matter what I will always be there for them in the end. They know that they don’t have to inquire about me because I will always be there for them in the end. They know that they can ask me for literally anything and I will give it to them in the end. I have taught them that. My grasp on hope for this relationship took over my common sense and my intelligence, and now I am left looking like the village fool. 

So what now? Do I keep repeating this cycle? I have spoken to my therapist multiple times about this issue and we have come up with a new challenge for myself: setting up my personal boundaries. I can still care about these people, but I am no longer going to go out of my way to be there for them. I have learned that letting go of the relationship that I have wanted for so long is not an actual loss because it never existed to begin with. If they call me because they need help with something I am allowed to say no. I can say no to whatever I want because at the end of the day they want nothing to do with me unless they need me, and that isn’t a relationship, that is one person allowing another person to take advantage of them. 

Having hope can be a beautiful thing, but holding on to hope when you know nothing will ever change can be incredibly damaging. You are allowed to have boundaries, so don’t let anyone, whether it is yourself or others, tell you otherwise.

The Real Monster: Anxiety

I have never really been afraid of monsters. I grew up watching Jurrasic Park on repeat, as a child I would play pretend games with imaginary monsters that I would bring to life, and I was always invested in ghost stories. The things that gave me a true fright were things that could become a reality. For example, thunderstorms that triggered a tornado warning would send me into a fit. I would hibernate in the basement clinging onto my dog Daisy in complete hysterics until I knew that the threat was gone and we were going to be safe. When my parents decided to divorce, I was consumed with making sure that my parents were okay. I remember always thinking about them and wondering if they were ever going to find happiness. I was in second grade at the time, but I was so consumed with what my family was feeling that it felt like it was eating away at my young soul. Little did I know that I was already being introduced to one of the scariest monsters to have ever existed: anxiety.

As I have stated many times, clinical depression is something that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. My mom even told me that she knew something was off with me before I was five years old, but back then mental illness wasn’t really something that was talked about. I remember seeing a school counselor for a short time when my parents decided to divorce, and then many years later going to see my first psychologist. Although it was many years where I wasn’t speaking to a professional about what I was feeling, I always knew something was off about me. As cliche as this is, I literally felt as if I lived in a literal world of darkness. I was consumed by sadness, resentment, and anger. I was constantly isolating, (although that has still not changed) and I never actively sought out friendships. I was content with being on my own overthinking every thought that I have ever had and accepting that feeling the way that I felt was normal. I remember being overly concerned for years about my dad. My mom was happy and in love with my now stepfather, and I wanted that for my dad. I would spend hours a day worrying about my dad and what his and our future looked like, to the point where I would go into a panic. I wanted the world for my dad. I wanted every bit of happiness that the world had to offer to him to be his. I wanted him to find a partner and to fall in love, and I wanted him to enjoy every moment of his life. I would think about these things constantly, driving myself absolutely crazy. So when my dad met my stepmom, I was over the moon with excitement because I felt like everything that I have ever wanted for my dad was happening to him. But then the worry of him finding happiness turned into worry about him losing it, and then I was consumed with worry that his relationship with my stepmom wouldn’t last forever. That constant worry wasn’t warranted though because they were and continue to be a healthy and happy couple, but I just wanted my dads’ happiness to be infinite. Looking back, I can now see that my worry about my dads’ happiness was probably one of the first anxiety-inducing situations that I was apart of, and I wish that it was figured out years ago that anxiety was one of the things that I was feeling.

As I progressed in age I, of course, came into more anxiety-inducing scenarios. One of the more traumatic things that I experienced that I still have trouble with was my sexual assault. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that I have learned more about that incident the older I have become. Looking back at what happened and after speaking to a couple of professionals about it, I have learned that I was essentially brainwashed, manipulated, and “trained” by this person since I was eleven to be a certain way with him. When the big incident occurred, I immediately broke down. I remember talking to my therapist at the time about it and her wanting to report it for statutory rape, but I wouldn’t let her for reasons that I don’t want to get into. After that happened I blamed myself for years for allowing it to happen. The big incident happened when I was fifteen, and it was just within the past year that I have been able to accept that it wasn’t my fault. I now look at the situation with complete disgust, and I can see it for everything that it was. I will say this though. After seeking out help for coping with what happened it almost makes me feel worse. I feel so violated. I feel like something was stolen from me. Every time I think about the whole situation I want to break down. This incident has a way to pop into my mind at the most inconvenient times, and what sucks about it is that when I think about it I literally feel like I am taken back in time and forced to relive everything that I went through. I can feel what I felt, both mentally and physically, and I feel frozen. My anxiety just completely takes over me, and I feel like I can’t breathe. My heart starts racing, and I need to remind myself that it isn’t happening now, it happened in the past. I would say my sexual assault is one of the biggest reasons why my anxiety is so horrendous.

Although I have always been pretty content with not involving a lot of people in my life, I do feel like my social anxiety just keeps getting worse and worse. I don’t do well with meeting new people, in fact, I have had to have therapy sessions in preparation for meeting new people and for being in groups. I don’t really know what it is, I just get really bad anxiety around new people and big groups of people. I get anxiety while driving, while going to the doctors’ office, and even shopping. Every time I feel like something might be wrong with my animals my anxiety spikes. I feel like my life is controlled by my anxiety, and it makes me feel so fragile. My anxiety is one of the main focuses of my therapy sessions, and I feel with every session that I have I become one step closer to breaking free of my anxieties grasp. 

My anxiety and my depression have this hold on me. Every day I work hard to better myself, but I have my ups and downs. I don’t think I will ever be free from my anxiety, but I do think that with time and hard work I can handle it better. After everything is said and done, your life shouldn’t be controlled by monsters, but by you.

Misophonia

Everyone has their pet peeves. But what if your pet peeve brought on an intense feeling of anger? Or what if it made you feel the urge to cry? What if it gave you anxiety or made you sweat? I have a pet peeve that has the ability to make me feel all of those things. Hi, my name is Brookana and I have Misophonia.

 

Misophonia is basically when certain noises result in a reaction that may seem senseless to others. My “trigger” noises consist of the following: gum chewing/popping, loud breathing, loud obnoxious eating, pen tapping, crunching, and slurping. I know that these are noises that most people can’t help but make, but I can’t help but feel a rush of emotion whenever I hear them.

 

I haven’t had Misophonia my entire life. I believe I was about six or seven when I experienced my first rush of anger after hearing a noise, and the first trigger noise to present itself was gum chewing. My middle brother always chomping on gum and it never used to bother me, in fact, I don’t really recall ever really noticing it much in the past, but there was just one day where his incessant chomping just filled me up with rage. I just remember wanting to punch him every time he chomped on that gum, and that was the day that my life started to crumble. 

 

Trust me, I understand how utterly ridiculous and dumb this sounds. Every time I would become upset over someone eating or chewing gum I would feel so bad about myself. I have never understood why these trigger sounds have to get under my skin the way that they do, and I am positive that my friends and family who know that I have this think that I am crazy. Hell, even I feel insane sometimes. The term “Misophonia” is fairly new, and when I found out that more people were talking about this and that there was an actual disorder for the thing that I have been feeling ever since I was young made me feel so validated. Perhaps I am not as crazy as I always thought I was, and that felt great. 

 

I feel like the older I become the more intense my Misophonia presents itself. I avoided the movie theater for years because I couldn’t handle the sounds people would make with their candy and their popcorn. Going out to dinner has become increasingly difficult because if I hear people around me eating it is all that I can fixate on. Being with my family can be hard for me because I have quite a few family members who make sounds as if they are starving animals fighting over their prey. Although being in public can result in me feeling upset and defeated, I have found new techniques that help me cope better with the sounds that can make me feel so horrible. I have started carrying earplugs with me everywhere I go so that if I start feeling overwhelmed by noises that I can’t control, I have the power to just turn them off. It may seem odd or silly that I put earplugs in public, however, if I can have solutions to help soothe my escalating emotions I will most certainly take advantage of those. 

 

Although there is not a cure for Misophonia there are ways that you can cope with it to help soothe yourself in stressful situations. I have learned ways to help myself when I am starting to feel anxious over my trigger sounds, and although it may come across as rude I would rather be rude with my coping mechanisms than be rude with my outbursts. Some ways that I help ease my emotions when they are starting to escalate are:

  1. Walking away when someone is eating and I feel my anger starting to form.
  2. Using my earplugs to help cancel out unwanted noises.
  3. Exercising my right to alone time whenever I need to calm down from a situation that I couldn’t walk away from. 
  4. Using headphones and listening to music to cancel out undesirable noises. 
  5. Distracting myself with a book while using earplugs to keep my mind off of the noises.

 

Everyone has their own coping mechanisms to deal with their Misophonia. Every now and again I learn new ways to deal with my emotions. I feel like although my Misophonia has become more intense and I have acquired more trigger noises, the way that I have handled them has improved. There once was a time where I used to wish that I could go deaf so that I didn’t have to hear these noises anymore. Or I would just hide in a bathroom and cry hysterically because the noises would make me so mad. Now I still get angry, but I have learned to walk away or use my earplugs to prevent me from getting even more overwhelmed. The truth of the matter is that I will never be able to escape the sounds that bring me so much angst. Hearing people eating or chewing gum is unavoidable when you live in a world where over seven billion people exist, and expecting people to change themselves just to appease you and to make your life easier is just plain selfish. Adapting and finding ways to cope is the best thing that you can do for yourself and for the people around you.

 

Just remember this one thing: having Misophonia doesn’t make you crazy, it just makes you a little more quirky and interesting!