Living life with a smile on my face and a knife against my throat

By Shannon Reardon

There is a figure right behind me; like a shadow, he follows me everywhere I go. He is here right now. I can see him sitting on the edge of my bed as I stand looking in the mirror.

His facial features aren’t like mine or yours: his eyes are black and seething with rage; his mouth is twisted, full of sharp and gnarled teeth with a tongue that speaks with words sharp enough to cut diamonds, and his breath is colder than ice.

He is sitting with his legs crossed and his hands intertwined behind his knee trying to appear relaxed, but someone who lives among the shadows can never be at peace. Instead he waits, patient, carefully calculating his next strike with deadly precision.

I pull out a cigarette and cup my hands to light it I feel his hand on my shoulder; he’s ready to go back inside.

But I’m not, so I ignore him.

Patience gone, he wraps one cold hand around my throat as the other hand presses hard against my chest, directly over my heart. I’m pinned against the wall. I can’t breathe. He leans in and with his razor sharp tongue he tells me how worthless I am.

“You were never good enough for your father, but his new step-daughters are,” he tells me. “You aren’t pretty enough. You aren’t smart enough. You are a huge disappointment.”

His words bring me to my knees, each one like a knife being plunged into my stomach. He smiles and exposes one more knife.

With this last knife, he kisses the blade, licks his lips, and promises me that he will never leave me like everyone does, and then stabs me in the heart.

My chest is on fire; I can’t breathe. Everything hurts.

I can’t take this pain. I’m immediately admitted to the Emergency Room, and while they’re doing an EKG I’m not allowed to have visitors, but he’s sitting on the edge of the bed watching nurses use happy voices to not only tell me that they love that my tattoos, but that there is nothing wrong with me.

He smirks when the doctor jokes that people in my age range and in the restaurant industry generically only get chest pains from cocaine usage.

“Don’t you see what he’s done to me,” I want to scream.

But he just sits on the edge of the gurney and laughs.

“No one can see me; feel me; hear me,” he says, creeping closer with each pause. “You are the only one, I am a part of you.”

I can’t live like this; it can’t be like this.

A chest X-Ray, six vials of blood drawn, and some minor medical tests later, I was fortunate enough to meet a doctor who was able to see this man, and give him a name: she called him Stress Disorder.

My doctor tells me that there are ways to cope with his attacks, such as increased exercise or a well-rounded diet, as well as ways to defend myself against him by seeing a therapist regularly.

Unlike our visit to the ER, this creature, Stress Disorder, no longer looks smug, he’s furious.

“She doesn’t understand the bond that we share,” he snarls at me. “Do you think that I am just going to go away?”

He’s scared; he needs my fears and my insecurities to live.

But as I stand looking into my mirror again, I see something he doesn’t want to see: strength, beauty, and determination.

I have moments when I can’t tell who is calling the shots, but through therapy and other lifestyle changes, I know that I’ll be back in control soon.

Contact Shannon Reardon at communitarian@ mail.dccc.edu

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