Content warning: this piece discusses mature themes of mental illness and negative self-talk with language.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
My alarm sounds like a disappointed child throwing a tantrum, or maybe the ominous wailing of a siren. There is definitely screaming involved, somehow.
I don't open my eyes as my arm leaves my comforter and searches blindly for the accountability that is my alarm clock in hopes of silencing it.
I should get up, I think, get dressed and be on time, for once. I try to stop my searching fingers, I really do, but the monster inside of me has taken control of them, and the wailing child is silenced.
"Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. You could still get up, it wouldn't be so hard. Sit up, push off the blankets, swing your legs off the bed..." but it's too late. I am buried under a pile of far more blankets than I need. "It's safe here. You could stay here forever. Nobody would stop you". I know it's not true, but the thought drifts through my head anyway as I slide back into a dreamless oblivion.
Beep! Beep! Beep! My hand is already out, searching again, but instead of hard plastic, it touches something cold and wet. I peel my blanket back far enough to peak out, and am met with a big, slobbery kiss. Angus. The golden retriever jumps on top of me, tail wagging and drool flowing. He isn't allowed on the bed, but I don't stop him.
"Ok, ok. I'm coming. Well, I will if you let me move, you big oaf!" He just wags his tail. "Ouch! You're stepping on my hair!" I shove at his fluffy chest, and for a moment, I forget about my monster. I sit up slowly, stepping onto a pair of grass-stained jeans. My bedroom is a mess. I haven't had anyone over in months. This is my haven, my safe space where I don't have to pretend. And, where nobody keeps me accountable.
I don't bother to make the bed, what difference does it make, anyway? I pull on the jeans, stains and all, and a hoody I threw over my headboard a week ago.
"You're a disaster. A useless disaster that can't even bother to put her pants away. Stupid. Worthless." The monster has returned.
I make my way to the bathroom, splashing my face with warm water in an effort to wake up. My eyelids are pink and slightly swollen, and permanent purple half-moons glare tauntingly at me from below my lower lash line. I run a washcloth under freezing water from the tap and press it to my eyes until I can open them fully again. Next, I unscrew the cap from a tube of concealer, spreading it over the half-moons, and then the bright red zits on my forehead, disguising any and all proof that anything is wrong.
The monster scoffs at that. "Wrong? Nothing's wrong. Your life is perfect. Your parents are happily married, you live in a nice house, you are perfectly healthy. You have no reason to complain. Think of all the others, homeless, hungry, sick. They still go on, day by day. You're just faking it."
When I am finished, I look into the mirror and paste a goofy grin onto my face. It is lopsided, and my eyes still appear haunted, but if nobody looks too closely, they won't notice. Nobody ever looks too closely.
I shove my chemistry textbook into my backpack, along with a calculator and some pencils. I notice that I have torn my English essay in my haste, but I don't have time to print a new one. I can't breath. The monster is singing some terrible song, the words all blending together in a chorus of cruelty. My heart beats so fast it hurts, and the colors blur until I can't tell which way is up and which way is down. I don't know where to swim to reach the surface.
"Damn it! What the fuck is wrong with me! It's just a stupid essay!" I scream, but there is nobody to hear me. My parents left for work an hour ago.
I don't make eye contact with anyone as I climb onto the city bus. I know my mascara is smeared and my eyes are red again, but I can't bring myself to care. Nobody notices anyway. I hold up my pass to the driver and walk to the back of the bus, taking a seat by the window. People are talking, but I don't know what they're saying, it all just sounds like static. The world whizzes by in a blizzard of light and color as I pull my headphones out of my bag, playing soft classical music in an attempt to put the monster to sleep.
I jolt upright in my seat, panicked. The music was successful in putting the monster to sleep, sort of, but in its absence, everything was silent and gray, and I've missed my stop.
"Excuse me? Have we passed the stop for Crestview High School yet?" I ask the man next to me.
"Oh! Yes, I believe you just missed it. If you get out now, it shouldn't be too far." I pull the cable signaling the driver to stop as soon as possible, cursing myself for my stupidity.
I walk as fast as I can, but am still late by the time I arrive at English. The teacher makes a tut-tutting sound when I turn in my torn paper. I want to cry. I keep my head down as I make my way to my seat, the hair falling over my face to hide my smeared makeup. I sit down behind a group of boys. They are laughing and whispering to themselves as they wait for the teacher to start the class. One of them stacks all of his folders and notebooks in a pile, and the girl next to him reaches over to straighten it.
"You're so OCD!" the boy laughs. No, she isn't. I want to say, but I keep my thoughts to myself, invisible behind my curtain of hair and mask of concealer.
At lunch, I sit at a table with my friends. I can feel a dull pain of hunger in my stomach- I skipped breakfast- but can only manage a few bites of an apple. The monster takes up too much space. My mom sometimes worries that I am anorexic, because I never eat more than a few bites at a time. My arms and legs are very thin, and sometimes I faint when I stand up too quickly. I don't think I am any more insecure about my body than your average high school junior, I'm just not hungry.
My friends are laughing about something, and I can hear them as if through a strange mist, but all I heard of whatever the joke was is static.
"Hellooo, are you there?" Mark, a boy with curly brown hair and a smattering of freckles is waving his hand in front of my face. Damnit, I tuned out again, didn't I.
"Sorry? I wasn't listening."
"Clearly." Sofie only mumbles the word as she examines her fingernails, but loud enough that she clearly intended for me to hear it. I try not to look hurt.
"Should Josh ask Sebastian out after school?" Mark repeats, patient as always.
"Oh, uh... yeah, totally, that would be awesome." Mark holds my gaze with a worried expression for a moment too long, but doesn't say anything. I try to smile, force out a laugh. It sounds more like the croak of a frog, but Mark seems satisfied.
The day continues like any other. I forget to do the math homework, didn't write down the assignment. The monster screams at me for a good five minutes, and I have to excuse myself to the bathroom to put myself back together.
I stumble blindly from class to class, never alone, always with the cruel creature that dwells in my very bones to keep me company. At dinner, I answer my parents questions with yes or no answers, occasional sentences, to keep them satisfied. "School was fine," or "I didn't have soccer today." I finish my homework, doing the bare minimum for my grades to scrape by at acceptable levels, and tell my parents goodnight.
As I lie in bed, the monster pokes and prods at me all over. It sings its favorite chants and ballads, telling me I am worthless. Lazy. Stupid. I shove my fist into my mouth to silence my screams as tears fall down my cheeks. When I am too exhausted to even think, I finally fall asleep.
Beep! Beep! Beep!