You Are Not Me

By Georgie Waters

A worn quilt drips over this bed where I wake up in a panic every morning. The sweat which perspired from my pores during the night has drenched my thin pyjamas, causing the material to stick to my body. I wish I could crack open the window to allow some of the cool winter air to float around me, but I know you forbid this. Threats of a sudden spider infestation are whispered into my ear canal and you force me to stare at the latch for thirty seconds to make sure it’s locked. Then again, and again.

It takes me hours to get dressed, constantly hindered by the compulsions I am forced to execute against you. The sun has now climbed into the middle of the sky, showering the earth in its gentle winter rays, and I feel an unusual satisfaction that I anticipate will last more than a moment. But I’m wrong, so very wrong.

You thrust a vision of a parked car rolling down the hill as it smashes into a child, snapping his body violently. Tears flood down my cheeks, blurring my vision. You continue to relish in my distress as I try to mentally reverse this damage. Eventually, I manage to glue the boy’s body together again, clicking his bones back into place, but I’m left with a feeling of angst which hangs right beside me, always.

When I walk into the bathroom, I turn the lock three times. You always tell me that this number provides an average; if the first attempt fails, I have two more times to get it right. And, if that doesn’t work, you force me to repeat the process until I have reached your impossible standards. I could use the unwrapped toilet paper roll, but you pressure me into finding a new one, having informed me of all the possible bacterial colonies resting on its surface. And when you remind me of where I’m sitting, uncontrollable coughing erupts from my respiratory system; I can feel invisible, airborne germs latch onto the inside of my throat, suffocating me. After washing my hands, I notice an absence of paper towels to dry the clean drips. So, I wipe them on my trousers and when I reach for the light switch, my finger hesitates; you tell me that if I touch it, the next person who enters will be electrocuted. My body trembles; every single one of my bones is riddled with your presence.

As I begin to lose the fight, sinking deeply into the ocean of despair, I see Mum resting comfortably against the sofa. But terror still cuts through my skin; I can’t hear anything except for your relentless demands.

“I can’t do this anymore”, I whisper to her, dripping in tears again.

Without saying a word, she pulls me into a tight embrace, allowing me to push you slightly further away from my neck.

***

Yes, it’s always been me and you. And you used to terrify me every single day, causing me to doubt my own sanity, but this debilitating illness has only made me stronger.

You’ve caused me agony, hopelessness and insecurity. But you’ve also taught me empathy, gratitude and now, acceptance of help; I won’t let you ruin me anymore.

After months of learning how to tame you, the more I realise who I am and who I can be now that you have been exposed.

You will always be nearby, ready to pounce at my vulnerability, but now I am in control. This is my life. And you are NOT me.

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