Sleeping With the Enemy:
A Conversation With Self-doubt
Greetings. Let me introduce myself to you, so we can get better acquainted. Although in all honesty I know you already. I know you intimately. We are old friends, you and I – Yes! I know all there is to know about you. I know your shadows and your darkness. I have sucked on the marrowbone belonging to the skeletons in your closet and I have danced from dusk until dawn with every one of your demons. I skulked into your life many moons ago and have stayed for the duration. So, perhaps it is time you got to know me? I feel I have an unfair advantage in this relationship.
When you are dressed to impress, walking with a confident stride across a room, daubed in your most effective war paint – I see you. I see all. I can strip away the paint, the make-up and the mask. I can remove the clothing layer by layer and perceive you in all your soft vulnerability. I see you just as you are.
I see you when your back is pressed against a wall, in the darkest corner of the room as you watch the movement and the chatter of others, believing you are safely inconspicuous. You are not shielded in all your quiet comfort from my scrutiny. I am at your side.
When you have escaped the hustle and bustle of the world, withdrawing yourself from all the overwhelming stimuli of life, there I will be. You may believe yourself to be alone and safeguarded from all that is overwhelming but even here, I sit with you.
Can you not hear me whispering into your ear?
As I exhale my breathy words are a sweet and familiar poison. A nectar of contempt. I don’t need to shout or roar! I speak tenderly to you in palatable phrases and in pleasing lyrics that are seemingly harmless. They echo in your mind over and over. And you listen. You hear my soft, insidious song and over time it becomes your own song. You write the harmony, you create the symphony and you dance to it day and night.
Can you not feel my breath upon your flesh?
As I inhale I imperceptibly feed upon you. Bit by bit. I drain you slowly and steadily. I take all I need from you and leave you pale and exhausted. I leave you aching in your very bones. I suck out the sweetness from you core; I draw the wonder from your eyes and drink the laughter from your lungs. You see, I need you in order to exist and you give to me oh, so willingly! So, I am unhurried as I devour you, I have plenty of time. A whole lifetime! And you barely notice as I seek to destroy you. (If you let me.)
Can you not feel the weight of me upon your shoulders?
As you nourish me, I grow substantial. I bear down upon you, becoming heavier as I feed. I tread lightly at first; you can barely tell I am there. My footfall feels slight, my substance is flimsy. But I am persistent. As I endlessly whisper, I feed. As I feed, I crave more. As I crave, I become gluttonous. I am insatiable! And my presence – which was initially so insignificant – you have to carry upon your bent shoulders as a cumbersome burden. You take me wherever you go.
I have many names and many guises. And this is how you will recognise me, I promise that you already do:
I am deceit. I am a spurious truth. I am a part-truth brewed in a cauldron of shame and poured into the goblet of disgust – A concoction you drink like medicine. A substance you become addicted to.
I am fear. I am the voice that finds you in the depths of the night and repeats its noxious lullaby of derision that spins around and around your weary head like a carousel, twisting and turning as it seeps into your dreams.
I am regret. I am the insurmountable guilt and remorse that rises like a mountain from the curling mists of your memory. My summit is powdered with humiliation and disgrace.
I am insecurity. I am the ocean of apprehension that emerged in your childhood and surged in your adolescence. You drift endlessly upon my tides and are moved by the strength of my currents. I swell like a tsunami and can unleash the deluge of my awesome power at any time, swallowing you in the depths of anxiety and drowning you.
Pick up a shell from my shore, place it to your ear and hear me whisper to you once again. Listen to my sonorous song, heed my gorgeous words. Know them, my friend. Take them from me and sing them as your own:
You are not worthy.
You have no value.
It is all your fault.
You get what you deserve.
You are worthless.
You should be more.
You must be less.
You are too much.
You are not enough…
Now, in order to put some balance into our relationship, let me tell you something; it is a secret I usually keep to myself but I am feeling generous. Listen carefully because this is the first and last time I will give you this delightful little nugget…
My power is not my own. You are complicit in my very existence.
You see, I am a parasite. I exist within you and yet without you I cannot exist. I travel to you through many channels, yet your mind is the vessel I need to survive. I am an instrument of those who wish to limit you, yet I need your vindication to keep me living. You are my accomplice and yet my nemesis. You are my alpha and my omega.
But I think I shall stop now, perhaps I have said too much? I grow weary of myself. So, my friend now you know my voice. You recognise my song and understand all the work I have put into shaping of you.