Build your arsenal now. Gather your good friends, and hold them close. Strengthen your mind to block out the roars.
Dear 15-Year-Old Me,
A monster is coming.
It has not yet found you, but you have unknowingly witnessed its aftermath. You have watched it trap your mother, weeping, in a locked room. It has chased her from your presence more than once—thrown her in the car and driven away with her, only to return her, drained and hollow.
A monster is coming.
It will first whisper in your ear the Spring of your fifteenth year on this Earth. You will shake off the whisper; believe it nothing more than background noise emanating from the crowded school hallways. You will run, because running is what you do best, and the wind will carry the whisper, carry the monster, with it.
But the monster will return.
In the Winter of your sixteenth year, the whisper will turn to a shout. Running is no longer an escape. In fact, running will bring the monster nearer, as if every step meant to escape is one bringing you ever closer. So you will learn not to run, you will learn to escape—to hide. And, oh, how hiding will not only muffle the shout, it will silence the shout completely. In fact, as Spring arrives, hiding will become your weapon of choice, keeping the monster at bay.
But the monster will remain. And it will summon darkness.
As the Summer of your sixteenth year fades into the Fall of your seventeenth year, hiding will still suffice. But when three friends leave this Earth far too early, the monster will show its face for the first time and carry the darkness with it.
It will drape the darkness over you. The monster’s shouts—no its roars— will deafen. The monster will find your weakest point and dig there with its words. But while you will see the monster, you will not see the monster. It will remain nameless, and with the darkness now cast, you will sense the monster’s presence at every turn.
You will cringe even before the deafening shouts come; even when they don’t come.
But the monster is not finished.
In Spring of that year (pardon the cliché) you will find you cannot run. You cannot hide. The monster will attack. You will fall. Literally fall. At one of, what should be, the highlights of your high school athletic career. It will make you fall. And because you are certain no one else can possibly understand, you say nothing of the monster. You create elaborate stories that explain away its actions as clumsiness and happenstance. No one is the wiser.
But you are.
The monster is.
And the darkness, impossible as it seems, becomes darker.
And nothing will ever quite feel the same again.
At this point, the monster is no longer in front of you, it is inside you. The monster and the darkness will now have a name. You are the monster, and the monster is you. You are the darkness, and the darkness is you.
I wish I could tell you it will get better. But it will not. At best, it will only become “not as bad.”
Then, in introductory Psychology classes in your first collegiate year, you will come to a realization. You see the monster embedded within the pages of your textbook. Nearby is the darkness. They have names, and the names are not your own.
You are not the monster, you will realize. The monster lives inside, but you are not the monster.
You are not the darkness, you will realize. The darkness lives inside, but you are not the darkness.
You are not the monster.
You are not the darkness.
You did not invite the monster inside. You did not ask for this. The monster’s arrival is not your fault. The darkness is not your fault.
Your mother did not ask for this either. Nor should she ever blame herself for what the monster has done to her. She should never believe she led the monster to you. She should never blame herself for the darkness, for she has only shown you light.
Tell her so.
I’m sorry to say, Scott, the monster will live with you the rest of your life, and the darkness will linger.
Build your arsenal now. Gather your good friends, and hold them close. Strengthen your mind to block out the roars. Hug your mother and father, and tell them you understand. Talk with others who have met the monster, who live within the darkness. Take heart from those who have slain the monster, who are now surrounded by light.
Know that the monster will sometimes win, but make every effort you can to amass more victories than it does. Every victory weakens the monster. Each victory lightens the darkness.
Most of all, try to love you.
Because you are not the monster.
Because you are not the darkness.
You are much, much more.
And you turn out pretty great.
Image credit: joansorolla Creative Commons site/flickr