The Dragon lunged. Tar Beast attacked, cracking a tentacle like a whip that sent me rolling off the bed and onto the floor. I curled up into the foetal position, clutching my weapon near my chest, as the two battled above.
A sense of peace came over me as I quietly pushed up the sleeves of my flannel pyjamas. I brushed the cool metal along my arm, watching as my flesh broke out in raised bumps. Back and forth, I ran it, as I studied my arm, considering. I stopped at the fleshy part of my forearm, just before the elbow. I pressed the thin blade down, watching curiously as the skin parted. A small sting. Nothing much. Then a thin red line appeared, beading like tiny, ruby dewdrops on a spider web.
Relief poured through me, even as the sting intensified. I’d been doing this for two years – sometimes on my arms, sometimes on my thighs – and I was pretty sure nobody had noticed. Nor did I want them to know. They’d be horrified. Even Connie, who was pretty chilled about almost everything, would freak out and I couldn’t handle that. Not that we’re exactly friends, but she’s the closet to one that I have.
I wished I could be like Connie. She isn’t lazy, nor is she immune to feelings. Sure, she smiles a lot, but there are times she cries, has a bad day, gets mad at a teacher or her mom occasionally. I mean, she’s human. But when her last set of marks came out, there was only one seven. The rest were sixes and one five. I could never bring home marks like that. But she’d only shrugged. “Not like I’m going to have a career in Afrikaans, hey? The rest are good enough to go to varsity, so no worries.”
No worries. Imagine having a life like that?
My parents were the first in their families to go to university. They’re lawyers, just like Nelson Mandela was, before he went to prison then became president. Now they dream of a doctor, somebody who can work overseas and help people. “An occupation with a real purpose,” they’ve said. Then they’ll know we – as a family – have finally broken the cycle of poverty. A doctor – and this time, with me, no ‘Madam’ paid for it. Nope, it would be thanks to my parents earning their own way.
But I can’t stand the sight of blood, unless it is my own. The thought of confessing that to my parents – impossible. The anxiety, the fear – these emotions are sweet perfume to the Tar Beast, beckoning it out of the deep muck.
There are only two things that help fight my Tar Beast: my dragon, and cutting.
The action of cutting always releases something inside me that raises my mood, as if there is a magical string connecting the pain in my soul and the pain I create in my skin. As my skin is pierced, the hurts I cannot describe are soothed. These sensations make the physical discomfort worth it.
I welcome it. I yearn for it. I had reached a point where cutting brought me more comfort than any hug. Addicting. Those red, red, beads, those thin, thin, lines. Seductive. But I know it isn’t good.
“What are you doing?” my dragon roared. Its tail snapped, sending my weapon skittering across the room.
A long black tentacle cracked, and my weapon slid back, stopping at my feet.
“Pick it up,” Tar Beast soothed.
“Don’t!” my dragon pleaded.
I reached for it.
Tell us: If you had a friend suffering from anxiety and depression, like Hope, would you be able to help? What could you do?