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10:30pm. My wife stood naked in front of me, offering herself.  I was at least self-aware enough to be honest,

No thanks. I’d rather not be accepted right now.

A voice from the past had recently re-entered my home.  It was innocuous on the surface, but completely destabilizing beneath my skin. I continued,

I think I’m going to go down to the kitchen, eat a lot of food I’ll feel guilty about later and then crawl into bed.

I was right about the food, but I didn’t go to sleep.  I was tired enough. But, only half-subconsciously, I wanted Tomorrow Jamin to suffer.  So I stayed up until 2am flipping through a feed I knew I didn’t care about, sabotaging my next day’s mental state, as my subconscious whispered to my finger,

Keep scrolling.  Morning Jamin doesn’t deserve to be well-rested.

I awoke in as terrible a mood as I had in months.

I thought this was all behind me!” I scolded myself, “But you’re just as much a loser as you ever were. One little reminder and you’re back in the gutter? This isn’t ever going away. You’re always one little nudge away from self-destruction.”

When I’m in this kind of funk, I hold to my routines. I don’t want to be alive, so I just cross the things off my list of “What an Alive Person Would Do.”

  • Touch the ground – check.
  • Stretch – check.
  • Meditate – check.
  • Play music – check.

…and it continues. Enough to fill my day and night, holding my lifeless soul up to the light by the scruff of the neck. My lists hold the form of Jamin when it feels there is no skeleton inside to hold me up.  They are the script I follow when I can’t improvise my own humanity.

I begin to meditate but am bombarded by thoughts of self-loathing,

What are you meditating for? How is this going to help? Self-compassion doesn’t make others like you more.  God’s forgiveness is fine, but what does it matter if others won’t forgive you?

It all resonates. The thoughts continue,

You are a failure. It’s just a matter of time until your kids hate you too.

Again, I believe this to be true. But then the voice goes too far,

All your work has been wasted. There is no point. You should kill yourself.

[Record scratch] I’m stunned for a moment.  I quit my guided meditation and pull the earbuds from my ears, thinking, “That seems a bit too much. So, what? I get one reminder of failures from the past and suddenly all my work has been a waste? At least some of the work has been positive. And isn’t it a bit premature to jump back to thoughts of suicide? I am ab-so-lutely vicious toward myself!”  And then it hits me: no, I’m not. I love me.  I’ve worked hard on me.  This voice…is not me. He is a tormentor, speaking fear and depression into my life.

My first instinct is to cut off his head and attempt to return to normal.  But he is stronger than I am, and I know it.  That’s how he got here in the first place.  He knows the back doors into my soul and can live there any time he wants.  No act of will can drive him out.  He owns me.  He possesses me.  He claims he is me, and I usually accept his voice as my own.  He claims he is truth.  I will not beat him by force.  Not in the long term.  I slowly back up, so I can at least see him clearer for a moment.  I am equal parts afraid and intrigued.

“Hi.” I say, if only to differentiate him from me.

Hi.” he says.

“You are a demon.” I say matter-of-factly.  I do not wish to anger him, but I do want to name him.

Maybe,” he says, “but I’m not wrong.

I think he is embarrassed that I realized he was there.

“You fight hard against everything in my life that is good.  You try to tear down all my hope and effort.” He remains silent. Mustering all the compassion I have trained for, I take his side, “You must be very hurt.” Tears well up for each of us, surprising us both.  He takes 4 steps back and it is is now clear that he is definitely not me.

“Why are you here?” I ask.

To protect you,” he replies. “You are doomed.

“Thank you,” I say.  He is too far away to hug, but there is love and genuine appreciation in my heart.  He knows that.  He is my heart. “You have done an excellent job of protecting me. You have been very kind and caring to show up when I needed you.  You are not evil.  I love you .  I needed you.  But I think I can handle this pain now.  I will be handling it differently than you would this time, but you are welcome back any time.  Now that I know you, I will recognize you as a friend next time you show up.  You have an important skill – you are so attuned to danger.  I will always make room for your warnings.”

We both cry and he sighs a heavy sigh. He has been so vigilant for so many years now. He has worked hard.  But he has had to babysit a boy.  Now he gets to work with a man. Moving forward, we will both be better for having each other.

Thank God for the demons.  He made them too.