Madness runs in my family.

My mother assures me that its power dilutes with each generation, so the worst I might experience is some anxiety or depression. I hope she’s right.

Because I’ve seen it for myself.

I’ve felt its insidious pull in the darkest corners of my mind. It rides waves of sadness and anger to the edge of my consciousness and whispers to me, You’re not good enough. Stupid girl. Worthless girl.

I heard it the loudest when I was a child, playing the violin. The very act of practicing, and for so many hours at a time, left open gaping wounds of mistakes through which the madness could seep.

Even now, it magnifies my faults and diminishes my triumphs. You’ll never be good enough. Stupid girl. Worthless girl. It can pull me under, drowning me in a whirlpool of my own self-pity.

Spitting me out onto a desolate landscape.

Stairway to Hell
Photo by Josh Van Cann
It’s easy to get lost here. Time moves differently in this place. Some people, desperate to escape, cut or starve their living bodies, so their souls can feel their way back to the world.

Luckily, I know a secret way out.

While I was caught in the wasteland as a child, I learned that the more I denied the madness, the stronger it would become; so I gave it a voice. I said the words out loud and listened with my ears to how silly they sounded: “You’ll never be good enough? Stupid girl? WORTHLESS girl? Ha!”

It was then that I discovered that the madness shrinks back when it sees its own reflection.

It used to be that I had to follow the dark path all the way down to the bottom before finding my strength. But now I leave signposts for myself. When the madness strikes, and I find myself falling inexorably into that labyrinth of despair, I reach out and find a thread.

I tug the thread and it tugs back and it hums with life and love. I follow it back to the world.


And the madness recedes.

And waits.

This week’s Indie Ink challenge came from Jason Hughes:

The monster from your childhood that haunts you to this day, and how it still affects how you live…

You can read MyPlaidPants‘ response to my challenge here before the end of the week.

And I promise, I’ll have something happier to write later this week.

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  • Lee Seahy

    I adored this. I am amazed at how close all of what you wrote is to the monstrous little creatures eating at my core o___o This is almost scary. I haven’t got a solution like that, I’ve been on and off cutting for more than a year now. It’s this other person that takes over. Madness, in itself, strong enough to be a personality… I can hear it in here, or at least my madness echoes from this. Lovely work. And yeah, this was Lilu… it put the other name I use on here instead… XD

  • Maren – to give madness a voice is a true act of bravery for we stand alone when we do that, with only ourself to rely on when things get ugly. It takes a great deal of confidence to stand up to our monsters and I commend you on your courage. This was a very raw and honest piece, thank you for sharing it.

  • Marian

    i have been known to chase that madness with other madness, i guess that’s how addiction works. thank you for sharing this, maren. i only needed one cup of coffee to take it in 🙂

  • Lilu, it’s not easy, as you know. Be strong. Try not to get lost. Keep thinking about the people who love you…because you ARE loved. That’s what gives me strength.

  • I do love that you give it a voice. Then you can leave bread crumbs. Better than pretending it isn’t a real possibility.

  • Trish

    Sadly, I know this monster too well. Very well written and moving.

  • Wendryn

    I love the idea of the thread tugging back, humming with life and love. I’ve had my voices, too – my father’s mother telling me that I was ever good enough, mostly. I never thought of it as madness, but it fits. There are days that I can’t find my way out. My response is generally to just go to sleep, though, and it eventually gets better. I’m glad you have a more conscious, tangible way of handling it.

  • “Giving the madness a voice” really struck me. Love it.

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  • Sir

    This is such an accurate explanation of how depression drags us under if we let it. And I absolutely love the concept of leaving signposts on the way out to remind ourselves of the path, knowing that we’ll inevitably be back. Doing so proves that we love ourselves despite our insistence otherwise. This was just amazingly done.

  • Jason Hughes

    What a beautiful answer to the challenge! Dark, yet still beautiful! Nicely done!

  • moving. painful and hopeful at the same time. were you talking about my monsters? i could have sworn you were. beautiful writing. i love this line: “It was then that I discovered that the madness shrinks back when it sees its own reflection.”ni hear you.

  • Feelings affect the thoughts. Bad feelings are monsters. We each have to find way to make thoughts affect the feeling instead. Lovely way to deal with this monster.

  • Intense and a brave truth. A very moving piece that really shone through with encouragement. I hope you are proud of your powerful prose and beautiful and honest strength.