This morning, during my first scroll through the headlines, I came across a short piece which led me to a most beautiful blog/artsite.

What Toby Allen is doing with Real Monsters is really extraordinary. And, as I looked through the site, I thought ‘this, this is finally going to give me the peg I’ve been searching for’. You see, I need a peg from which I can launch a very serious bit of writing on a really hideous topic.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with this particular subject, my issue was missing – which, in fact, I’ve decided actually does give me the peg I need. The sheer absence of this awful thing says a lot about why it so troubles me.

(I absolutely, positively must note here that this is no way a comment on the brilliant work in Real Monsters. Moreover, the Real Monsters FAQs section clearly states there are many topics yet to be covered. I maintain, in no uncertain terms, that Toby Allen’s work is brilliant and important, and I ask you to remember that often we writers need our ‘pegs’. And, I offer sincere thanks to Toby Allen for creating this work that has allowed me to begin this bit of writing ‘the story of me’.)

With that disclaimer in place. . . .

The headline I’ve referred to caught my eye because it was about an artist who is using images of monsters to portray mental illnesses.

If you’ve experienced a mental illness – and statistics suggest that a very large percentage of us have – you’ll probably find this an incredibly appropriate way to represent the disease. It is monstrous. It can feel as if you are consumed by, well, I hesitate to use the word ‘demons’, because that has so many religious connotations, but, yes, that – demons, beasts, monsters. . . .

What image would represent my particular monsters, I wondered?

Well, there are depression, anxiety, and social anxiety; anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder also are represented.

Oh, I’ve danced with each and every one of these beasts over the years. Some of them visit me still – all of them linger in my memory.

But my particular monster, the one that haunts so many of us, the one that so many of us feel we have to hide away – possibly becoming for all intents and purposes that horrible fiend under the bed – is not there.

Addiction.

How would this evil monstrosity be represented, I wonder. . . .

A beast so heinous its victims must seek treatment in anonymity. A beast so heinous its victims are told they must hit ‘rock bottom’ before they are worthy of redemption. A beast so heinous treatment comes in the form of ‘faith’. A best so heinous that family and friends are allowed to shun its victims.

What monster represents that demon?

Is it the monster you become when you are in the depths of despair. Is it the monster you become when you are searching for, fighting for, begging for the only thing that will soothe the hideousness of being you. Is it the monster you are when you are so desperately miserable inside your own skin that you will do anything – anything – to make it stop. Or is it the monster you become when you decide to just fuck it because everyone is disgusted by your very existence.

I’d actually like to see what that monster looks like.

I’d like to know that that monster doesn’t have to hide away in anonymity.

I’d like to know that there’s some recognition that this monster – in its tiny infant form – can be seen long before its unsuspecting victim first discovers the elixir. The elixir that soothes the beast but kills the victim.

I’d like to know that someone can see that the beast, not its carrier, is the monster.

In the meantime, I shall continue to hide my monster, to secret it away so that I live only in fear of its return and not in fear of the judgement of those around me. I shall continue to mourn the lives lost not just to the monster but to an establishment that would jail it rather than treat it. I shall continue to remind myself on a daily basis that addiction is the monster – I am not the monster.

I am not a monster.