Off the Shelf
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Editor’s note: The author’s identity has been withheld by the in-Training Editorial Board due to the sensitive nature of the article.

I first met you at age 13.

You hid behind a
camouflage of naivety.
I didn’t know your name, but
you knew mine.
I didn’t know who you were, but
you knew me.
Your presence was palpable.

“Dad, why don’t you want to do things
with me anymore?”

“I’m just too tired,”
He would say,
rolling back into bed.
He stayed there all day.

I thought that I understood you at age 21.

This time, you greeted me using
the cover of various strangers I called

Our meetings were temporary,
lasting only minutes at a time.
Though fleeting,
I thought I knew who you were.

Your disguise was unveiled by
the scribbled diagnosis
on a patient’s chart–

Our encounters remained brief
as I transported you to
psychiatric facilities.
For some, your presence was
I wondered how much
despair it took for you to lead others into
severing the fraying string of their life.

We began an intimate relationship at age 23.

Embarrassment and pride
drove us even closer.
At first, I denied you.
I kept our relationship
a secret for a long time.

Our bond made me feel
My mind suffocated under
your relentless grip,
as I tried to break free
of the thoughts you
trapped in me.

I was drowning
in your
endless sea
of negativity.
Choking on every wave that
crashed over me,
I lost the mental strength
to swim to the surface.

I gasped for my last breath.
As the water filled my lungs,
I cried out–
“You are destroying me!”

I could then no longer deny you.
Surrendering defeat
in a long-fought battle,
I realized that I could no longer
swim parallel to the shore.

My lifesaver made of escitalopram
and therapy floated towards me.
After swimming for so long,
I had finally found refuge.
I stood firmly
with my feet on the ground.

I am now at age 24.

Sometimes you walk past me,
itching to say hello.
Your subtleties tend to entice me,
but never for long.
I refuse to return to battle
when I have already
won the war.

For those who have survived you,
I commend them.
For those still fighting you,
I tell them that you
are not an impossible foe.
Keep fighting.
Keep swimming.
The shore may be near or far,
but it is there.
It is waiting for you.

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