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The Squeeze

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Estimated reading time — 13 minutes

The fear has been with me for as long as I can remember. I don’t know if I was born scared, or whether the fear first came to me during my childhood. Nature or nurture? Or perhaps it’s something deeper and more difficult to comprehend. In a way, it doesn’t actually matter.

The odd thing is how I can’t really explain what causes it. What is it that I’m afraid of? Failure? Showing weakness? People judging me? Or perhaps I just can’t stand the thought of letting people down…of being a disappointment, racked with guilt for the rest of my days.

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A great leader once said – ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’. A good philosophy. I wish I could live by it, but unfortunately its not so simple. And of course, mental health professionals will tell you that fear is a perfectly natural response to stress or danger – the fight, flight or freeze reflex.

I suppose its imprinted into our DNA. Its how our brain reacts, an instinct that we can’t control. But – for people like me – the fear, guilt and self-loathing can become overwhelming, so much so that the depression and anxiety we feel becomes crippling, preventing us from living our lives or functioning at even the most basic level.

Over the years I’ve suffered from these negative emotions almost constantly. Medication and support helps, and there have been times and even extended periods when I’ve felt content or even happy. But I can never fully get rid of the fear. It’s a monkey on my back that I can’t shake off.

The story I’m going to recount here isn’t an easy one to tell. The incident was the worst time of my life, and I count myself very lucky to have survived it. I’ve experienced acute mental health episodes before of course – periods when I’ve felt so low that I couldn’t wash, eat, or even get out of bed for days at a time. Nevertheless, I always knew I could get through these dark periods and come out the other side.

But what happened to me last year went way beyond anything I’d ever suffered before. It was as if all my worst fears and nightmares came to pass all at once, and I was no longer fighting demons inside of my own head. For those terrifying couple of days, I was stalked and terrorized by a monster that was all too real.

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Was this beast a physical manifestation of my depression and paranoia, or an actual demon sent from the depths of hell to torment me? I cannot say for sure, but nevertheless I think its important that I tell my story, if only to give hope to others facing the darkness. Because, no matter how bad things get, there’s always a way back.

I was at rock bottom when the beast came for me. My long-term partner had left me following a messy break-up and I fell into a pit of despair and self-pity. I couldn’t function properly and missed a lot of work. Eventually my employer let me go, and with no job to go to, I no longer had a reason to get out of bed in the mornings.

I was completely isolated by this point, barely leaving the house and not speaking with friends or family. At the time I felt like everyone had turned against me. This wasn’t the case of course. There were still people who cared about me, but I’d cut them out of my life, refusing to take their calls or respond to their messages.

Again, it’s a hard thing to explain. Part of me feared they would judge me, telling me to stop being weak and pull myself together…which of course I could not do. On the other hand, I rationalized that they were better off without me, because I was nothing more than a burden and embarrassment, and so it would be preferable if I disappeared from their lives altogether.

Once you fall into that pit, it’s difficult to pull yourself back out again, and the longer it goes on for, the worse it gets. Nothing could make me feel better – none of the crutches or addictions I’d previously relied on – drugs, alcohol, lust, escapism…nothing worked.

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I spent most of my time in bed, sleeping for 12 to 18 hours a day. Sleep was the only escape I had, the only peace I could find. The world of dreams and memories of better times brought me some respite, but it never lasted. The worst part was waking up. This was when I remembered who I was and all the problems I had, and then the fear would hit me like a ton of bricks.

The pressure I would experience in that harsh moment of reality would be intense, making me feel like a tube of toothpaste being squeezed ever so tightly. I would lie in bed with the duvet pulled over my head, physically shaking and flinching at every slight noise outside of my bedroom window. I didn’t wash, and I barely ate. And anything that did pass my lips wouldn’t stay down, because my stomach was twisted in knots.

This went on for several days, and my mental state only deteriorated as time went by. Before long my paranoia kicked in. I’d run out of food and essential supplies, but I couldn’t leave the house even to go to the shops. I thought that people were out to get me, that they would stare at me in the streets, judging me and talking about me in whispered tones, saying I was disgusting and pathetic. I feared I would be spat upon and physically attacked if I stepped outside my front door.
I stopped going online too, fearing the trolling, abuse and threats that would inevitably follow, as the keyboard warriors sought me out to pile on the hatred.

All I wanted to do was hide away under my covers and forget the rest of the world existed. But there was no escape for me.
Things took a more sinister turn on day five. That morning I worked up enough courage to peek through my bedroom curtains, hoping that the sunlight would awaken something inside of me. But I could not see the sun, or anything else for that matter. Instead, there was a low and close mist, so thick that I couldn’t even see the far side of the street.

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It was an odd phenomenon, a bizarre pattern of weather that I hadn’t expected to witness. In retrospect, I should have realised there was something unnatural and ominous about the thick and stifling mist, but on that morning, I felt a strange sense of calm. The mist seemed like a cloak, protecting me, and sheltering me from the cruel world beyond.
For a brief time I felt just a little bit safer, but of course it did not last. I slept most of the day, drifting in and out of consciousness, finding brief periods of peace and respite before the inevitable pangs of anxiety and self-loathing returned with a vengeance.

It was after dusk before I opened my curtains again. The mist hadn’t lifted. If anything, it had grown thicker, appearing like a dense fog that would choke out all light and life, if left unchecked. I felt decidedly uneasy when looking upon that darkened scene. It was different from the morning. I no longer felt safe and protected. Instead, I feared what may be hiding within the fog, using it as a cover to plan an assault upon my safe haven.

I wanted to draw the curtains and retreat back to my bed, but for some reason I couldn’t remove myself from the window, and so I scanned the shrouded street, searching for someone or something…but for what, I could not say. After a few minutes I spotted something moving behind the mist, a dark shadow of immense size, shifting slowly but purposefully on the far side of my usually quiet suburban street.

I couldn’t make out who or what it was, only that he was big and lumbering; a menacing figure circling the perimeter, searching for weakness…looking for a way in. I found myself frozen in fear, too terrified to avert my gaze or move away from the window.

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Eventually, the shadowy figure left, melting away into the mist and apparently disappearing as quickly as it had emerged. I wasn’t convinced, however. Somehow, I realised it was still out there, lurking somewhere just out of sight. It would be back. I was certain of it.

Finally, I moved away from the window, drawing the curtains tightly. In my panicked state I tried to work out what to do next. I considered calling the police, but I couldn’t face switching on my phone, as I feared what would await me, imagining a deluge of abusive message and comments from anonymous online trolls.

For reasons I could not explain, the thought of making a phone call and of speaking to another human being scared me even more than the shadowy interloper stalking the streets. And besides, what would I tell them? The police would surely think I was crazy, and maybe they’d be right. So, in the end I did what I always did…Nothing. Instead of reaching out for help, I retreated back to my bed and hid my head under the covers, seeking solace in the world of my dreams.

I don’t know what time I awoke. I think it was the next morning, but it could have been the afternoon. To be honest, I no longer had much of a concept of time. The first thing I became aware of was the smoke in my room – or at least I initially assumed it was smoke. I found I could not breathe because the air was so dense and stifling.

I thought my house was on fire, but I could see no flames. Coughing and spluttering as I sat up in my bed, I struggled to adjust my eyes to my changed environment. In a panic, I made my way to the window and drew back the curtains. The fog was all encompassing now, so dense that I couldn’t see two foot in front of me. I soon realised that the mist had entered my bedroom, somehow permeating through my double-glazed windows and solid brick walls.

I covered my mouth and nose with my hand, coughing as I struggled to breathe. I retched, feeling like I was going to be sick, but there was nothing inside my stomach to bring up. I couldn’t believe this was happening. This had been my safe haven, my retreat from the cruelty of the outside world…but no more.

Whatever this was, it had broken through…the mist was choking me, squeezing me to death within my last refuge. My whole body shook uncontrollably as I retreated, wrapping myself tightly in my duvet, covering my head in the vain hope that the thin material would offer me some level of protection.

I shrouded myself in darkness; whimpering softly and telling myself it was going to be okay…that I would get through this. I would have prayed if I believed in God, but my bleak nihilistic world view had taken that option away from me. I felt myself fading away as the darkness took me, and I drifted out of consciousness.

I knew it was night time when I next awoke. Even after I removed the duvet cover from my head, the world was still cloaked in darkness. It seemed to me like the last rays of light had been sucked out of existence. I shivered and coughed as I emerged from my bed. The fog now filled up my room, and I struggled to take every breath.

The stench was awful too. I hadn’t washed in several days, so it would be fair to say that my sweaty body smelt pretty ripe by this point. But it wasn’t just me. My nostrils were overwhelmed by the foul odour of what smelt like rotting flesh. The vile stench of death was all around me. I couldn’t escape it, nor could I identify its origin. I dry heaved into the waist bin, unable to bring anything up, but still feeling the fear and pain as my whole body trembled.

I don’t know why, but I knew I needed to go to the window, to look out and see what was out there…to witness the foul beast that I knew was coming for me. I slowly reached for the curtain with my shaking hand, sheepishly pulling it back to reveal what awaited me behind the thin pane of glass.

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The fog was as thick as ever, and yet I could clearly see the figures emerging from the mist, walking towards my home with a steadfast determination, entirely focused upon their target…which of course was me.

I felt raw terror pulsating through me as I saw them clearly for the first time – an army of zombie-like ghouls moving with purpose, their pale skin, bloodshot eyes and sadistic grins chilling me to my very bones. But these weren’t strangers. I knew each and every one of them – schoolyard bullies, ex partners, former bosses, and estranged family members. They were all people from my life, people who’d hurt me in some way or another.

Seeing them all again brought all the painful memories flooding back. But these weren’t just people anymore. They’d been transformed into something much worse – a wicked army under the control of an entity that was truly evil. I dreaded to think what hellish being could have brought all these troubled souls together, but it wasn’t long before the hideous creature decided to reveal itself.

What walked out of the mist was like something from a nightmare, or perhaps what nightmares originally came from. The monster’s horrifying appearance encompassed my very worst fears, like it was a physical manifestation of my primal terrors, or an unnatural monstrosity that could have been stitched together by Dr Frankenstein himself.

It stood tall, at over 7 foot in height, walking on two sturdy bird-like legs, both adorned with razor-sharp talons. Inexplicably, its body and torso were those of a black bear, covered in a thick matted fur, with powerful arms extending to form a grotesque embrace, claws ready to rip and tear. I looked up to its hideous face and was left breathless by what I saw.

The monster had a protruding snout filled with rows of sharp crocodile-like teeth, and its eyes…those demonic eyes, burning a hellish shade of red. Its sadistic glare cut right through me, as if the beast was staring directly into my very soul.
The zombie-like drones halted their grim death march and cleared a path for their master, allowing the monster to stride forward, its hateful eyes focused entirely upon me. The wicked servants smiled cruelly as their master led the way, and the monster laughed, emitting a sadistic cackle that filled the air…reverberating through the once peaceful street and terrifying me more than anything I’d experienced up to that point.

I couldn’t bear it anymore and so retreated from the window, hoping against hope that I could shut these monstrosities away. I told myself that they wouldn’t be able to enter, that they couldn’t infiltrate my home. But of course, I was dead wrong.

I heard a loud banging on my front door that made me jump, and a moment later I trembled in terror as I heard it swing open. It was inside my house, having breached my defenses with virtually no effort expended. This was fight or flight, except I had nowhere to run and no energy to defend myself. Instead I froze, cowering in the corner, cradling my body in the fetal position.

I listened in horror as the beast tore through the corridor of my small bungalow, its talons ripping up the carpet floor, and its deep bellowing laughter bouncing off the walls. It soon reached my bedroom door, standing on the far side, with only the thin wood between me and the vicious beast.

There was no lock on the door and I had no means of defending myself. My brain was running at a hundred miles per hour and finally I burst into action, jumping up and grabbing my phone from the bedside table, before darting across the room and jumping into my closet, slamming the door shut behind me, as I curled up into a ball and cowered in the dark.
It was pathetic – I knew as much. The monster would soon find and destroy me. Of course it would. It was like I were a defeated army, constantly retreating before eventually being cornered, and making a pitiful last stand against an undefeatable enemy. I took long deep breaths, the sweat pouring from my every orifice and my whole body shaking uncontrollably as I awaited my inevitable fate.

The beast kicked open the bedroom door, and I felt the terrible thud as it brutally invaded my sanctuary. Its deep cruel cackle was deafening now, and the foul stench it brought with it overwhelmed my nostrils. I felt like I was going to pass out. Perhaps this would be a fitting end to my miserable existence, I thought. Like a coward, I’d spent my whole life running away from things, hiding away from everything unpleasant and frightening. But now the brutal world had come for me, and I had nowhere left to run or hide.

The monster was on the other side of the closet now, its sharp talons clicking against the floor. I could see the huge shadow it cast through the gap underneath the door. It had stopped laughing, instead breathing heavily as it stood in front of the closet, preparing itself for the final assault.

I don’t know why it delayed launching its attack. I suppose it was toying with me, prolonging my misery for its own sadistic pleasure. I couldn’t stop thinking of its sharp claws and teeth, of what it would do to me…tearing and ripping me to shreds and feasting upon my raw flesh.

Did I deserve this fate? Had I done anything so bad as to justify being killed in such a savage way? I could not say, but I’ll admit to being afraid of death. Sure, I had considered suicide before, but obviously I’d never gone through with it. During my worst bouts of depression, I’d often felt like I didn’t deserve to live. But now death was staring me in the face, I wanted to survive.

My memory of what happened next is something of a blur. I do remember experiencing a burst of adrenaline as I reached for my phone and switched it on with a shaking and sweaty finger. I thought perhaps it wasn’t too late to call for help, that maybe I could still be saved. The device came to life, illuminating the inside of the closet with its artificial glow.
Simultaneously, the monster emitted a low growl, and I heard it slowly twisting the door handle, preparing to enter. I realised then that there wouldn’t be time to call the police or anyone else for that matter. I would be dead meat within a matter of seconds.

But then the strangest thing happened. My phone had been off for a few days by this stage as I’d intentionally cut myself off from everyone. So, seconds after I switched it on, I was inundated with delayed messages and notifications.
Needless to say, I wasn’t able to read all the texts in that tense and deadly moment, as I expected to meet a grisly end within mere seconds, but the messages I scanned were not judgmental or full of spite…quite the opposite in fact. They were from my friends and family, the people who loved and cared about me. And they were genuinely concerned – asking how I was, offering their support, and begging me to pick up the phone.

Suddenly it dawned on me. They really did care for me, and they wanted me to fight this…to survive and come back to them. But was it already too late for me? I held my breath as the snarling beast turned the handle, the closet door slowly creeping open to expose the horror that stood on the far side.

I braced myself for the end, but it didn’t come. Instead, the beast shrieked out in pain, rapidly pulling back from the closet door, acting as if it had been shot by a rifle or impaled with a sharpened spear. I heard the rapid click of talons against the floor as the monster fled, quickly exiting my bedroom and tearing through the cottage before escaping via the front door.
I was astonished by this sudden change in fortune and still feared it was all some kind of elaborate trick. Therefore, it was some time before I felt brave enough to leave my hiding place. But, when I finally did emerge, I discovered the mist had lifted, and my bedroom was as it should be, with the monster evidently long gone.

When satisfied, I shakingly stood up on my two feet and made my way to the window, pulling back the curtain and experiencing an immense relief when the morning sunlight touched my skin. For the first time in days, I felt like a human being once again. After savoring that blissful moment, I reached for my phone, knowing that I had a lot of calls to make.
After the incident I received support from my loved ones and sought professional help. The doctors told me the monster wasn’t real, that it was a paranoid delusion brought on by my condition. I didn’t argue the point, but I knew this wasn’t the case. The damage to my carpet and deep claw marks left on my bedroom floor were proof enough for me.

The beast is real, and its still out there. It feeds on despair and self-loathing and comes for you when you’re at your lowest point. I’ve no doubt that it would have killed me if I hadn’t switched my phone on at the last moment. The messages of support and love brought hope to my heart, and this hurt the beast, forcing it to retreat.

I know it will be back one day. Right now, I’m feeling okay, but depression doesn’t have a permanent cure, and I know I’ll face new challenges in the future, suffering reversals and disappointments that will bring on dark days. But I also know

I’m strong enough to defeat it, as long as I have good people willing to fight in my corner.
So, if you’re feeling as low as I did, my message to you is this – keep fighting and remember you’re not on your own. Because the beast can only take you if you let it in.

Credit : Woundlicker

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