“Well, hello old friend.I haven’t seen you in a long while. Welcome back, have a seat.” I wave my hand towards the couch in what I hope looks like a welcoming gesture. My voice cracks as I greet the being that has appeared next to me as I sit at my desk. I try to smile through my confusion, trying to remember who this being is that feels so familiar yet looks so foreign. “Something is different about you… I can’t quite put my finger on it…How have you been?” “Oh I’ve been here quite a while of late, you just haven’t noticed me.” the being answers, a slight grin on its lips. “Do you like my new look? I had to change things up to make it in to see you. For a while there you weren’t answering when I knocked. Then one day when I came around, not for anything important, just for a wee visit, just wanted to say hi and spend some time with one of my favourite people….imagine my shock to discover that you didn’t even notice that I was here!” its grin was gone now, replaced with a deep stare that was less than comfortable to gaze into. The realization slowly creeps up inside of me. Realization of who this being is. Realization that they are, in fact, back inside of my carefully guarded sanctuary. Back inside where I thought I had banished them from being. “I wasn’t trying to ignore you” I stammer in a hasty reply. “I didn’t see you, so sorry.” I shuffle my feet, trying to look innocent of its claims of my deception. I continue on, muttering, “Life has been so busy. I moved, found a new place, started a new job….in my excitement and busyness, I...I must have missed noticing you. I’ve had so much going on...Yes, that was all it was.” I smile, trying to appear warm and sincere. I stand from my desk and face the being, “Then when I hadn’t heard from you in so long, I thought maybe you were busy, gone away maybe…” I cast my eyes to the floor in an attempt to hide my true feelings. The being laughs robustly and throws its arms wide. “I would never leave you… you’re one of my favourite people to be with!!” It comes forward and wraps its arms around me, holding me close. I do my best not to shrink from its grasp. “We’ve been best friends for as long as I - or you - can recall. Why, I’m the longest relationship that you’ve ever had!” The being pulls back from our embrace ever so slightly. Just enough to look deep into my eyes. “Did you think I would abandon you? Leave you? Never, my love!” It smirks as it releases me entirely from our closeness and starts to circle around me, trailing its fingertips on me, leaning in closely and whispering in my ear. “You’ve kept me on my toes lately...oh my, but have you. All my usual ways to say ‘hi’ went unnoticed.” It comes full circle to stand in front of me, placing its hands on my shoulders and nodding once before stepping back, crossing its arms and addressing me once again in its beguiling voice, the one that haunts my nightmares. “I must admit - I have had moments of deep pride watching how well you’re found ways to ignore me. It never took this much effort before to make you notice me.” The being nods again and curls up in the corner of my couch. Settling in. “Thanks.” I blush a little as I answer, confused. “But I haven’t done anything differently lately. I hadn’t even noticed that you were trying to visit? How could I have been pushing you away? Ignoring you?” Raucous laughter issues forth from the being. Emanating from it with a booming volume that makes me grab my head and want to hide. “You really are one of my best works of art, aren’t you?” It claps its hands together and grins. “So entrenched in it now, after all these years, that it’s taken you months this time around to even realize that you’re treading water and barely keeping your head above the water line. So purposely disconnected from yourself. You’ve done a better job on yourself than even I usually do!” It springs up from the couch, paces back and forth in front of me, its smile growing ever wider. “No idea that you’ve been pulling out every coping mechanism - and even finding some news ones - to ignore me. That’s why I’ve had to be so crafty this time.” “But I haven’t been depressed.” I replied, my voice is a little higher and a little shakier than I hoped it would come out. I continue on, “The compulsions and thoughts have been so good… I’ve been busy and productive, but not manic… I’ve kept an eye on myself for all those things” Now I was pacing, convincing myself that my words were true even while I doubted them as they left my lips. “I’ve been good. In control. Managing.” I start to panic a little as I think back over the last few months… The being steps towards me, grabbing me roughly by my shoulders to stop me. Bringing its face close enough that I could feel its breath, it asks, “When did you notice that you were hiding it from yourself and not only from everyone else?” “Was it tonight when you realized that you haven’t watched a movie without playing on your phone in months? That you couldn’t?” “Was it last night in bed when your podcast ended and you were still awake and the silence was too much and your heartbeat was too loud so you had to start another one to drown it all out so that you could fall asleep?” “Was it at 6am this morning as you frantically cleaned your bathroom and kitchen...telling yourself that it was healthy to clean and stay busy? Telling yourself (when the whispers grew louder) that you weren’t doing it to be in control - it’s just house cleaning….jeepers, can’t a girl clean her house without it being a thing??” “Was it tonight when that thought popped into your head when you were cutting up vegetables and you realized that you had the same thought yesterday when you were cutting a bagel?” “Was it when you realized that you didn’t want to think it - but you couldn’t help it? That you couldn’t stop it - even after you wrapped the knife in a cloth and put it away in the drawer instead of the knife block… haven’t done THAT trick in about a dozen years - have you? It was then wasn’t it?” The being releases me and spins about on its heels, laughing rapturously. “That was when you glanced my way finally and saw me. I saw it in your eyes - you saw me and you knew. I know, because I saw the fear cross your face.” The being was beaming now. Its face alight with glee and victory. “Do you feel it right now? When we’re trying to have a nice, polite conversation and you won’t stop playing music loud enough to make your ears ring as you try to drown me out? You know that you never listen to music when you write…This alone should be enough to make you realize that things are back in swing.” The being saunters away slightly, leaning its back against the door as I stare at the floor. “You must really not want to hear me. Go ahead… I’ll let you be for tonight. I’ll let you sit in your denial a while longer. It’s been a good visit, we can talk more another time….Trust me - I’m patient - and I can get louder.” I look up to speak but the being has gone, leaving only a shadow where it had stood.