"I am sick of haunting myself from within like an old house." - Erica Jong, from 'Bitter Herb," Witches
It has always been easier to point at the ways I am haunted, point my finger at the specters lingering in the woods around me, shadows from people, places, and stories.
Watching them from a tiny opening in the drapes was easier, and I did everything I could to stay protected, safe, and quiet enough so they wouldn't come any closer. But they were always so fast, so close,
Too close, no matter how still I made myself.
These hauntings were coming from inside the house. Always. From inside my heart. These ghosts were figures of imagination, internalization, and traumatization. They moved my head in certain directions, and wanted so badly to stay hidden.
I made excuses for the knocking and the crashing of dishes. I put on a white noise machine and swept up the shards. I closed the doors to the most haunted rooms, the ones full of trauma and jump scares, the moments that stayed alive no matter how many therapy sessions I threw at them. No matter how many times I tried to cleanse them with EMDR and another coping strategy.
I don't know who built this place anymore. Inherited, gifted, granted, and given. It doesn't really matter when you lived her as long as I have. It doesn't really matter when you are the one with the keys and the locks and the way out, but you stay in all the time.
I've pushed more spiderwebs out of my face as I leaned down to avoid the parts that wanted me to scream. But I was so good at pretending I saw nothing. So good at laughing and then shaking when no one could see.
I got so jumpy from the narrow hallways. I became so good at closing my eyes. I got so good at pretending none of it was scary at all. Because I was haunting myself. I kept walking on the creaky boards and leaving the fake blood in the closet.
I kept slamming the doors and listening to the echoes keep me awake all night. I was planning all of the themes and the threats. I'd learned them so well that I didn't have to ask anyone for help.
Sneaking up on my own shadow was exhausting. Cortisol like a chainsaw, like an axe, like a distorted mask. Nervous system in shambles, shrunken and sore.
I had to board up the door or open all the locks. I had to open the windows and turn down the spooky music. Un-haunting is time consuming. And if I close my eyes and get really quiet, I can still hear the screaming.
I know you only get out of the haunting by following the signs. And there are always signs, sometimes painted in reflective paint so you can always find them in the dark. All I had to do was open my eyes and follow the arrows to the exit. I asked the ghosts for the way out.
I asked the ghosts for the map, for the trick and the treat. I asked for the emergency exit. I asked to be done. And the possession turned its head all the way around. Looked in my eyes and cocked its head. My head. My eyes.
All I had to do was ask. All I had to do was admit I didn't know.
I didn't know, but I was willing to try.
I make friends with ghosts these days. Because I know what it's like to haunt myself. Because I don't want to startle myself into hiding anymore. Because what shakes the lights and flickers the candle can just ask for my attention.
And I will sit and listen. I stop all the haunting.