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The Demon That Hunts During The Day

by Anna Kerst 2 months ago in recovery

Slaying the black dog that hunted me throughout my life

Photo by Angel Luciano on Unsplash

Statistics are just numbers right. How about this statistic - suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians, a bigger killer than car accidents (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014). Statistics are always just a number until that number impacts you and your family. I was lucky not to become just another figure on the page, the sad reality is that there are other women and men out there that will. Some call it the noonday demon, the black dog, the fog, or a hole in the script. I have been hounded by the demon, stalked by the dog, and have fallen into the deepest hole possible in my life. Only now can I see the light, only now I can see that despite being lonely, we are never alone in that battle, we all have our own demons which should be fought arm in arm with our neighbour. This is my story, my battle.

My mother never explained to me about suicide or dying when I told her I wanted to just keep riding out onto the highway in front of the trucks when I was 10. I didn't even know that word, suicide, all I knew was wanting to escape the pain, then I knew her anger, my rejection, and being made to write 100 times I will not take the easy way out.

So a few months later, when late one holiday night, in the car with just Dad after a lovely day in the forest planting his marijuana, he whispered to me “I have thought about killing you and your brother, and them myself”. I only felt rejection. Rejection that another person once again didn’t love me. Only age showed that his thoughts were one of love, not rejection. He loved me so much he didn’t want me to suffer. Some days, I wish he did live up to his dark fantasy. Other days, I nearly completed the job for him.

Mother Teresa said that the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved. Yet still, people say, chin up others have it worse than you. You picture people that are living in war zones, in famine and starving, you see in your mind people dying from aids and malaria. This only adds to the crushing weight of guilt. Mark Brazaitis (2012, p.1) describes his pain and the act of people trying to tell him it will get better as ‘the equivalent of telling a terminal cancer patient she can look forward to a long life.’ Sylvia Plath (1963, p.178) in The Bell Jar tried to explain ‘Because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.’

This fragment of one of my poems tries to explain my pain:

The pain inside can never be explained

Where does one try to start?

The coldness no fire can thaw

The blackness no light can expel

The ache no painkiller can banish

The sadness no cuddle can cure

The madness, standing just at the door

At 15 years old I was sick of running from the black dog and fighting the noonday demon. Poison, smelling so sweet. I had it ready, I smelt its promise, but I was not brave enough to do it. I wanted the pain dead but was not willing to kill all of me to do it. Into the arms of my best friend Linda I ran. Curled in a ball, crying and mewling. I cried, I can’t stand it. She cried, she didn't understand it. Linda never cries, the thirteen years I have known her, I have seen her cry twice. Her first heartbreak and that day, that day she saved her best friend from the final escape.

By the turbulent age of 16, the volcano burst. How do you contain pain, anger, hurt, confusion year after year? You can’t. The result left devastation on my skin with my arms and legs paying the price of trying to exorcise my demon. 16, I discovered the joys of cutting. At 16, I managed to leave over 200 scars to show that the battle was being fought.

I would often wonder what peace was like, what the light at the end of the tunnel was, the sun shining out of the abyss. What is that mythical thing called happiness? Called love?

I’d heard great things about it, things that made me want it, made me want to continue through the fog till I got it. But I didn't know if I could find the strength. Didn't know if I could make it out of bed.

When my mother sees my arms, she screams “Suicide is selfish”,

I cry back “It’s selfish for people who have never experienced this hell to make us live in it’.

For hell it is. Every step was like walking a mile, with lead in your shoes. There were days they refused to move at all and I didn’t make it out of bed. Selfish is not thinking about the person that just committed, their pain, but thinking only of your own. On the other hand, it is heartbreaking to know that so many people are in such pain that they need to take this escape, can we not find another way?

“Is there something I can do to help you?” A simple sentence coupled with a warm invitation to tea has saved over 160 potential jumpers at the popular suicide spot in Sydney (Kwek 2012). Some call him Don Ritchie others the Angel of The Gap. According to Kwek (2012) one person a week still jumps and the families wonder how they could leave them behind. When I wanted to die, all I could think about was escaping the pain. In the fog - very rarely do people penetrate - you are alone, even when surrounded by people. In the fog, in suicide, you do not leave behind people, for there is no one there, you leave only the pain.

Labels – self-harm or suicide? I think self-harm has a very enigmatic sound to it, like when you call cooked cow, beef. Looking at it, the majority of the top causes of death are all self-harm related. We all kill ourselves, some fast, some slow, whether with a gun, pill, or mars bars dripping in fat, soda spiking sugar levels. Kill our pain with hamburgers that spark our reward systems and fill the hole that we feeling in our abdomen. Alcohol, to figure out an answer but really drinking till we forget the question. We all want to die, to escape, some just choose to do it quickly by their own hand.

The day before my 17th birthday, I was rebellious and on family holidays trying not to be me. I was tortured, I was boiling, and I was trying to stop the outflow of emotions. I was failing. 10 little pills slid down my throat - travacalm. It was the rage to take one or two before a party. I needed to be out of it in order to not let it - the monster - out. The pills made me out of it but did not stop it from coming out. I never thought they would do what they did. Two hours after taking them I had to shower to try and stop the world from spinning. I walked out naked. I was hallucinating, I was angry, I was confused - does this canned spam go in the fridge or cupboard? I recall the TV playing Irish river dancing but my mother not too nicely informed me I was looking at the road. What is a road? I woke up alive and get asked to leave. Writing this now I am heartbroken. How close was I to the final release? I do not know as no one took me to the hospital or called a doctor. Maybe I wasn’t the only one that couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel for me?

You are weird, no one will ever love you - is scrawled all through my diaries, were they my words or my step-fathers?

At 19 years old, technically an adult, I was still playing a hectic game of chase with the reaper. Reckless, I dare him to take me. Careful, I do not dare him too much. At 19, I gave my arm over, watched the needle enter. Hammer, horse, heroin. My friend’s new release, it’s supposed to be seductive, try it with me she said. Standing up, my vision rolled up and around like the analog TVs did when they have bad reception. The reception between my body and mind was experiencing transmittal difficulties. I took two steps and vomited. Ten minutes later, lying on the train seat, Rat and Jimmy were talking in hushed tones, worried.

Rat whispers “How much did you give her?”

Jimmy shrugged “The same amount as you”

In disbelieve, Rat scowled “The same as me, what were you thinking, you know that I’ve developed a tolerance for this!”

“I didn't want her to feel left out, or that I was ripping her off, I treated her the same as you” Jimmy sounded sincere in his want to be nice.

With blue lips, fluttering eyes, spewing my life away - I nearly got what I wanted, love and kindness, to be killed by love and kindness.

According to Germov and Poole (2011, pp. 20-35) Emile Durkheim in the 19th century wasn't afraid to use the word suicide, wasn't afraid of the stigma, of the silence surrounding it. On the contrary, he faced it and found some interesting social trends. Women committed suicide more frequently than men, yet the males completed the job more thoroughly and hence have greater suicide rates. He found that men preferred to use masculine items to self-harm - guns, knives, hanging. Visual and Violent. Women, well they preferred softer ways, pills, poisons, ovens - please see the case of Sylvia Plath for instructions. Gentle and docile - the way they were supposed to be in life.

My weapon of choice was thought out logically, with nothing to do with identifying with masculinity or femininity, but rather with success rate - you would be shocked at how many people survive what should be a fatal self-harming attempt - maybe their light was still shining too bright to let go?. But if my light ever faded completely, if I ever found the courage, this was to be my weapon of choice - my last rite. I would soak in a hot bath, get drunk listening to nothing else matters by Metallica. I would OD on drugs and then before slipping into a coma I would slit my wrist. If all else failed, I knew I would drown.

I have never attempted my last rite, though I have taken many risks with my life, not in a deliberate attempt to take it, but rather a desperate plea to the universe to kill me or to give me a full life. For there were times when I curled up and could not see that light anymore and thought with clarity about ending it. During these times I would love to say that an angel came down and told me not to give up. I would love to say an angel saved me in my OD’s. I would love to say anything but the truth, which is hard and ugly to admit. I was a coward. I was afraid of the harsh pain of putting that final deep slice into an already scarred arm, afraid of the uncertainty of death, on what was after this life, afraid of committing but not completing the final act. What was up there in the sky? What is nothingness? What is lurking in the great unknown? Is there a God? What of those words - how did she die? The responder would look around first, then in hushed tones reply - it was suicide.

At 25, with the help of family, friends, and a great psychologist, the demon has been exorcised, the dog outrun, and the pain lifted. In a way I did die, I did kill myself. It was a painfully horrid death, but I killed the sad person that I used to be and emerged slowly, someone that can answer those questions about what is happiness and love. Can answer Yes, you have the strength the make it through. Yes, it is worth it. More importantly, yes – You are worth all the love and light in the world. You can reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash


Anna Kerst


I am an Aussie wannabe writer that struggles to actually write. I live rurally with my fur baby and young daughter and husband. It is a happy but busy life. I love reading classics and good best sellers.

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