I woke up in the middle of the night to find the dragon lying in my bed. Snoring politely, he looked very small, about the size of a beagle. He was staying on his side of the bed, so I tried to get back to sleep. I’d met this beast before and knew he often brought with him ominous feelings of death and despair, but sometimes he would show up at night only to be gone in the morning. Maybe this time I wouldn’t need to worry.
The next morning, though, the dragon was still there. It rolled over and looked at me with its yellow lizard eyes. Its grey, shiny scales were smooth and glistening. I felt a sharp shiver of fear run through me. I wondered if this time he was here to stay. I worried about what he might do.
It’s important to note here that most people have some serious misconceptions about dragons. They think that dragons are ferocious, however, the dragon’s danger lies not in its physical aggression, but in the psychological warfare it engages you in. If you have a dragon, you know that it has been chosen just for you. It knows your weaknesses; it has memorized the lies you tell yourself. It knows what buttons to press and it knows exactly what to say to you to make you feel desperate and alone. You see, contrary to how they’re portrayed in movies, dragons don’t breathe out fire. They breathe it in. If you have a dragon in your presence, you can feel it empty your belly of motivation, passion and desire with every inhale it takes. You need not fear charred furniture or second degree burns when you meet a dragon, but the empty feeling of standing on a dark deserted street on a cold winter’s night, completely and utterly alone.
On this morning I shivered with that cold all around me. Throughout that day I tried to ignore the dragon. He stayed invisible to those around us, but I sensed that his presence was felt by some and that made me feel even lonelier. On the subway, I wanted to shout at people, “Meet my dragon! Look at him!” But dragons have a way of making you feel like you’re the only one in the world who has one trailing behind you. Besides, who would have believed me? As I looked around me at all the vacant stares focusing on cellphone screens, I wondered how many subway people were battling their own dragons. There was probably an invisible network of dragon people who were too frightened, intimidated or defeated to tell the truth. Maybe if we could find a way to describe our dragons to each other, we’d feel less alone. But very few people are into fantasy fiction any more.
That night, the dragon decided to sleep on my chest. His weight made it hard to breathe. I tried to push him off, but he was too heavy. He snarled at me when I tried to move him. I wondered if he was getting bigger. I made a silent vow to try to stop feeding him, but it was hard. When we both woke the following day, the dragon had learned to talk.
He had a horrible voice and said nasty things to me all day long. I tried my best to shut him up; I told him that his incessant monologue was irritating me.
“I deserve better,” I told him. I thought I had seen a Facebook meme with those words on it. “Everything happens for a reason,” I tried again, “It just wasn’t meant to be.” He ignored me and kept up his yapping. “Please…” I tried begging him, “I’m saying yes to better things and no to what I don’t want… and… shit… I’m COMPLETE! I’m perfect as I am -”
But the dragon wouldn’t stop telling me everything that was wrong with me. He searched through my memories and picked out all the worst stuff, showing it to me. He reminded me of all the times things hadn’t gone my way. He assured me they were all my fault. “Remember that time?” He asked me, “That was because you weren’t strong enough. Oh yeah, and nobody likes you.” I tried to plug my ears, but his voice got to me.
People will tell you to ignore the dragon. Write down a list of the things you are grateful for! They exclaim. Close your eyes and focus on your breath! They suggest. Get fresh air! Exercise! Pretend he’s not there and then the next thing you know, he’ll be gone!
I tried all those things. The exercise helped some. Gratitude helped, but the dragon knew those techniques already. “I’m grateful for those negative experiences,” I told him, “They made me who I am today!” I was pretty proud of that one. Maybe I should make my own Facebook memes.
“Who ‘you are today’ is nobody,” He responded. Damn, he’s good.
When I sat and listened to my breath, he became a little quieter. I could feel the sinking heaviness of his weight on my chest. I tried to fill it with my own breath. I noticed the vast emptiness he had left from sucking out my inner fire, the empty cavern devoid of all hope and joy. The empty abyss startled me, it felt too big to handle, so I opened my eyes. The dragon was watching me, a satisfied gleam in his yellow eyes. He could smell my fear and he loved that. I decided to get up to take some B vitamins.
He was leaning over my shoulder and talking in my ear as I opened the bottle and poured myself a glass of water. “That’s not going to help!” He laughed, “If anything, it’s a placebo. A placebo can’t defeat me!”
I started to become fed up with him. “Why won’t you go away?” I asked him. “If you don’t leave right now, I’m going to expose you! I’ll tell everyone about you! I’m sure other people have dragons. They’ll be able to relate to my story! They’ll understand and they’ll share their experiences with me. Together we’ll drive all of you away.”
He laughed and I felt his foul breath on my face, “Sure, sure, sure.” He said. “You’ll put away your video games, turn off Netflix, get off your couches and defeat us with vigorous exercise and vision boards. You’ll pop your Prozacs and we’ll all leave running. You’ll never make us go away. Because, you know why? It’s not us that’s the problem, it’s you. You want us to be here, you like having us hang around. You could make us go if you really wanted to. But you don’t. What’s wrong with you, any way?”
I swallowed my vitamins and thought hard about what he had said; this dragon had a way of making me listen to him. Sometimes life can be more interesting when you have a dragon as a pet, I thought. He sometimes helped me become more creative. And, I noticed, a part of him was usually ever present, hanging about on the sidelines while I went about my life, watching me, threatening to appear again when I least expected him. Sometimes a few rainy days in a row, a couple of days of bad eating or an unfortunate turn of events could make him grow, or learn to speak. In the past he’d been known to leave on his own. I wondered if it would be possible to train him.
I decided to write about him; I tried my best to describe his shiny scales and his piercing eyes that seemed to see right into my inadequate soul. He told me the writing was not very good. “You forgot to talk about my claws,” He said, as he read over my shoulder. I tried to ignore him, even though I thought that he might be right, but hopefully no one would notice or care.
I tried to tell others about him, or at least to spend time with other people, with dragons or not. He made that hard too. “They’re not busy.” He told me once, “They just don’t want to hang out with you.”
“Shut up,” I told him. I made some plans with the less busy people. I had a decent time. It served to fill the emptiness somewhat.
I built a dragon shield out of literature, meditation, exercise, supplementation, healthy eating, talking to others, journalling, writing, painting, learning and trying new things. I tried to be courageous and fight back against him. I learned that, if I was busy, I could sometimes catch him off guard and surprise him.
One night I noticed how small he’d gotten. The sun had been shining all day. A patient had sent me a letter that made me feel good. I showed it to him, proudly. “You can say what you want,” I told him, my voice sounding stronger now, “But this is what she wrote. She says I’m good, I helped her, look, read it!” I shoved the letter in his ugly face.
“Ah… she’s just saying that…” He retorted, but his tone sounded less convincing. I smirked defiantly and turned away from him. I added the letter to a folder called “Dragon Training Tools.”
“Shut up,” I told him again, even more firmly this time.
And, for a little while at least, he did.