This is a writing assignment addressing the struggle I face to freely express myself as a writer. It's a visualization of the personal handicap I endure in feeling I am forbidden to write my own truth.

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It bothers me.

It eats away at me - my belief - that I am forbidden to express the feelings, thoughts, and experiences I hold within myself as freely as others do. A greater voice rules me. One that tells me I am bad if I express myself honestly. It is more than a voice of hesitant doubt. It is an actual emotional prison guard patrolling my locked cell, reminding me I am a wretched soul whose voice is not worthy to be heard, or worse, that my voice is dangerous, poisonous, evil. It calls me "messed-up", "crazy", "delusional", "misguided", "selfish", "emotional", "manipulative", "bad". It shames me to silence.

I sit in this cell, alone with my shame but also with my desire. I watch out the window, beyond the bars, envious of the freed voices that waft back through the stark corridors of my confinement. Some of them visit my cell - smiling, encouraging, assuring me I am allowed - extending their gentle strength, tempting me to escape my imprisonment.

I muster courage, resolve to write, then doubt. What will happen? I look up. The prison guard senses my hidden rebellion and glares coldly, telling me there will be a price to pay. He promises to turn loved ones against me. He promises to expose my frailties, exploit my sincerity, demean my existence, mock me openly until there is nothing left that resembles me at all.

Our eyes lock. I despise him yet I believe him.

Behind him the freed voices dance, beckoning me follow. They are beautiful, their white cotton dresses twirling beautifully about them in eternal, gentle emotion. I wish they would save me, rescue me, but they do not. Not out of disregard or disgust but because they cannot do for me what I must do for myself. It would not be freedom otherwise. They can only manifest their messages of hope, faith, courage, love. I must follow or not.

The prison guard notices my distraction and steps forward to block my view. He reminds me that my past attempts to escape each ended in abysmal failure. What good had it done me? I cringe but do not look away. I defiantly glare back, indicating that my current conditions are no better so what is there to lose? My defiance enrages him.

He raises his gun, cocks it, takes aim, then forcefully reminds me that I should not be so careless or bold - that he still holds my motherhood ransom. I feel the bullet pierce my heart, feel my warm blood betraying me, my defiance retreating.

I only hear his voice now, telling me how to save myself, my motherhood - how to stop the bleeding. I must submit. I must obey. I must conform to the regiment of his brotherhood. I must learn my place. I must learn to be acceptable.

I close my eyes. His laughter pounds my skull. He tells me I am the one to blame, that it's my own fault, that it serves me right.

I struggle. To hear. Their voices.

The pain conquers me. His voice throbs inside my head.

I give in - but just for now, I promise myself. Just until I regain my strength, I tell myself.

One day, after I heal the wounds that bind me.
One day, when I believe there is nothing left to lose.
One day, when I am no longer institutionalized.

I will be free too.