Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine, nor do I suspect that they would want to be after this.
AN: This short little ficlet was produced spontaneously, and without much thought, though sometimes, that's as it should be when it comes to writing. It's deeply personal to me and some of it is based on my own real life experiences with both anxiety and depression. I hope that you, in some way, can relate to it. Please enjoy.
A dirty look. A line in a story. Clutter.
Dust. Exhaustion. Crowded rooms.
Loud voices. Slow-moving people. Cold coffee.
They're all triggers.
Anxiety. It doesn't feel like anything someone who doesn't have the disorder would understand. It means going to bed with your stomach in knots and waking up to find that they've only grown tighter as you slept. It means constantly feeling like you're under a microscope, and everyone you see is scrutinizing you. Some might think of that as vanity, but it isn't. It's paranoia. Constant, irrational paranoia.
Everyone asks me what triggers it for me. The answer is nothing and everything. I'm living with it every second.
My therapist tells me that anxiety and depression are cousins. She told me you can't have one without the other. When she told me that, I thought it was absurd. The idea of being depressed brought images of sleepless days in bed, a box of tissues on the floor, and a bottle of whiskey on the side table. After I'd thought about it a little more, I realized that maybe she was right. This… this waking up every morning feeling like there was a dark wave crashing over me… was not how other people felt.
But then again, my therapist also tells me that everyone deserves to be happy. So I'm not sure whether she is to be believed or not. She certainly isn't to be trusted.
Supposedly the disease runs in the family, and it would certainly seem that way. My mother, god rest her soul, most certainly had it, though sometimes it was hard to tell. She started and ended most days with a glass… or two, or three… of brandy. I'm not sure she had a trigger as much as she constantly had a finger on it. We all do that to ourselves though, in one way or another. We all have our hands all over that loaded gun, especially when we're going through something that feels like it should bring us to our knees. That feels like it should kill us.
But it never does, does it?
I can't decide if that's the best part about life, or if it's the saddest.
A month ago, they put me on some kind of Muggle drug, which they claimed to be more effective than any potion or spell. 'They' being the people who know what's best for their patients, even though they don't ever really know them at all. Normally, I might have thought the whole affair rather melodramatic, having believed that medication was for the weak-minded. Maybe I am, but I think I'd have been weaker had I not had the strength to take it. It seems to help, if numbing everything is, indeed, helping. Instead of feeling anger, envy, panic, fear… I feel nothing at all.
It's an improvement.
My therapist says that anxiety is a human reaction to fear. Don't we all have our demons, though? Our monsters? And yet, I don't hear much about anyone else waking up in a cold sweat with the blankets pulled up to their chin, afraid of the world outside their window. I don't hear much about people walking down the street, afraid that someone might look or… god forbid… speak to them. And I certainly don't hear much about people feeling like they'd rather crawl than spend one more second on their feet, pretending to be okay, like everyone wants them to be.
That's the funny thing about being damaged. People don't want to hear about it. They'd rather you pretend like everything is okay, even if you feel like banging your head against the nearest hard surface until your skin breaks, just so they can see what you feel like on the inside all the fucking time. But sometimes, I find myself forcing something sarcastic, just to sound like I'm still me. To me though, it just sounds like I'm giving up.
These words are pointless though, aren't they? Because unless you're living with the same disease, you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?
I walk along the gritty, familiar roads with a sense of determination, because it does take a certain degree of strength to do so.
In front of…
The grimy shop's are like the bleached bones of a dead animal, nothing more than decay and deteriorated skin.
My therapist has instructed that I take a walk through some place familiar… somewhere I used to go. I'm not entirely sure that she would approve of this. Knockturn Alley is now an area of festering rot and deterioration – the remnants of a once beautifully dark and cloistered, safe place for people of certain interests. Now it is nothing more than a hellhole for those who simply have nowhere else to go. I'm quiet as I go, and I don't meet anyone's eyes. Just as men have the right to speak their mind, so to do they have the right to say nothing at all if it suits them.
It's a fact that many forget. They seem to find my silence insulting.
I find the solitude calming. I crave it. I need it just as much as I need oxygen. This is why I choose to stay inside my family's home as much as I can, though I'm not so sheltered that I don't know about the whispers which float around the outside world, claiming this and that is the reason for my disappearance from society. I'm not sure I understand myself why I've chosen to obey someone else's orders to get some fresh air, like I'm a child who has spent too long inside pandering to my own selfish, sunless hobbies. I stay indoors because every second outdoors costs me something. My pride. My energy. My mind.
When I'm finished, I'll just tell my therapist what she wants to hear. And she'll believe me, because just like everyone else, she wants to believe that I'm okay.
My magic is gone, though. That's a fact I can't hide from her, and certainly not from myself. My hand clasps tightly around my wand anyway, like an extra limb that hinders more than it helps. Perhaps it's the depression, or perhaps it's the fact that magic is, in a way, an emotion.
Of which I have none.
When you don't have anything to lose, that's when you are truly free. I find this fact hysterical as I walk through the shadowy streets, feeling as though I could grind the nearest person's face against the smoky brick wall until I can see the pure white of their bones and not care for the consequences. If this is what pure madness is, then perhaps it is something to be desired rather than kept at bay.
I'm like an empty shell of a person now… worse than a victim of The Kiss, because at least those victims don't have the capacity to identify their own misery.
The cruel laughter I hear at the corner of the alley.
It's about me.
The whispers I hear in every shop.
It's about me.
This disease makes its victims vain. Arrogant. Egotistical. It makes its victims believe that everything… every whisper… every laugh… is about them.
These things don't affect me anymore. Not very much, anyway.
There are still triggers though, that I know would have once taken my breath away.
The sound of wheels against the cobblestones. The smell of filth and mildew. The bird's screaming overhead.
The candle wax which has melted down to a stub. The rats which rustle past. The shop signs that pass by.
The pale skin. The strong, lithe body. The bright, green eyes.
It's a trigger, but not in the way I'm used to. I don't feel panicked, I don't feel afraid. But I don't feel the empty nothingness that I have grown accustomed to either.
I feel… calm. I don't question what he's doing in this part of town, nor does he question me. We simply stare at each other for a moment. We haven't spoken at all, but… somehow… somehow, I feel like I can go back to my therapist and tell her something, and believe it myself.
At my side, my wand spits green sparks. The first magic it's produced in months.
It's a start.