(Artwork by me, watercolor and ink)

I woke up feeling Depression looming over my head. The overcast sky allowed Depression to feel more awake, more alive. I knew he was in a good mood because I felt like shit. I remained in bed, pillow thrown over my eyes and a sucking feeling gluing me into my sheets. I didn’t want to get up. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do anything today.

“You must have had a fucking ball taking me back to my childhood yesterday. You’re looking like you won the lottery.”

Depression seemed more solid, his black, hulking lifeless form was darker than usual. He almost seemed electric, vibrating with anxiety. I could feel the anxiousness seeping into my skin, causing my head to buzz. Anxiety was his weapon, and he sure seemed energized today. He stood at the end of my bed, his formless head brushing against the white stucco ceiling.

Lately I had been waking up with him attacking me. Ever since I decided to confront this demon, I’ve been suffering from panic attacks on the daily. From the moment I opened my eyes, I could feel a sudden charge zapping into my chest. Adrenaline like a surge telling me to fight or run. I knew I needed to fight him. I knew the only way to do that was to confront him, to write, to paint. I knew I needed to stop listening to what was holding me back– but in order to do it, we needed to continue to meet up and talk. I needed to get to know him.

“You barely make enough to feed your family,” he reminded me in his sticky, syrupy, hallow voice. He had said this very thing to me many times. He was persistent and repetitive. I didn’t want to be hammered with this first thing in the morning. But, there it was. The reminder that I am not a successful artist- which was the very thing that defined me as a person.

“Yep,” I replied, sinking more into my bed.

“Because you’re nothing. No one. An untalented artist and even less talented writer. Nobody cares about what you have to say. You can’t take care of your family. You’re not even a man, Merris.”

Yep, yep, yep, I thought to myself. I decided to get up and make some tea. Thanks for reminding me about the transgender thing, I thought bitterly.

“That’s a little below the belt,” I said as I filled the kettle with water. I hoped the pun pissed him off.

It didn’t. Depression simply followed me into the kitchen, a silent shadow that glided across the wooden floor. It was big and loud today, in his own way. He wanted to hurt me. Maybe he was seeing these meetings as vaguely threatening, but still determined to win through his arrogance.

The water began to boil and so did my rage. I wanted to be done with this experiment. I wanted to be better already. I just wanted to know what was wrong with me so I could move on in my life. I watched as the steam began to swirl and the water began to drum as it reached boiling point.

“So, what’s up with you today– why are you so… excited?” I asked Depression.

“Your mother has never told you she loved you,” Depression hissed back with glee.

Which is true—that’s never gone unnoticed. She never has and I wound up blaming myself for it. The kettle whistled and I felt my face grow hot. If my mom never loved me– (and she definitely doesn’t now that I am out as transgender) how can I ever love myself, let alone be a successful writer, artist, husband, or step-father? Even at my root base I’m falling apart. All of this before breakfast.

Antagonistic little shit.

He was on a role today. Depression tore me down every chance he could. He clung to the ceiling like a black cobweb, hanging upside down and stalking me at every turn. He reminded me of my failings and shot me repeatedly with anxiety. He was not interested in talking today. He was just interested in destroying me.

“What is it you get out of this?” I asked him, adding honey to my tea. The silver wisps of steam began to curl around my cup. It was a cold morning in the Ozarks, and all the windows were foggy and blurred. I couldn’t see out into my backyard, where the trees and the mounded hills were bare but beautiful.

“The demons you create devour you,” he said.

“Not me,” I replied. “If I can make you then I can destroy you.”

“You have made me more powerful than even your greatest strength.”

I thought about this. I wondered if this experiment was ever going to work. Depression has no name. No face. And his answers were incomprehensible. I wanted to get to know him. I wanted to know why he was doing this to me. I wondered if there was a way out of this. I felt like I was at the bottom of a well, looking up at the hole– the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. He’s right– my family and I are distant. I am an unemployed writer and artist. I’ve got a wife and children who depend on me. I feel like I’m failing and I am backed into a corner with nowhere to run.

I looked back at Depression and wondered if he was winning. He just looked bigger, a black void who consumed the entire room.

I thought of my wife. She was warm, and loves me. She loves me despite the depression. Her kind words. The things she said to me when we decided to get married. She told me, “no matter what happens,” and those words still ring true.

I blinked again, and Depression had left. We didn’t really get a chance to talk today, but I still felt as if we were making progress. The room felt lighter and the morning sun soaked through the trees. A little brown bird with a white belly and black beak landed on a branch nearby. I vowed to try again tomorrow, knowing that the climb was as long and uphill as the forested mountains outside my window.