(Artwork by me, watercolor, ink, gold leaf)
Depression was an insidious creature. He dripped like wet, sticky tar. He was cool to the touch. Everywhere he went, he seemed to make things darker. The shadows cut deep. He liked to sit and watch. He never did anything. He just soiled everything, corrupting it with his very nature. He sat and observed me, as he usually did, when I worked. I often glanced over my shoulder to see him at a safe distance, tireless and unblinking and staring. His face was as rotten as an open wound.
“What’s on your mind?” I asked Depression, keeping my eyes on my computer screen. I wanted to work on my novel today. I did some painting, after fighting through the muck of Depression. I finished the commissions that were overdue. But, I had been yearning to set words to a page. I didn’t want to keep letting him win.
“I’ve been submitting things to transgender outlets,” I said to him defiantly. “I’m going to get my work out there this year. I don’t care what you think.”
“I could tell you what you already know,” Depression said quietly. But, I could hear a hint of aggression in his tone. “They don’t like you because of how you look.”
“They have never liked me because of how I look. When I presented as female, I was too fat. Now, because I pass too well. That’s shit, and you’re shitty. Besides, I don’t even think it is true.”
“You have no friends,” sniffed Depression.
“I only have a beard because of my health problems. I had polycystic ovarian syndrome. And I don’t have friends because I push everyone away. I don’t want to sit here and argue with you. The way I see it– the world will never like how I look, regardless of what I do.”
“I’m shitty because you’re shit.” I could hear the teeth in Depression’s voice. It sounded like he had too many teeth. “You don’t even appreciate how lucky you are, or what kind of privilege you have.”
Privilege– to a degree, sure. But, there I sat, my chest constricted by a binder. I want more than anything to have my still-lingering female breasts removed. But, as I worked on my stories (just one small golden glimmer of joy I have) I had several pages open about the inauguration of our next president. Health care and governmental art programs were being ravaged by Washington wolves. Everything I represented and loved was being burned to ashes. Privilege, I thought to my Depression, was just a shredded rag.
But, I and many others felt it coming. We felt the rumblings of the earthquake before it was rendered in half. A natural backlash of hate from the social progress that had been made over the last decade. I wanted to be prepared. And I am well aware that my voice and opinion can do very little to affect the outside world. So, all that can be done, is work to affect my inner world. In a way, I hope to make a difference by working inside out. If other people can see my struggle and work to overcome, then maybe they can, too. So, the outside world can be changed. We can make a difference by changing our lives, one at a time.
It isn’t the situation. It is us.
After a moment of silence, I could feel him back down. The air still had a stale, dead feeling. The livingroom felt like a swamp where everything was slowly sinking into cemetery dirt. Still, I knew he was gone. It was just the lingering aura he left. I could feel his tendrils loosening and my brain finally free, so I could write again. Yet, something still remained. It was deep in my belly, well below my navel. Body dysphoria. The feeling that I was in the wrong skin, and couldn’t escape. I couldn’t crawl out.
Due to the current political climate, it is possible I’ll never get gender reassignment surgery. An out of work artist, I can barely afford food.
It was best to ignore it. Still, Depression reminded me, like a punch to the abdomen. It was all still there, it was all still wrong. I wanted to wrap myself in a cocoon, so maybe someday I could break free.