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After the Monster

This is a story where all the crazies live.
The strange, edge of town crazies, they all live.
The friend who is dark and down all the time and not sure if she wants to go on, she thinks about it hard and she does dangerous things and she flirts with lines farther than pain, but she decides to live.
The friend who is not sure which end is up and cannot tell you yellow from purple all the time and which voices are real, she lives.
The friend who is scared to go outside and scared that she said the wrong thing and scared that saying nothing was also the wrong thing and scared that it is all too much and scared that she is too much. She lives also.
They are not convenient, and they live.
They are not picturesque, and they live.
They do not fit. They make messes. They are not as we want them to be. They are not as they want themselves to be.
They live, they live, they live, they live.
There is not a designated sane friend who sacrifices herself to the monster to invert the story. She lives too.
The monster is not symbolic of any of their mental illness. The monster does not show up because mental illness is bad, although frankly it is, mental illness sucks; it is inconvenient and makes you feel bad and nobody loves having it. But also the world has monsters in it, and they have big sharp teeth and claws. They're not symbols. It's worse than that, because you also have to deal with symbols. Like, mental illness is as bad as a monster with nasty yellow fangs--but look, there's the monster, there it is right now, it has the nasty yellow fangs that drip monster spittle. And also there is mental illness to deal with in addition to the monster. Yay, lucky you.
But you live.
Wait, we were pretending we weren't talking about you.
Sorry. They live. I meant them. Yes.
So when the monster shows up, the scared friend organizes and the depressed friend digs deep and the disoriented friend hits hard and the designated sane friend wonders if she actually should see somebody about the feelings she's been having, but she does the things too. She kicks the monster just as hard as anybody, she has a really good kitchen knife her mom ordered her as a housewarming present and the monster learns not to like that knife.
They are all really, really used to nobody wanting to talk about it. Even the designated sane friend, because every time she says, hey, I wonder if you could pitch in for my friend Alison because she is having a hard time with--that is when people stop listening.
So they stop listening about the monster too, and the designated sane friend is not any more surprised about that than the rest of them.
They all know to tip the pizza delivery girl because she's dealing with her own shit, and they all know to put a blanket over the first one to fall asleep and not let anybody do it too often without brushing their teeth. Washing monster blood out of your favorite hoodie before it sets is going to be important later. Making sure everybody makes their therapist appointments is important. Checking in to make sure nobody is spiraling.
Because everybody lives. But then after that, everybody has to keep living.
They find some others who lived, because it starts to bother them, why the monster showed up on their block. It was the size of a fire truck, and it smelled like gasoline and rotting carnations, and it seems weird that no one else cared about what to do with a monster. But once they got in the habit of living, it seemed like they should keep it up.
At least two of them agree on that at all times, and that's enough so that the next time a monster shows up, they all remember. And they find others, and they try again. Even though they're inconvenient. Even though they're messy. Not just this one time.
Every time.
Every single time.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, August 25th, 2020


I am very tired.

I am very, very tired of reading/watching stories where the mentally ill character is sacrificed at the end while everyone else gets a happy ending. I was watching a fun, positive movie that I was 100% ready to recommend far and wide... and then I got to the last five minutes. Where the schizophrenic character heroically sacrifices himself for everybody else's "normal" lives. And I saw my relative C on the screen. I saw my friend J. I remembered the book that gets lauded all over the place, that features a depressed person going out to the woods to die so everyone else can live, and I saw--look, I could put the whole alphabet here to stand for what friends and relatives I have with depression. With anxiety. With BPD. With so many other mental illnesses. All my loved ones who are living and shining and fighting monsters, most of which don't even have to do with their diagnosis, because the world is full of monsters, big and small. But we can fight them together.

So I wrote this story in a blue flame of fury, because my friends and my relatives--and my anxious self--are not expendable. And neither are yours.

Seriously do tip the pizza girl.

- Marissa Lingen
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