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Support the Con You Want to See | 2018 | I Was Not a School Shooter


I have spent years just like Spider-Man,
convinced that the best way to protect the people who loved me
was to leap from a tall building,  

-Brenna Twohy

Leap from a Tall Building

Pre-Crisis Thomm

The trick is keeping your secret identity. If I let people know what I can do, the wrong person may find out and take those I love away from me. For their own safety, they can't ever know who I really am beneath the mask.

I would not be the writer I am if I didn't force my anxiety onto things I can control. Instead of 3AM panic attacks about how I am wasting my life because of constant poor decisions that led to a lack of opportunities, I spin out the stories of brave women confronting fantastic conspiracies, estimating a million branching paths to find the one she survives. 3AM still comes. The anxiety proves too much or alights on thoughts on which I will obsess despite how I fight. In the daylight, I have a fighting chance of spotting a trigger so I am not taken by surprise. When I was young, a friend (anxious, neurotic, depressed) said I was a messiah. I could only retort a christening, that I must be a Solar Powered Messiah because, even now, I can't be too long in the dark without finding substance in shadows.

I hurt so much by overthinking that I am vigilant to notice any else's negative emotions. Before they do, I know that they are upset and why. Running through everything I've said and done in the last month that had anything to do with them, I become the world's greatest detective. False positives are the price of correct deductions before a bigger crime can be committed. I'm saving lives, though my questions to ascertain the particulars tend to seem more Inquisition than inquiry.

I shrink, involuntarily, almost vanishing if I feel I am not wanted somewhere, so small that I need to be found and reminded of my true size. I hate being small, the pressure on my eyes and extremities, but I hate more feeling unwanted. It's better in the moment to be nearly nothing.

I resist looking directly at anyone, sure my attention will push them across the room, will crush them as it has an unfortunate many.

I am intangible, objects and people passing through me, unable to reach me. We see one another, but there is no way to interact. We do not exist on the same wavelength.

I have that diciest of all powers: time travel. I am rarely in the present, instead scrutinizing the past for details I may have missed or the future to see if I still have a place in it. I can't change anything in the past. The ramifications of doing that would shatter space-time, but maybe it would help save this moment if I could figure out just why is turned out this way.

The thing that gives me powers wants to kill me. All of this, all this strength I've had to build is a defense against something that would fill me with tumors. It makes me ugly, needing to hide my face. It's hard to kill me because I know how much punishment I can take.

I am my kryptonite. I grow weak in the presence of my own mind. I lose myself, all my strength, and there is no ventilating the area or throwing it into the sun. It is me, is a part of me, and I cannot tell when it will come for me. As Brenna Twohy said, "There is a reason they are not called panic fair fights." This part of me points out that I am only prolonging the inevitable, when I get too weak and cannot find my way back.

I could write a book - literally and without much more than a couple of months of focus - about how my mental illness feels to me, but it would never be enough for someone who has not felt it to understand what it is like for me. When I am nearly immobile on the dirty rug, crying to Amber because no one cares about my books despite my effort, yelling how much this cripples me (then saying as an aside that I am not yelling at her but find the volume freeing).

I can post glib, cutesy essays rephrasing my pain, but that doesn't make it better. That just gets you to pat me on the head, say I am clever for expanding on what a spoken word poet said succinctly. I have not effectively reached out to genuine catharsis.

I find the idea of suicide always unfathomable. At the very least, it would ruin Amber, who is one of the best people I have ever had the fortune to meet. However, when the darkness far outweighs the light, I hear a litany assuring me I have wasted my life. How the best of my labors, the subjects on which I have dedicated my life, were never good enough and they never will be.

You won't know any of this because I am not going to save you. I am barely capable of saving myself every day, when it counts. The best I can manage is not giving in to what I can do. I've seen supervillains made of those who did not use their powers wisely and with responsibility. I won't hurt anyone, won't excuse myself, won't feel that my abilities give me license.

It feels deceitful to phrase prettily something that harms me, like I am the enabler of my abuse. I've spoken before on how mental illness doesn't make one an artist, though art is always a means of coping with the world as it is. When I rephrase my pain, I pretend to be in better control of it. This is my only real superpower, not imagining my coping mechanisms are strengths.

Soon in Xenology: Meaning. Anxiety.

last watched: Jessica Jones
reading: Authority
listening: Kate Nash

Support the Con You Want to See | 2018 | I Was Not a School Shooter

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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