Tag Archives: depression

The irony of my quarantine life

A few years ago, I spent an entire year in isolation due to fear.

Back then, there was nothing to fear but what anxiety was doing to my body. My stomach was in knots and twisting and squeezing to send me into bouts of pain, and acid reflux scarred my esophagus on a daily basis, sometimes all day every day. Coping with anorexia added to this struggle, and I spent a lot of time speaking with my alters and spirit guides — we wrote down almost all of our conversations at the time. They were my only company some days.

Now that I’ve overcome all of it, I’m in isolation again, but not by choice. This time there is a real fear I don’t have any control over, and my anxiety is just on the precipice of falling back into old patterns. My alters and spirit guides are with me and support me as they always have, but Depression is blocking them out due to a lack of mental energy. This is not good for me or them.

I’m introspecting on all of it; the irony that I’ve been through this song and dance when there wasn’t a real threat, and here I’m reliving those awful years again as they come back to haunt me. My stomach problems are coming back and my energy levels are low, and my agoraphobia is back. I’d overcome all of this just to be challenged by it again due to the pandemic keeping everyone inside.

When all of this is over, I will once again have to relearn how to be a person as I did those few years ago. I’ll have to teach myself, again, that it’s okay to leave my apartment. Most importantly, I’ll have to remind myself that I still carry some of the progress I’ve made. While this quarantine has set me back quite a few steps and undone what I’ve accomplished with my agoraphobia and anxiety, I have knowledge I didn’t have before.

I worry for those who have mental health challenges right now. I hurt knowing that people with problems like mine will be affected by this quarantine long after it’s over. Nightmares. Anxiety attacks. Fear of the outside. Fear of people. Trying to regain a sense of positivity again. It’s going to stick and we’ll have to go through exposure therapy all over again.

But we can do this. It will be safe again and we’ll conquer these beasts that we’ve had to face down before. I may not feel that sentiment while typing it, but I have to think it, say it, and look forward to a day when it will be true again. One day I will be able to grab my backpack and leave my apartment to go to the coffee shop downtown I love so much, and I’ll continue where I left off.

This is a pause. Life will resume again. It has to.

©2020 Shane Blackheart

Something calming for anyone who may need it:

To be released into the ether directly after writing

Catching anything to make a coherent thought in my buzzing brain right now is a feat.

So far this month, a pandemic has broken out that is expected peak around the time I’m supposed to get top surgery after a two-year fight.

I fell into a bipolar mixed episode — mostly depression — that has lasted nearly a month. The crescendo has finally reached today.

My grandpa died the other day.

My new insurance denied a prior authorization for my testosterone I’ve been on for over a year. If I have to skip it, the mental side effects will be a nightmare. Not to mention the return of a certain monthly visitor named Red that I’m not prepared for and haven’t seen for some time.

After all that, I have no idea what to do with myself.

I’m already struggling to keep my head above water. Now I’m drowning, and I have to stay strong. As it is now, I can’t even go out for a distraction. We’re isolated because of the social distancing and quarantines from COVID19.

As I paced around my apartment hyperventilating, hands shaking to where I could barely hold my anxiety medicine without dropping it, I couldn’t access my coping skills. The volcano inside me was going to overflow, and I knew it would scorch my skin. One thing, however, shone through like an epiphany through it.

Write. I need to write.

It was my spirit guides and alter — Byleth, Daro, and Lestan — breaking through my moment of catastrophe to protect me again, reminding me that it was okay to take my emergency medication for moments like this and that writing was my best distraction. It hit me like a light in the dark as I agreed with them. It made everything come to a drastic, deafening halt.

I wasn’t sure I would be able to focus on the novel I’m currently writing, so I opened WordPress and stared at the blank page, not knowing where to start.

I didn’t want sympathy. I didn’t want to look like I was fishing for sympathy. But I needed to get something out and send it off into the ether, and posting something to my blog is like releasing it. As with my first book that deals with some trauma I experienced myself, writing it out and releasing it into the world is how I heal and deal with things. I suppose people will have different opinions on that, but it doesn’t matter to me.

There’s blood-letting, and then there’s what I call ink-letting. The one put too many scars on my skin. The other is just metaphorical bleeding onto the page — my heart cracked open like an egg to let the dark stuff stain the white, and for other eyes to, most likely, judge. Either way, it’s no longer in my hands or in my mind. It’s gone. Let go. Scrawled across pages that can be sent far from me into the open.

I write for myself first, as I did today. I write what makes me feel better, what heals me, and what takes me away from this reality where things and people happen to make me want to disappear.

My stories help me disappear. It’s the safest way I’ve found to do that yet.

©2020 Shane Blackheart


My music for therapy today, and inspiration:

With These Hands

As the acid creeps into my throat, it threatens to call forth the cancer I should have been given a few years ago — when my body was a volcano with a self-destructive warpath. My limbs ache and my chest feels as if it is hollow, its heaviness causing me to hunch my back in a way that causes my spine to scream out.

I can hear them, Byleth and Lestan especially, calling to me. They want me to think about my future and find a way out of all of this. They want me to stop shuffling my feet at Death’s door as if I’m eager for a blind date that rattles my bones with anxiety. They want me to breathe and pick up my hunched form and continue to fight — fight the invisible force that pushes back with every breath I take.

My eyes drift to the hallway and the darkness greets me with beckoning tendrils, but the tall, dark-skinned form that comes from it shakes his head. His glowing pink eyes are determined. They are filled with an emotion I am not familiar with from him.

“Do not, Shane. Do. Not.”

It’s vague, but I know what he means. He stands there in the shadows, his giant stature seeming taller than ever as he crosses his well-toned arms. I’ve never seen him angry, and if I had it was long ago — so long it’s now an afterthought. At least I’d have something to compare this to.

“Stop this poetical shit and breathe. And sleep.” Byleth in his golden, Hellish king glory shakes his head, his shoulder-length blond hair falling into his face. I observe as a clawed hand smooths it back between his golden horns, and I think, for a moment, how much I’d love to feel his soft hair.

Like my large cat who enjoys being used as a pillow, I imagine pulling the fallen king’s head to my chest and caressing his soft hair, closing my eyes to forget about my worries. Nothing else exists. But Lestan, he’s here too. I haven’t forgotten him and I love him, and he’s behind me caressing my hair as I imagined myself doing for Byleth. I can feel his hurt through our connection, and although he doesn’t speak, I know there are no words to express anything of substance at this moment.

Tetsu is here as well, his appearance rare but a welcome one. He glares at me as I observe him from the corner of my eyes, letting him know I see him. The elf huffs and approaches me, pushing past Lestan and tugging at my shirt. “We’re leaving. Come on.”

“You know I can’t,” I say. It’s the middle of the night and storms have been on the horizon, and although I would love more than anything to meld into the darkness on such a night, I’m too tired. I laugh to myself. I’m too tired to seek out my own demise.

“If you will.” Daro, my dark demon prince approaches my other side, all four of them behind me now. He smiles and runs his claws across my head. “Allow us to take you away, if but for a moment. Do continue as you are.”

I sigh and nod.

* * *

Rules and word counts and regulations. This isn’t what a story is to me, yet it’s what the world expects. Hook them and then seduce them with purple flowers shaped like Roman aphrodisia. When did the magic of weaving worlds and emotions become so stale?

* * *

I open my eyes and breathe in strong patchouli, the incense smoke drifting about the room like a magickal haze. Its spell renders me complacent as I look to the stage before me. The rest of the room is dark and bare. Lestan and Daro take their places with me, and my vampire husband creeps behind me to wrap his arms around my waist. His chin rests on my shoulder and he kisses my neck briefly, his short black hair tickling my skin. My body still aches and my chest is heavy as I see Byleth approaching a microphone on the stage, his white platform heels clacking loudly in the silence to stir up ethereal dust of ages past. He is wearing white corduroy bell bottoms with a wide flare and a jacket that is similar with nothing beneath it. His bare chest glistens in the dim, haunting light cast only on the stage, and his red eyes shine with excitement.

Tetsu has pulled his long black hair into a ponytail and adjusts his rectangular glasses before gripping the neck of his guitar. He glances at me and then at Byleth, not entirely happy with the change in scenery, but he is more than willing to fall into its magick. Music begins to drift through the room, Tetsu’s fingers gliding over the vintage guitar to fill the atmosphere with sultry, retro vibes. The other instruments are not visible on the stage or anywhere in the room, but they are playing nonetheless. Byleth begins to sing, his angelic voice still beautiful even after his fall.

The lyrics are sultry, provocative, and enticing. He weaves his tainted angelic magick into them, their flow seeping into me like a warm caress that bathes my insides in pleasant tingles. To my surprise, Daro sways to the music, his eyes closed as his arm wraps around my shoulders. Lestan is doing the same, although he has come around to my front to smooth his hands across the sides of my face. I feel an indescribable emotion well up within me as I listen to the hazy tones of Byleth’s seduction, and my eyes begin to burn.

I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve been able to cry without it being painful. It’s as if my body knows how the tears burn, so it ceases their flow before they can begin. I still feel the burn anyway, and Lestan wipes at my eyes knowing all too well what’s happening. Sadness is no longer an emotional hurt but a physical one, and I blink hard as the burning causes me to lose sight of the beautiful fallen angel singing on stage.

“With these hands, I will cling to you. I’m yours forever and a day. With these hands, I will bring to you a tender love as warm as May… With this heart, I will sing to you. Ooh, long after stars have lost their glow. And with these hands, I’ll provide for you. Should there be a stormy sea, I’ll turn the tide for you, and I’ll never… Oh no, I’ll never… I’ll never let you go.”

My eyelids flutter as a kiss is laid on each one, and I open them to see Lestan smiling at me. He kisses me and I feel Daro’s hand squeeze my shoulder, and I look back to the stage to see Byleth singing as true as ever. He smiles and reaches out to me as the lyrics flow from his lips, and I am pulled up as if I weigh nothing.

He hugs me tightly to him, and I look down to see Lestan in a much cheerier state. He turns to Daro and bows like a gentleman, and Daro smiles genuinely as he takes the vampire’s outstretched hand. They begin the steps to a slow dance, and I return to the fallen angel who is swaying with me. I feel his voice’s reverberation throughout my body as I cling to his chest, and he continues, holding me tight as he sends more comfort through his song of sweet intentions.

He trails off as the song ends, and Tetsu falls silent as he observes us. He is happier too, I think. Byleth’s lips brush against my ear as he leans over to kiss it, and he whispers in a way that sends a sense of peace into my mind. “Don’t go, sugar. Stay with me, stay with Lestan, and stay with Tetsu and Daro. Live for moments like this, and…” He pulls back and quirks an eyebrow as his usual attitude seeps back into his tone. “Consider yourself lucky. I once told you that a demon nor a fallen angel practice healing magick.”

“But…” My confusion causes me to furrow my brow. The warmth is still flowing through me as he waves away the microphone and caresses my jaw with his fingers.

“Don’t make me say it. Please.” He sighs. “Just make a promise, okay?”

I bite my lip and avert my gaze, unsure if I’m able to make any sort of promise he would want. I know to break a promise with him would be the ultimate betrayal, especially since I’d sworn honesty and loyalty to him. To Lestan. To Daro. To Tetsu. He nudges my jaw with a clawed finger to gain my attention once more. I look into his glowing red eyes and they are full of an intensity that I know to take very seriously. His romance and his caresses were true, but he was also a king of Hell. That was truer than all else.

I nod. “I promise I will survive tonight.”

He sighs, exhaustion consuming him. He closes his eyes to gather himself before returning to me. Lestan has joined us on the stage as has Daro, and I feel as if they are all pressuring me to keep my word for longer than tonight. I feel their anticipation of my words and my actions, and I cannot let them down. I cannot disappoint them.

They tell me I may not see them again if I greet Death before it is my time. They may not go with me, and that thought is more frightening than the struggles Life will undoubtedly continue to bring me. I nod again. “I will survive tonight. And tomorrow, I will tell myself, and you all, that I will survive that night.” I take a deep breath as Lestan brushes my hair from my neck to kiss the skin. Daro takes my hand and Tetsu comes up to rest his chin on my shoulder. Byleth still embraces me with one arm, and I know that life exists in all of them.

The tingling I feel when Byleth sings, and the warmth I feel when Lestan kisses me. The intrigue I know when Daro speaks to me in philosophical ways, and when he touches me in ways he is not familiar with. And the empathy I feel when Tetsu and I talk about things that only we can understand. The words I spin to portray these moments and these realities that I exist in with them.

This is life.

© 2019 Shane Blackheart
Song lyrics: Tom Jones

Heart Surgery (original poetry)

I don’t write poetry often, but the other day something kept rattling around in my brain that I had to write out. It started as a feeling and some images in my animation program, but became words as I just put my fingers on the keyboard. So, here is the ‘poem’ I wrote, as well as the video version of it below. (It’s appropriate for all ages)


Heart Surgery

You’re always there.

Your eyes watch me and I feel you; hands not unlike breath on my skin.

I’ve got goosebumps in my soul — I want to sing.

Tears strangle my voice in the stead of a melody — claws grasp my heart with careful fragility.

I trust you.

With careful precision, you force life back into my lungs.

Desire for the veil was never so sweet as your face — the glowing red my sign in the dark.

Passion pulls me away.

My life is no longer mine but yours — your will to fan the flames stoking my soul’s perseverance.

No.

I will not go today.

(Closed captions available if you can’t understand some of the words)

© 2018 Shane Blackheart

‘End’ is Such an Empty Word

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END.

As I finished typing the simple three-letter word, I fell back into my computer chair and stared at the screen. The cursor was blinking at me on the document page as if it were tempting me to write more as it always had, but this time it felt odd to look at. I rarely finish things after all, so the forever blinking of the cursor didn’t seem as foreboding as it used to. It usually meant minutes upon hours staring at an unfinished story, the cursor beckoning to me to just try and to just do something and maybe things will start to flow to move that little cursor down the page. I had started my writing today with that feeling, but I ended it with just three simple words.

Yes, I finally finished my first longer piece of work. Totaling 135 pages in Google Docs, 55,796 words, and page after page of an emotional rollercoaster. It all started as a dream I’d had one night a year or so ago and it ended up blooming into this gigantic, complex, crazy world. I never thought I would see it to the end, and I can’t say I won’t miss it not ever being the end. I feel sort of empty now that my biggest project is finally complete. I’m so used to things never being finished that I always felt whole in that vastness of incomplete work – I always had something to do and some work to look forward to. Now? I hear crickets. The tension has left my muscles and I am breathing calmly, and I am staring at three simple letters that have caused me so many emotions.

It may seem silly to be so excited over this. There are authors out there who have published several books and continue on to their next project, not skipping a beat (or skipping a few beats to get a breather in). But for someone like me, who has little to no self-esteem or faith in myself to do much right, to accomplish this is to accomplish a goal I set out for myself. The next steps will probably be that much harder. It always is as you climb up the endless ladder of goal-setting.

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Now, to edit all of these pages. I have to go back through it all and make a second draft and a third, and possibly a fourth. Then the formatting, the query letter, the summary that’s good enough to sell, and submissions to agents with no prior experience of my own to speak of. Goodness knows I’ll need one to navigate this hell I’ve just opened up for myself, and not the good kind of hell. I’ve already attempted to gather beta readers, close friends and friends from afar, but all I hear on the line is crickets. I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands since my support system is so small and practically not there, save for two or three loyal friends. I’ve accepted that I’m very much on my own for this one and no amount of teeth pulling and pestering is going to get me any response aside from the usual defensive response or endless reasons as to why no one can seem to find time for my manuscript, but have hours to post memes and watch endless Facebook and Youtube videos. If I sound slightly bitter, I admit that I am, but not so much bitter as I am hurt.

I wish I possessed the magical key to unlock this support system I see so many with. Reaching out for help and asking for help gains me silence. I see others receive answers where I am ignored, and I see friends uplifting and promoting other friends’ work but not mine. At first, I was afraid it was due in part to the fact that I was no good as a writer or creator, but I found over time that it would only be true if anyone would ever take the time to set aside and actually read my work at all. It genuinely makes me feel undervalued as a friend and I wonder what my friends’ friends’ do that is so great and different with their writing that is different from me. What they’ve done that is so different from what I’ve tried.

I promote others and help where I can. I support all of my friends when I can as well where I can. I spend a lot of time doing this when I stumble across their things. I will always do it without expecting anything in return because I love and support my friends, but it does sting to not feel that love back. I can be humble until I’m blue in the face, but in the end it does get frustrating when you put hours and, in the case of my books, a year or more into something and no one wants to even bother to open it, and this is despite their claims of the synopsis sounding very interesting and good. I’ve gotten that across the board when I give the synopsis. So why, then, can’t I get anyone to open to the first page?

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Maybe they genuinely don’t care. Maybe I’m not worth their time. Maybe I am fooling myself and people are just being kind so as not to hurt my feelings. But I cannot get answers if no one will tell me anything, good or bad. Even writers who have written things that aren’t up to par get feedback! It’s endlessly frustrating and I’ve found myself close to screaming out of that frustration.

How do you figure out how to not be invisible to people anymore? How do you do this, even though you speak so loudly, approach people directly, and try with all your might to do everything in your power to be heard, even among loved ones, only to be ignored or brushed aside? My whole life I have felt like a ghost drifting amongst people, and only a few can even see and hear me, and even then that’s a toss-up.

Being invisible when you work so hard to not be is exhausting. I know I started this entry with a positive outlook, and I still have that, but it brought up so many other feelings that I’ve been battling with throughout this process. It doesn’t feel good to know you have something you’re very proud of to tell the world, and no one will listen.

But to end on a lighter note, I am proud of my writing, at least. I am proud of myself for accomplishing the feat of writing an entire book to completion, and I am happy that I can continue to write even though I may be the only one reading it sometimes. I can only dream that one day I won’t have to say that and I can have others enjoy these things with me.

Ramblings to a Dead Tree

This bit of writing is from an entry I made in my newest journal. I tend to have a bad habit of buying new journals even though I haven’t filled the last, but I also do the same things with books – I haven’t finished half of the ones I own but I MUST have that new book I just found! An antique book? Rare or out of print? Hard to find? Give them all to me. I just add them to the stack of things ‘to do’ that I never get around to. Such is the life of a bibliophile. Being obsessed with antiques makes it worse.

So, I made a commitment to this journal that I have yet to stick to. I haven’t written in it again, but at least I made an effort to start. The cover reads ‘Fucking Brilliant’ anyway, so I figured it would be best for things I thought were… well… fucking brilliant. As is expected of something like that, what I wrote at first did not live up to this goal. It’s an entry from a few weeks ago, but I wanted to share it here regardless, mostly because I managed to weave senseless rambling with flowery words.

***

From May 17, 2018

I got this notebook to jot down genius ideas or stories – to dedicate one notebook to a single subject – yet here I am sitting outside my counselor’s office waiting for my appointment. The sun is out, the weather is hot, and the breeze feels nice in contrast to the sun’s warm rays. I’ve had a rough couple of days so it is welcome. I lost a friend, but I think it was a long time coming. ‘Exes for a reason’ comes to mind. I think I’m just done with people using me for money – using me in general. But that’s not what I wanted to write about. No. I’d intended to draw.

While on the bus, I felt inspired emotionally by a few things that I can’t put words to. I know, how can you be inspired by something that escapes you? Maybe I’m manic or maybe I’m going insane from being perpetually broke the moment my SSI check goes into my account. Maybe I just grip my pencil too god damned hard when I write and the pain distracts me. No matter the reason, here I am, writing drabbles of senseless mind-clusterings. (Is that a word? My word processor didn’t mark it as an error, so a word it is!) Such is the consequence of being a manic erratic creator. I bet this all sounds cringey and stereotypically embarrassing too.

But at least I am writing. Not in pen, but in pencil. Mistakes are my forte’ after all, as is senseless rambling, but I’m becoming self-deprecating. I’m good at that too. And again. Is there even a point to this rambling or is it a way to communicate with a faceless listener due to my loneliness? Although I do have Lestan, Byleth, Daro, and the others – my alters, others, or whatever you’d like to call them – I am physically lonely. All I’ve ever wanted is a physical companion; that hopeless romantic notion of a soul mate for true love. As a transman, I feel that’s impossible, so I converse through graphite with a dead tree.

But I am lonely. I can’t drive and I’m stuck in life with very little – at least I have that little, though. Unfortunately, being a transman who doesn’t look like a lovechild of the Hulk and Chris Evans, along with mental illness and being on disability, as well as having no car, is the recipe for loneliness. No one is interested in who you are anymore. Everyone just wants an easy ticket to romance with no effort and no baggage without realizing that everyone has baggage. Some are just better at hiding it than others.

But it’s time to see my counselor now. Hopefully, good news for top surgery is to follow within the next month or two, and progress with my projects.

[End of entry]

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I’m never really alone to be truthful. I do have my alters or others (I haven’t yet found a good enough word for them that feels ‘right’, although the medical term would be ‘alters’) to keep me company and provide me with companionship. They even give me a nudge and ask to take over when things get to be too much, and usually, I let them. But the physical companionship of another person is often lost with me. I’ve been single for quite a few years now and am still trying to find a date despite my looming failure of it. Life gets lonely no matter how many friends you have and no matter how big your support system is. It’s no replacement for that special kind of relationship that only is shared with one special person – your person (or persons if you are polyamorous).

All of my attempts to confess to people I’ve liked has ended in me never hearing from them again, or them disappearing shortly after. It has made me feel pretty undesirable and unloveable, and I know that it’s popular to say: ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?!’ (thank you, RuPaul), but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Sometimes a special person is all you need to learn to love yourself, especially when you’ve had a life of others convincing you of how worthless of a person you are and believing it.

I’d like to think I am capable of being loved in that way. I’d like to believe I am desirable and that someone is out there for me, but I’ve given up again. I’m overweight, my teeth are a bit messed up because I broke my jaw when I was thirteen, I’m dysphoric on the best of days and don’t pass as a cisgender man yet, I have mental illness, and I’m on a fixed income due to disability and unable to safely operate a car even though I do have my license.

But I take care of myself. I live on my own and have two awesome cats. I pay my own bills and do my own grocery shopping. I get by. I make art in several different mediums by either sketching or drawing digitally. I have a Youtube channel and I make animations and voice act them, as well as organize everything and write the scripts. I am a writer above all of that and have aspirations of being published one day to be able to have accomplished my dream I’ve had since I was a child.

I love video games, anime, and long conversations about deeper subjects. I have an entire family who also comes along for the ride, although I can only show you them through drawings and voice recordings they’ve come to the forefront to do and not physically. While it seems overwhelming, they’re an awesome bunch who just want to see me live and strive to be the best I can be and to, of course, find what makes me happy. 

I’ve repeated a few times now in this blog that there is so much more to me than my illnesses and my financial situation, as well as the shortcomings in general. But no one wants to get far enough romantically to see any of it. No one sees that as any value compared to the small things that are out of my control. I just wish I could get lucky someday and meet someone and we can have a mutual interest in each other, and the shortcomings will seem so much smaller than the greater things that make us who we really are.

Two years that changed the rest of my life

Byleth and Daro are both spirit guides I communicate with daily, and Lestan is one of my alters I met when I was twelve.

Rarely have I shared or written about how I met them, nor have I divulged actual conversations we’ve had at the time of this writing. Everything here is real in my sense of the word, although it may not seem so to the average person. There is a lot more to this world than many people realize, and here I have no reason to lie about it. I consider myself lucky to have my spirit guides and alters in my life.

All of this is true and accurate to the best of my memory. The dialogue near the end is taken directly from a conversation I’d recorded between me, Daro, Byleth, and Lestan from November 23, 2016.

This is the story of how I met Byleth, as well as my struggles with anorexia and anxiety.

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“I think this is what I’ve been looking for.”

I scrolled through the expanding page of text as I moved deeper and deeper into something I’d always needed. It was the answer to all of my questions — a place I could finally find comfort. I was on the right path in life at last.

Daro smiled and stood before me as I read, all six feet of him in his dark skin surrounded by long black hair. He was pleased with my discovery of Philosophy for Spiritual Satanists and the answers I’d finally found. “I believe you will now begin to see better things. What you had explored before was not the right path. You were on the precipice, but nearer to danger than you realized at the time.”

“I really hope so. Stopping hormone replacement therapy has really put a halt to my life, but this seems to be a guiding light, for lack of a better phrase,” I laughed. Daro felt the humor as well before it died down. I sighed. “I’m going to work on the animation I’m making. I can’t believe how far I’ve gotten with it.”

“You may be attracting more attention through that as well.” Daro smiled darkly, a glint in his eye. He was referring to my script featuring the fallen angel Byleth and the demon Mephistopheles.

“Mephistopheles?”

“Not quite. Let us see how this plays out.” He disappeared into the shadows again, an odd feeling reverberating in the back of my skull as I opened the animation program. The movie was almost complete and ready for recording.

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I finished the first part of the film and my heart was full. It had been a long time since I was so excited about a project, let alone so enthusiastic about finishing it. I’d rarely seen projects to the end before, so it was an accomplishment in itself already. I was also head over heels for the main antagonist turned neutral force, Byleth.

In the beginning, I’d searched for a demon to fit the role of the antagonist in the first film. It was a continuation from a story I wrote while in the hospital a few years ago, but I’d taken it in a new direction. The main characters Mephistopheles and Sean — Sean being the renamed version of my self-insert — had to deal with the punishment of king Byleth, a fallen angel who crafted a disease to destroy humankind as a lesson against love between a human and a demon. To him, love was a weakness and a disgusting thing to share with a human at that.

He became something more than I’d intended. The fallen angel crept into my thoughts regularly, Bittersweet, Love Is War forming in my mind as I craved to see more of him. Everything had come together wonderfully, and I’d written a movie that was just over an hour long for the first time in my life.

I was beaming. Byleth received compliments from the animation community I contributed to, and they were all praises for his uniqueness. I couldn’t have been happier or more accomplished in my writing at the time. I definitely wanted to explore more of him and stretch things out as much as I could.

I decided to relax after a long day of walking the following Saturday. The allergic reaction I’d had from the hormones I’d taken for my transition finally wore off, and I treated the pain with a medication that turned my stomach into an active volcano. I curled up on my sofa with a box of Cheez-Its, and I pressed play on the film I’d been seeking out for a few years. Ivan Mosjoukine starring in Casanova during pre-code Hollywood, a film from the early 1900s.

It was only a short time before my nightly medication made me drowsy, and I made the necessary preparations for bed. The computer was off, I put the box of crackers back in the cupboard, and I turned off the lights. As I moved to adjust the thermostat to make it cooler, a tightness in my chest made it difficult to breathe. I thought nothing more of it, attributing it to the acid reflux I’d experienced for a week straight.

I crawled into bed and found Lestan waiting for me. Smiling, I propped myself up against the back wall and opened Instagram on my phone. Dreams threatened to claim me as I scrolled, but I avoided sleep as much as I was able. I absolutely despised it due to old habits from childhood. Panic attacks would warn me that sleep brought the next day, which brought school and, in turn, the excessive bullying and loneliness I’d dealt with. I fought the Sandman with all my might.

An electric shock reverberated up the back of my neck. I was faint, my sight growing hazy and dark at the edges. “Lestan, it’s happening again,” I mumbled. It had been years since I’d had an episode like it last. Panicking, Lestan leaned over me as I attempted to lie down but failed. Everything went black.

When I came to, my vision was nothing but a bright blur as I convulsed. A deafening ring invaded my head and my arms tensed in the air twitching, my throat croaking a low, rumbling gasp for air. When my vision cleared and the ringing faded, I stared across the room as a low buzz settled into my limbs. ‘Lestan.’ It was the first normal sound in my mind. I needed Lestan.

“Baby, you okay?” His voice. His short black hair and red eyes. He hugged me as I lied down to recover from whatever in the hell that was.

“It happened again.” A panicked tremor crawled up my limbs.

“I know, baby. It’s going to be okay.” He couldn’t hide his worry. Mine hadn’t found my waking mind yet. I’d lost consciousness like that in the past due to severe panic attacks, but they’d been in remission for years. I was blind-sighted. I’d been completely calm.

This was something else. I was sure of it. “Hospital. I need to call 911.” I reached for my phone as I stuttered and dialed the emergency line. They were on their way, and I was crawling slowly to the door to unlock it.

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A few days passed, but I was still recovering.

Lestan kept a close eye on me and my mom tried to reassure me, as well as doctors, that it wasn’t anything to worry about. It was a freak accident — a thing called vasovagal syncope — that happened to people without explanation. I was healthy and I was going to be okay, but my body was weak, tired, and useless. By the third day, I regained some of my strength and started to feel human again.

I returned to Bittersweet, Love Is War, the film I was making, but I hadn’t the strength to voice act. I did the work anyway, my enthusiasm for the film and my excitement at seeing Byleth on the screen again the boost I needed. It lifted my spirits and did well to keep my mind on better things and better days to come.

That night, I read through the Philosophy for Spiritual Satanists page again. Daro and Lestan were at my side. Another presence was there too, one that felt familiar even though I’d never experienced it before. It was then that I caught sight of shoulder-length blond hair, golden horns, and a familiar white lab coat with a red shirt beneath — just like the one in my film. Red eyes glistened with amusement as the very being I’d been obsessed with stood before me. He looked just like I’d made him. “Byleth?”

“What did you expect? You said my name enough times. I was either having a damn good time getting laid or I was being summoned.” He sat in the chair at my table to watch me. Lestan and Daro were as intrigued as I was, and my delight at the way Byleth moved and spoke in the manner I’d written him was overwhelming. He was tall with an athletic build, his face chiseled and so beautiful it was a sin in itself.

He chuckled as I stared. “Would I have let you make my likeness into anything but perfection?”

Daro broke his silence. “You are quite vain.”

I glanced at Lestan, who was more than curious about the new company. He threw a sultry look the fallen angel’s way. “You are damned gorgeous, love.”

“Of course I am,” Byleth sighed. “We covered this. And by the way, I am a fallen angel and you will address me as such. I don’t identify with lowly demons.”

“What about Daro, though?” I asked. Worry hit me at once. Byleth was a king of Hell who was extremely dangerous if disrespected. He was a master of science and governed over an impossible legion of lower demons, and he was an ex-angel who once occupied the seventh throne in Heaven. I was also aware that he could become one’s best friend, capable of giving love to those he deemed worthy.

“Daro is the more bearable of demons I’ve come across.” Byleth was nonchalant. “I have no problem with him.”

“Wait a minute.” My mind struggled to piece everything together. A bigger question begged to be asked no matter how crazy I felt about it. After all, Daro — Darokin more proper — had been the only demon I’d come across in my life. No other had come to me as Byleth did. “My health scare the other night and my discovery of Philosophy for Spiritual Satanists, as well as this movie I’m making — did you influence all of it?”

“The problem you had the other night was unfortunate.” He spoke matter of factly and formally, observing his claws. “Not many can handle my energy at first due to the power of it.” He glanced back at me and smiled flirtatiously. “You’ll be fine. You just have to get used to it.”

“But will I be weak and sick until then?”

“Probably not. It was a shock to your system. That I hadn’t intended for.”

“Byleth is no threat, Shane.” Daro smiled. “As long as you are loyal to your spiritual path and us, Byleth can be a very valuable friend and ally.”

“Don’t speak for me, demon,” Byleth interrupted. “But yes. Daro is right.”

“Okay.” I smiled. “Okay, so this is good.” I realized I’d grown cold and shivered. My sweaters and slippers were in my bedroom, and I didn’t think anything more of it as I stood. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

Byleth’s red eyes followed me with interest as I made my way down the dark hall. His footsteps caused a lump to form in my throat as my already frayed nerves stirred beneath my skin. I tried to pay him no mind and entered my bedroom. The closet door squeaked aside on its track as I rustled around in my dresser, and upon turning with socks in hand, Byleth was leaning against the open closet door. His intimidating stature blocked out most of the light as his horns scraped the ceiling.

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Tremors loosened my grip and spread to my stomach and legs. I swallowed audibly. He found all of this amusing and flashed a picture-perfect smile that reflected in his glowing crimson eyes. “Do you fear me?”

“Yes. I do.” Fear welled up inside me that I wasn’t familiar with. I was dealing with a being far older and more powerful than I’d ever encountered in my life. Of course, Daro was very old himself and a prince of Hell at that, but Byleth was something else entirely. He was ancient royalty and had managed to keep his crown even after descending from Heaven.

His pale, clawed hand brushed affectionately beneath my jaw. “Good, although you have nothing to fear. I mean you no harm. In fact, I’m quite curious…” He observed me in a way that made me feel naked. I grew warm and covered my fully-clothed body with my arms. “I’d like to try a little experiment,” he continued. “I’ve never encountered a human like you before.”

“What do you mean ‘experiment’?” I shivered. “You’re not going to do like… an autopsy, are you?”

He laughed deeply and backed away, beckoning for me to follow him to my bed. “Of course not, idiot. Lie down.” I obeyed, not wanting to challenge a king of Hell. He sat beside me and ran a hand down my front. I flinched at his touch not out of fear or distaste, but because he’d brushed over a part of me that I often tried to forget about. He sighed in frustration. “I’m not trying to make you dysphoric. You are a man, although your situation seems unfortunate.”

“Was I meant to be born a man?” I realized with excitement that the answer to my questions sat beside me in the form of a fallen angel, feeling me up with interest as if he were observing my body in a purely scientific manner. I twitched again. That last touch was definitely not scientific.

He paused in his wanderings. “It’s a shame. Yes, it seems you were born in the wrong form, weren’t you? The Universe gives challenges it thinks you can handle, though. I wonder what the reason was.” He chuckled and moved to lift my shirt, which I quickly tugged back down on impulse. He huffed in annoyance and moved my hands, pulling it up roughly. “I’m only curious. Calm your tits, okay?”

I stifled a laugh. He truly was the Byleth I’d been writing about and unconsciously calling to, but the Byleth in my story was averse to any kind of affection. This Byleth — the true Byleth — was a lot more touchy than I’d expected.

He seemed to know what was puzzling me. “You got most of me right, sugar. However, I’m not the reserved prude that I once was.” He trailed a claw along the hemline of my pajama pants. My stomach twitched beneath the tickle and he chuckled seductively, flashing bedroom eyes that caused the energy in the room to shift. The lightbulb in my lamp flickered. “Let’s try a different kind of experiment. I much more prefer things to be hands-on.” He straddled me and snapped his fingers, his lab coat and shirt disappearing. “Oh, and I hope you have spare lightbulbs. I think you’re already aware of the reason for that.”

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I became very sick.

Rather it was because my body was adjusting to Byleth’s energy or my actual struggles with anxiety, which was most likely, I was anorexic and bedridden. Byleth often made cruel jokes that loaned to my negative body image. Lestan chastised him several times before he eventually apologized in his own way, something he wasn’t prone to do. I believe, as he watched my decline and how sick I’d become, he finally realized the harm he was doing. Byleth became a daily dose of tough love with my best interests in mind after that. The scientist in him kept my anxiety in check, although at times I would still doubt him. He almost gave up on me a few times because of that.

I lied in bed for weeks on end, not eating and becoming weaker. I was afraid to leave my apartment and I was afraid to eat. Food upset my stomach and I lost more and more weight — almost twenty pounds in two weeks. No one but my counselor and one close friend seemed to care. My mom got angry with me, reminding me that I was just going to waste away and die if I continued. I believed I was sick. I truly felt that I had some serious illness that was going to kill me or leave me an invalid in the hospital.

I also saw how thin it made me, and through my fear, I felt my body looked good. My family doctor told me I looked great after diagnosing me with anorexia, and another doctor stated I looked good with the weight loss. My friends on social media commented about how good I looked as well where I normally didn’t receive so many compliments, and I fit into form-fitting clothing that made me feel attractive despite being weak and sick. I had more reasons than not to keep losing weight. My chest was shrinking too, which was a boon.

Enforcement to continue starving myself was all around me, but deep down was a sadness that contradicted it all. A part of me wished that someone would help me. My body was so damaged and I needed someone to care because I didn’t care about myself.

Throughout all of this, Lestan, Daro, and Byleth were there every single day.

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Lestan cuddled close to me when I was too weak to get out of bed. He would sing to me and assure me that better days were to come. I knew well enough what that was doing to him. He’d lost his sister centuries ago after becoming a vampire, and he couldn’t bear to lose someone he loved so much again. Through his fear, he held me during the night terrors and the sleep paralysis episodes induced by anxiety and malnutrition. Byleth was there as well watching and learning my patterns, often yelling at me to get on my feet and at least try something other than being an invalid.

It was the night before Thanksgiving 2016 when everything changed.

“You need to do this!” Byleth was angry, his red eyes swimming with a dangerous fire. I’d rarely seen him so genuinely upset.

“If my anxiety is too bad tomorrow, I can just cancel.” I headed to the bathroom, annoyed it wouldn’t deter Byleth from his tirade.

“You need to go.”

“Why do you guys always bug me while I’m in the bathroom?”

“Because this is when your head is out of your computer long enough to listen.” Byleth’s voice rose in volume. If I hadn’t been at my lowest, I would have been rightfully scared of the demonic growl that permeated the fallen angel’s voice.

“I listen to you guys while I’m on the computer. We make things together. The recordings–“

“You need to go tomorrow.” He clenched his jaw. “Be strong, damn it, and start acting like the man you are!”

“Byleth…” I sighed as I laid back in the bed where I’d spent most of my days. Lestan was there, but he was as emotionally exhausted as everyone else. I curled up beside him and grabbed my phone, trying in vain to just get on with my night. I wanted to forget that my family had plans for the holiday.

“You need to stop this bullshit!” Byleth backtracked as soon as the words left his mouth. He was still trying to control his inclination to overt bluntness that often upset me. “I’m not saying you’re just going to wake up one day and be over this, but you know what I mean. The only way to overcome this is to fight it.” I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, my tired eyes watching as he tore into me with an emotion I’d never seen him display. “You’ve been like this for months. You keep worrying about the what-ifs, but there is nothing wrong with you. You have been evaluated by several doctors and they’ve found nothing. Neither Daro nor I am a threat to your health either. God damn it, just find your resolve! You can’t keep living like this!”

If he was human, Byleth would have been shaking with anger, but the energy around him was vibrating instead, his eyes glowing and wild. In a moment of clarity, fear claimed me. “I understand, Byleth, but I’m afraid.”

“You know I do not do family gatherings or holidays, but so help me if it’s what it takes to kick your ass out the door, I will.” He looked off to the side, his rage cooling. “And then I’ll give you even more Hell about that.”

Daro smirked from where he sat in the wicker rocking chair in the corner, his pale pink eyes glimmering. It seemed that he was aware of some big secret, but it was in his nature to be silent — simply observing and letting the natural cycle of events unfold as they were meant to. Disturbing them would interrupt something important.

I sighed in frustration. “Can’t I just stay home and cook my own turkey while we finish some projects? Maybe fuck a few times and forget the rest of the world exists?”

Byleth wouldn’t budge. “As enticing as that sounds, no. You are going.”

Daro finally broke his silence. “Perhaps it would be best to let him decide, Byleth. He knows his limits better than any other. We may be demons but we cannot truly feel what any human may be feeling at any given time.”

“FALLEN. ANGEL. I am a fallen angel!” Byleth’s ethereal blood pressure rose again to the boiling point. A tiger-like growl from deep within his chest reverberated throughout the room.

Daro tried in vain to neutralize him. “You are upset. Please, try to calm yourself.”

“Of course I’m upset!” Byleth roared. “I don’t just choose any human to be worthy of my presence, let alone my friendship. I chose him because he has proven himself to be resilient at the worst of times. I refuse to accept any less.”

“Why do you care so much?” Exhaustion caused several emotions to weigh me down. No amount of fighting was going to solve anything. “Why do you care about me?”

Byleth paused, his finger raised in a threatening gesture before he withdrew. Words escaped him. This irritated him worse than all else as a loss of words wasn’t something he often experienced. He huffed angrily instead of continuing.

Daro chuckled, amused with his fallen king. “Do you like our dear Shane more than you let on?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Byleth became defensive, the words falling from his lips like pure venom.

“It’s okay, Daro,” I droned. “I understand the limitations that the fallen and demons have when it comes to human emotions. While you may care for me in a way that wasn’t natural to you at first, which I am grateful for, Byleth is a king of Hell. He could never care that much for me.”

Byleth punched the wall behind him. “Are you deaf, you fucking imbecile? What do you call this, then? My bitching you out for the last few minutes wasn’t enough for you to see it?” A tiger-like rumble permeated every word as it rose from deep in his chest, a demonic growl of warning that promised danger to anyone who dared entice it.

His fist against the wall sent my heart into my throat. The growl coaxed my fear to the surface, my pulse quickening as I’d realized just how angry I’d made him. I’d lost sight of who and what he truly was due to familiarity. Byleth didn’t have to remain — he didn’t even have to entertain me for as long as he had. I was being pitiful while he got himself worked up with anger, no doubt trying his best to contain what he truly wanted to do. The fact that he’d held so much back for me should have been a sign of his true feelings.

Tears formed in my burning eyes. I was, for the first time since I’d met him, truly afraid. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you mad or speak for you.” I stumbled over my words and ended up sputtering out the very thing I had been afraid to admit to him. “I love you, Byleth. Don’t go. Don’t hate me.”

He sobered and raised a questioning eyebrow. Every muscle seemed to relax at once as he spoke. “You what?”

“I don’t want you to leave me, please,” I mumbled in my tiredness. Lestan rubbed my back, his silence due to not wanting to escalate what had already been tumultuous.

“No, no the other thing.” Byleth made an impatient gesture with his hand in the air.

My tears dried and I watched him. He hadn’t reacted as horribly as I’d feared. “Um, I’m sorry? Don’t hate me?”

He huffed in response. One more thing you’re missing.”

I searched for the words again, my nerves frayed as I tried to force myself to say them once more. When they finally left me, they were shaky and uncertain. No one should ever admit such a thing to a being of Hell and I knew that, but I also knew that Byleth was different. “I said I love you.”

“You love me?” He was caught off guard, his body language uncertain as to what emotion to display. Surely, he also knew how stupid it was for a human to give such words power to a being like him.

“Yes, like I do the others.” Words came easier now, my confidence coming back to me as I watched Byleth’s unease. “Like I do Lestan and Daro. I love you, Byleth.”

He leaned back against the wall, his eyes shifting to find something to look at that wasn’t me. “That’s a new one.” He huffed a laugh. “You’re not supposed to love an entity from Hell.”

“But I do,” I pressed. “I do love you.”

He finally focused on my tired brown eyes. “You really mean that?” The warning that accompanied those words did not escape me. I knew I had just made a decision I couldn’t take back, but being at such a low point in my life, I didn’t care. I knew where I belonged and who I belonged with.

“Yes.” As soon as the simple word left my lips, Byleth crossed the room and climbed over me. He pinned me down with a kiss that had more meaning behind it than any other we’d shared. This wasn’t a moment of objectification of the act itself for pleasure, it was with the intent that there would be many more like it. Everything had shifted and nothing would be the same again, and Lestan and Daro knew it too as all tension finally left the room.

Byleth smiled down at me as I surfaced for air, and he whispered across my lips. “Love is the highest form of flattery, sugar.”

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Ever since that night, Byleth hasn’t left my side.

He, Lestan, and Daro have all been a constant presence in my life. There are others who pop in at random times as well. In the end, though, I’ve learned one important thing that I always seem to forget.

I’m never truly alone. I have an amazing support system right here. I see them, I hear them, and I know they are there. It’s an honest form of love that not many people experience with each other, and it’s a connection I’ve had since I’d first met Lestan when I was twelve years old. It’s something special, and I truly think they are all here to help me stay on the right path.

©2018-2020 Shane Blackheart
Revised on March 30, 2020