My demons

(Title is a common enough phrase, but definitely check out the Starset song of the same name.)

As anyone who has read my ramblings of the past few years can tell, I don’t believe in the supernatural. I’m agnostic—in the literal sense of “not knowing”—on its existence, but nothing I have seen in my nearly 38 years of life has shown me any evidence that it in any way impacts the natural world. If it did, things would be a lot different, I imagine.

That said, I do, in a sense, believe in demons. They’re the personal sort, though, not the horned beast-men or diabolically sexy monster girls but…emotions. Thoughts. Aspects of one’s personality. These demons are the ones living inside our heads.True, some aren’t exactly evil, and people often use the word daemon to refer to those which are good or, at worst, neutral. I like that, since the base word has become inexorably linked with evil.

Whatever term you use, the ones we’re most familiar with are the bad sort, and they come in a number of different flavors. Too many people have a lust for power or pleasures of the flesh; both of these often lead to trouble, whether for themselves or those around them. Tempers flaring might be a sign of a different kind of inner demon, that of rage or fury. Greed, another popular one, fills our world today.

And then there are mine. They’re twins, in a sense, or perhaps merely sisters. Certainly related, and my mental image really is of a feminine form for both of them. No real reason, except that I know enough about classical mythology to associate emotions with female figures: think the Muses, for instance.

Melancholia is the older of this pair. I’ve known her for a long time, at least two decades, and I once believed I had come to understand her. She’s the voice in my ear telling me something is impossible, hopeless, unable to be done. She reminds me that the world is a cruel, callous place full of people who will never truly know me, or even care to. Her will has guided so many of my posts, while a number of my books were written in part as attempts at quieting her. She isn’t likable, but she’s a known quantity.

Younger Acedia, on the other hand, makes me want to use words I don’t normally speak to describe her. She has come into fullness over the past few years, and is now in her ascendancy. While Melancholia urges me to give up hope, Acedia revels in the knowledge that I already have. She is a mistress of decay, of apathy and stasis. She would call herself my lover, and she jealously pushes back any who dare to love me. Her strength waxes as the world falls further into chaos and tyranny, as I get older and see my chances at a life worth living slowly dry up. On my darkest days, she even stops my tears, though not out of any sense of empathy. No, she says not to bother, that there’s no sense in crying if nobody will see it. And, she’s always quick to add, no one wants to see it anyway.

Melancholia is strong, but I can fend her off on good days. When the sun is shining, when good things are happening for a change, I can push Melancholia aside, put my hand over her mouth so I don’t have to hear her poisonous words. All this time has allowed me to recognize those moments when I have the upper hand on her.

Acedia, however, clouds my judgment. And she is much stronger than her sister, at least these days. Alone, I might be able to stand my ground against her. Facing both of my demons at the same time, as I’ve had to do for 18 months without a break, that’s much more difficult. Impossible, I might even say, and I can’t blame that entirely on Melancholia. This is a constant struggle, one I’m not sure I can win. On those occasions, ever rarer as time passes, where I am able to push both of them away for a few brief moments, it seems that only leaves them more enraged, and their revenge leaves me shaken, beaten down, ready to surrender.

Two on one isn’t a fair fight, but then there is no such thing, I suppose. Especially when you’re fighting the demons that reside within.

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