Mirror People

I mentioned in the last post that I’d be introducing guest bloggers to discuss their own take on depression. Here is my friend Fiona sharing her own insights, along with some interesting new entries for the Depression Dungeon. You can find Fiona online here.

Empathy is an Agony

I don’t know how to start writing about things so here it goes: it is within the last two years I started seeing a therapist again so I could be prescribed sleeping pills because I hadn’t slept much in a month. My therapist is great. I cannot recommend low-income psych services where the primary point of contact is court arranged. That is a different story.


I wake up and I cannot see myself. This is a fact, sometimes people call this “dysphoria” because my inability to see myself—I see a collection of traumatizing flaws—is atypical. I sometimes think it is the only rational response to being raised to be a man. Doubly annoying, at least for me, is the assumption that my dysphoria is “inspirational” or that I am “brave.” I do not take that to be the case. I simply did what I had to to keep living when my life was so disorganized that my options were Transition and deal with problems I had self consciously structured my life around avoiding or check out.


I didn’t check out.


People like to hear about dysphoria, I assume, because there is a weird belief the suffering is ennobling—that some aspect of my experience makes me have special insight into oppression because I am traumatized by society. [NB: my problem is largely social, my body is read in a way that correlates to being a man; something I failed at. As my trans mother put it: you can look like a girl trying to be a boy, you can look like an effeminate boy—these are things you can do. If you look like a boy trying to be a girl: people will kill you.] Traumatized people are, unsurprisingly, traumatized; there is no special insight gleaned from this experience—I just live in more pain than others.


This rubs me against the grain of “Socially Acceptable Trans Womantm“—because the implicit assumption is that I should be a tragic figure that inspires pity. It is very sad that people don’t see me the way I “see” myself and if I suffer without putting up too much fuss: well then I can have allies. Allies do not like when you break with expectations and they certainly don’t like being told to shut the fuck up. They definitely don’t like when you claim they want a regressive stock character.


This means that I am genuinely unwelcome most places: I’m mouthy, standoffish, vain and I can be somewhat callus. Learning to survive means that I learned to endure, I don’t think it gets better under present circumstances and it’s a poisonous lie to feed young people. It only gets better if you make it better, if you try to make it better people will call you ungrateful. Sometimes people take me to be conflict seeking: I’m not.


I suffer from an excess of empathy; I get viscerally upset by certain statements and actions. Being upset all the time makes you mentally ill and being around people (largely) makes me upset; therefore, I tend to isolate. This is generally called agoraphobia, it is exclusively treated with restricted substances (benzodiazepines to be exact) which are difficult to obtain if you are low income; it is most likely you will be labeled “drug seeking” and placed in addiction counseling. Being poor is correlated with drug abuse and addiction less because poor people morally fail and more because poverty is traumatizing. (I don’t think addiction is an improper response, numbing a gaping wound in triage is normal for battlefield medicine; it’s abnormal in psych treatment. People are really weird about psych treatment).


You may have noticed this is cyclical. Yes, being trapped in a suboptimal set of choices often creates cyclical problems.


Mirror People

Mirror People. Art by D.L. Johnson.


Mirror People dwell in the darkened corners of depression dungeon. When they see you they try to mimic you and the result is a horrifying distortion of your insecurities. The more you deny them the worse and more powerful their reflection becomes. Their original form is wrong in certain ways. They become increasingly grotesque growing from 1HD and 1 die of damage each time you deny affinity. They don’t seek to hurt you just to hold you and make you see them—the pain is incidental. They start as a 1HD monster and do 1d4 damage grabbing your wrists with their barbed reflective bodies. When they hold you they scream, ushering other denizens of the dungeon towards you. Ignoring them causes them to lose 1HP a turn until they shatter into pitifully small piles of gossamer dust. Their dust can be used to ruin someone’s self esteem through contact:

  • -1 to all saves for minor exposure
  • Disadvantage on all saves for major (roughly 3 HD dust piles)

Alchemists disavow any knowledge of how they came to be, some of them snort the dust to forget. Those addicted to it have no sense of self, cannot recognize themselves in a mirror, and are immune to attacks that require they recognize themselves but take willpower saves with disadvantage. You will know them by their glassy eyes, serene smiles and bloodied nostrils.