Hey everyone! How are you all doing?
It’s my birthday on the 5th of May. Last year, I did a live stream and gave a link to an Amazon wishlist, in case any of you wanted to buy me presents.
Well, this year I’d like to give back. As many of you know, I am a transgender woman living in the United Kingdom.
The situation for transgender people in the UK is very bad right now. There are a lot of negative things said about us in newspapers and on TV, and the public healthcare system doesn’t give us the care we need. To give you an idea, I have been on the waiting list to get treatment on the National Health Service for almost four years, and I will probably be on that waiting list for at least another year.
I use private healthcare, but most transgender people cannot afford this. So for my birthday, I would love it if you could give money to FiveforFive, an organisation that gives money to different transgender organisations in the UK every month.
FiveforFive distributes money to a variety of transgender organisations, but it also gives to individual trans people who need money for housing, food, medicine and surgery. You can give money monthly, like I do, or go to the ‘Give’ page and give a one-time donation in the section that says ‘PayPal one-off giving’.
I would really appreciate anything you can give. Knowing that you’re helping my trans siblings in my country would really make me happy. So go to FiveforFive.co.uk and give whatever you can.
But if you think, ‘Hey, Ariel deserves a treat, too!’ then you can go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/HappyBirthday, where I’ve made a little birthday wishlist.
Of course, I completely understand if you don’t have any money to give, or if you don’t want to! That’s completely fine. Just listening to the podcast is enough of a present for me!
OK, let’s start the episode!
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for intermediate learners. The name of the story is The Monsters Inside Us. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Monsters. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Monsters. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So today’s story is something quite different, because today’s episode is a collaboration.
A collaboration is when you work with someone else to create something.
So, maybe you really like music and you want to use music to learn more English. Because, let’s face it, there’s a lot of really good music in English. But whenever you listen to a song, you find it hard to understand the lyrics and you wish you had someone to explain the meaning to you.
Well, lucky for you, I can recommend a great new podcast called Explained in English. In Explained in English, Kiah the host explains the meanings of lyrics of various songs and then talks about his interpretation of the message of the song, and Kiah reached out to me, he contacted me, and asked me if I would like to collaborate, and I said, ‘Hell yeah! That sounds like a fantastic idea.’
So today’s episode is a collaboration with Kiah. Kiah will be voicing one of the characters in today’s episode, so there’s going to be multiple voices in the story, which is a first for the podcast. And if you go over to Explained in English you can listen to the episode of Kiah’s podcast where I sit down with him to discuss the song 911 by Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga is a musician I really like, and I especially like her new album, Chromatica. 911 is a story from this album that’s all about mental health problems and hallucinations, which I will talk about, I will explain, a bit later.
Similarly, today’s story is on a related topic. It’s about this specific mental health problem called psychosis, which causes hallucinations.
So listen to today’s episode and, if you think the song will be interesting, or if you like Lady Gaga, or if you just want another way to learn English, go over to Explained in English and listen to the episode about 911 with me and Kiah.
It was so much fun to collaborate with Kiah on this episode and I’m really glad there are more great podcasts for learning English. Music is a really fantastic way to learn a language. You may know that I speak Japanese, and when I started learning, music was one of the main ways I learned. I listened to a lot of songs and I learned a lot of vocabulary that way, so I really really recommend you go over and listen to the episode at Explained in English.
Just a warning: today’s episode has some difficult content in it. There are hallucinations, representations of psychosis, homophobia, bullying, child abuse and light mentions of sex in it. If you think any of these things will be too uncomfortable for you to listen to, please consider if you want to listen to the episode. There is nothing very explicit, and there is humour as well, but remember to look after yourselves.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
Skinny means thin, when someone doesn’t have much fat on their body. Skinny jeans are a specific type of jeans that are very thin. Skinny jeans are very popular these days. They make your legs look thinner, and they are especially popular with young people, but they can be hard to pull on. Personally, I wear skinny jeans a LOT. They look good with everything!
When something is a figment of your imagination, and ‘figment’ is spelt F-I-G-M-E-N-T, it is something not real, something that you have just imagined. For example, in the story Alice in Wonderland, Alice sees a white rabbit running around with a clock. At first, she thinks that this is just a figment of her imagination, but then she follows the rabbit into the world of Wonderland. In the end, it isn’t a figment of her imagination at all!
A guardian angel is a special kind of angel who is sent to protect a person in their life. As angels, guardian angels have wings, a halo, a white ring above their head, and they usually wear white. Guardian angels are an important idea in Christianity, and many Christians believe that they have a guardian angel who they can’t see, who protects them throughout their life.
Your arse, or ass in American English, is the part of your body below your back and above your legs. It is often considered the most rude part of the body. You sit on your arse, and you usually shouldn’t show your arse in public. Actually, ‘arse’ is quite a rude word for this body part. We also call it the ‘behind’ or ‘bottom’.
A cowboy is a man who rides around on a horse and looks after cattle, cows and sheep, for a living. Well, that’s the official meaning, but you probably know about cowboys from Western films, such as The Wild Bunch, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In Western films, cowboys travel from town to town, killing criminals for money. Cowboys speak in a specific way in these films, saying ‘howdy’ instead of ‘hello’ and ‘yeehaw’ when they ride their horses.
Psychosis is a type of mental problem that some people get. Psychosis is linked to mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. When someone is psychotic, experiencing psychosis, they may have delusions. Delusions are when you believe something that is not true, for example, you believe that the sky is red. Psychotic people might also experience hallucinations. Hallucinations are when you see or hear something that is not really there. Many people hallucinate, have hallucinations, when they take certain kinds of drugs, and these hallucinatory drugs can cause psychosis in someone if they have certain genes for psychosis.
Dread is a feeling of intense fear and anxiety. When you feel dread, you know something horrible is going to happen. Even if you don’t know exactly what will happen, you dread it, and it feels like a monster is eating away at your insides.
Counselling is something that is given to people with mental illnesses and other social problems. Counselling involves talking through your problems. Generally, counselling is used for less serious problems, and therapy is used for serious psychological problems. Many universities in the UK offer free counselling, student counselling. I have used this several times myself, but in my experience, it wasn’t very useful.
A dissertation is a long essay that you write in university. In the UK, you write a dissertation in your final year for many subjects, and it contributes to your final grade. You also write a dissertation for your master’s degree. Sometimes, it is called a thesis. My dissertation was on the topic of voice onset time in the phonetic system of Esperanto speakers from France, Germany and Slovakia. Yes, I know, it’s very specific!
Medication is what you use to treat an illness, especially an illness that takes a long time to go away. For example, people can use medication to treat mental problems such as psychosis. These pills are called anti-psychotics. You go to the pharmacy to collect your medication. In the UK, you do not have to pay for medication, but you do have to pay a small fee every time you collect your meds, your medication.
If you enjoy the podcast and want more, you can support me on Patreon. For just $2 a month you can get exercises with each episode, and for $5, you get an extra story every month, as well as Elevenses with Ariel, a daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners. Last week I talked about swimming in freezing cold water, being stuck between two places, benches with special memories and the doctor crisis in the UK. You can support the show and get all the extra content at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
A big thank-you to my new patrons: Patrycja Wojtysiak, Julio José Murcia and Mirella Moreira. Thank you so much. Your support really means a lot to me.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Monsters Inside Us
Everyone thinks I’m crazy, and they don’t even know about the voices inside my head.
Well, it’s just one voice, really. He’s called Cam, and he’s been with me all my life. He’s the little voice that tells me what I should be doing with my life. He tells me to stop being lazy, to go to bed early, to stop judging people.
And until a month ago, that’s just what he was: a voice. I thought I simply had an active imagination, and that this was a voice that everyone had in their head. Mine just had a name. But then, one morning, I woke up and found Cam sitting on the end of my bed.
He had long, flowing white hair, and eyes like dark honey. He wore a thin white shirt with open sleeves, skinny jeans and Doc Martens.
I sat up in bed and said the first thing that I thought of. ‘Why are you wearing skinny jeans?’
He smiled and said, ‘Morning, Will. I’m wearing skinny jeans because I like them.’
I shook my head. ‘But you’re a figment of my imagination, aren’t you? I mean, there’s no way you’re real.’
I had no idea how I knew it was Cam. I just knew. And I was probably not reacting the way you should when you wake up and find some guy sitting on the edge of your bed.
Cam smiled, showing his teeth like a wolf. ‘Well, if I’m a figment of your imagination, then you chose to put me in skinny jeans, William. That’s pretty gay.’
I jumped out of bed, and then remembered I had slept naked. I growled and threw the duvet over him so he couldn’t see me. He just laughed.
‘What are you doing here?’ I said, pulling out some clothes and quickly getting dressed. ‘I mean, why now?’
‘It’s as good a time as any.’
‘Stop looking!’ I said. He was sticking his head out from under the duvet.
‘Why do you care if I see? I’m just a figment of your imagination.’
‘Yeah, but that means I’m crazy. Or you really are some weird monster that’s been living inside my head.’
‘Monster is such a rude word. You can think of me as more of an… angel.’
‘Hah!’ I said, pulling on a shirt. ‘Angel? What, like a guardian angel? I don’t need protecting, thanks. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go take a shower.’
I realised I had just gotten dressed, the opposite of what you do when you’re about to take a shower.
‘So, uh, stop looking again while I undress.’
I pulled off my clothes, found a towel in the piles of stuff on the floor, and walked out of my room.
And Cam followed me. He walked behind me, like he really was trying to protect me.
As I walked down the corridor to the shared bathroom, Vance came out of the door in front of me. I put my head down and tried to walk past before he saw me, but it was hopeless.
‘Morning, gay boy,’ said Vance. He slapped my arse as I passed and laughed like a bull.
Cam just stared at him like he wanted to pull out his ribs and use them as drumsticks, but he did nothing.
When we were in the bathroom, Cam waited outside the shower door, like a dog, but I didn’t have the energy to complain anymore. At the very least, he didn’t come inside and try to rub soap on me.
‘So if you’re just gonna stand there silently while Vance makes fun of me, why are you here?’ I said quietly.
I didn’t expect him to hear over the water, but he replied.
‘I’m here to protect you from the real monsters, William.’
Over the next few weeks, Cam continued to annoy me. He followed me to class, to the toilet, even sat patiently while I worked in the library. Not that I ever did that.
I’d thought long and hard about why Cam might be protecting me—he refused to give clear answers. In the end, I came to the sad conclusion that he was protecting me from myself.
I was one of the worst students in my class. I arrived late, fell asleep during lectures, forgot to hand in work, and pretty much never studied until the last minute.
It wasn’t like I was going out and partying, though. I came back to my messy room after class, slept for a while, and then played games on my phone for the rest of the day. Sometimes, I read a book for an hour, and then I felt so proud of myself that I didn’t do it again for a week.
The walls in our student accommodation were paper thin, so I knew everything that went on. I knew who was sleeping with who, who was taking drugs, who was actually studying. If I was the kind of person that liked gossip, I might’ve actually enjoyed it.
The thing was, I knew my place in the world. I was the monster, and Cam should’ve been protecting other people from me, except he didn’t have to, because I hid away from the world.
I’ve always found it impossible to talk to others. I just think differently to everyone else. I’m not saying that because I think I’m so cool and unique. I’m saying that because, when I try to talk to people, they turn their heads to the side and look at me like a sad puppy who fell into a pot of boiling oil and lost half his fur and both his eyes.
Of course, I learned pretty quickly not to tell people about Cam. After years of kids making fun of me, I learned to keep that part quiet. But it’s hard to have a conversation with someone when there’s another conversation going on inside your head. And now, with Cam literally standing next to me wherever I went, there was no way of pretending to be normal.
‘You should get out more,’ Cam said, picking dirt out of his nails.
‘I know,’ I muttered, not looking up from my phone. ‘You’ve been telling me that for years. It’s a bit hard when you have a guardian angel rubbing your back and whispering into your ear.’
‘I never do that,’ said Cam. ‘Oh, would you like me to do that? I thought you weren’t g—’
‘Shut up,’ I mumbled. ‘I know what you are. You’re just the conversation I have with myself in my head. That’s what you’ve always been. When you tell me I sound gay, it’s because I’ve been worrying about the same thing for five years now. I get it. You’re my internal voice. But now that you have a body, I get to tell you to shut up, right?’
He sat there in silence, looking hurt. Which was ridiculous, because he was a figment of my imagination.
Eventually, I couldn’t bear it anymore, and broke the silence.
‘Why do you have an American accent, anyway?’
‘You probably watched too many cowboy films growing up.’
Cam smiled, and then said, ‘Have you considered you might have psychosis?’
‘Ugh,’ I said, leaning back and dropping my phone on my chest.
I knew what this was. A few weeks ago, one of my ‘friends’—that is, one of the people who insists on talking to me—told me about something she’d learned in her psychology class.
Psychosis. When you start ‘seeing things’. Hallucinating things that aren’t real. Like a guardian angel who keeps reminding you you’re gay but won’t tell anyone.
‘I’m pretty sure people with psychosis don’t talk to their hallucinations about having psychosis.’
‘Well, how would you know? Have you ever met someone with psychosis?’
‘I hate you.’
‘So what you’re saying is, you hate yourself.’
‘Well, we already knew that.’
Then I saw The Thing.
I was walking to class, staring down at the pavement as I always did. Suddenly, I felt something looking at me. Without thinking, I raised my head.
In the trees, on the other side of the road, there was a black shape. It was large, at least a foot taller than me, but I couldn’t make out what it was.
All I knew was, it filled me with a sense of complete dread.
When I looked at The Thing, I saw death.
I stood there, my heart as cold as ice, and The Thing looked back at me. And then, in the blink of an eye, it disappeared.
‘What was that?’ I whispered.
Cam was standing in front of me, his arm spread out to protect me. I hadn’t even noticed.
‘It’s what I’m here for,’ said Cam.
Cam didn’t want me to go to the doctor.
I’d been seeing The Thing every day—on the way to class, in the reflections of mirrors, sometimes even through my window at night. I couldn’t handle the feeling that creature left me with, that endless dread.
I lost sleep. I became even more exhausted than I usually was. I couldn’t even look people in the eye, and when someone asked me a question, it felt like my brain had turned into mud.
One day, after class, my professor pulled me aside and had a word with me.
‘I don’t know if it’s my place to say this, but I think you need help, William.’
What was his name? Dr Hammings?
‘I know, I know,’ I said.
‘Don’t be so rude,’ said Cam. I ignored him.
‘I should go to student counselling, right?’ I said. ‘I already tried that.’
Student counselling. It was free, and you only have to wait four to six weeks to get it! And what did it involve? Well, for the most part, it was just a well-dressed woman giving me the sad-puppy look through her expensive glasses and telling me to try and establish routines.
Of course, I didn’t tell her about Cam. Nothing good ever came out of that.
‘I don’t mean student counselling,’ said my professor. ‘Go to the doctor. Tell them what’s been happening to you.’
A horrible cold passed through my stomach, like how it feels when you walk into the bathroom in the morning with bare feet and the cold floor shocks you.
‘T-thanks,’ I said, and turned to leave. Cam followed quickly behind me, unusually silent.
‘William,’ he called, as I reached the door. ‘I’m serious. I know you haven’t even chosen the title for your dissertation. You can’t graduate without it.’
I bit my lip. I had practically forgotten about my dissertation. Or rather, my brain had forced me to forget, to protect myself from the pain.
On the way home, Cam told me all the reasons he thought it was a bad idea.
‘It’s dangerous. They’ll try and get rid of me, and you need me, William. He’s right about you studying, but you don’t need medical help. I’m here to protect you.’
That was… odd. I knew it was a bad idea. Doctors never helped. They were just the people my mum dragged me to when she wanted to complain about all my problems. And Cam was just the voice inside my head, right? So why was he trying to convince me of something I already knew?
Cam was so busy talking that neither of us noticed The Thing until it was too late. I turned the corner to head down the path to my building, and it stood in front of me, just metres away.
‘Get behind me,’ said Cam, stepping forward.
He raised his hand in the air, and a gun appeared out of nowhere. Not just any gun, but an old-fashioned one, like from a cowboy movie. And suddenly, he was wearing a cowboy hat.
‘This is crazy,’ I said.
But I stepped back. Cam held the gun at The Thing. The monster just stood there, breathing in and out, but not moving.
Even this close, I couldn’t make out what it was. It looked like a child had drawn all over a piece of paper with a pen and then thrown it away. It had black hairy things coming out of it that refused to shine in the sunlight, and there were two bright red circles in its centre that had to be eyes.
‘Shoot it,’ I whispered at Cam.
But he didn’t. He stood there, gun held up, and waited.
And then The Thing ran away, disappearing into the bushes.
Cam sighed and put the gun away. My head felt like it was going to explode. I turned around and walked back along the path.
‘Where are you going?!’ he called, running after me.
‘To the doctor.’
I had to kill these monsters, whatever it took.
In the end, getting medication was surprisingly easy. Whenever my mother had taken me to the doctor before, things had been different. Painful. I barely remembered what had happened, but I knew the doctors hadn’t treated me seriously. I began lying to them, just so they would leave me alone.
But this time, it was just me and the doctor. I poured everything out, like a jug that had slowly been filling up, drop by drop, for eighteen years, and someone had finally pushed it over.
They gave me an appointment with a specialist a few days later—they thought I was a danger to myself, which made the process quicker—and after I poured my story out, the specialist nodded and said that they would put me on a care plan.
That involved appointments and conversations. Just like counselling. But more importantly, it involved medication: anti-psychotics. I didn’t care about the other parts. They would just try and shape me into a normal person, like the student counselling, but all I needed was to kill the monsters that followed me through my life.
Besides, if The Thing and Cam were gone, I would be normal, wouldn’t I?
Cam stayed quiet during the whole thing. He walked around the doctor’s office, looked at the objects on the shelves like they were disgusting. He let me talk to them in peace, but as soon as I left, he spoke.
‘You can’t do this, William. Those drugs won’t solve your problems.’
‘Why not?’ I said. ‘The only real problems I have are you and that thing.’
‘But I’m not just a hallucination. I’m your guardian angel.’
‘Then you should have nothing to worry about. The medication only kills hallucinations.’
‘It’s not that simple!’
I tripped on the pavement and fell against a tree. From the distance, I heard Vance laughing at me—I was near my accommodation. I ignored him.
‘You’ve never shouted at me before,’ I said quietly.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Cam, lowering his head. ‘But you can’t take those pills. It’s dangerous.’
‘Being alive is dangerous,’ I said. ‘Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get a glass of water.’
Cam disappeared immediately. As soon as I’d swallowed the pill, he was gone. I almost felt sad.
Over the next few weeks, I tried to go back to normal. Normal for me, anyway. I went to class, did as much work as I could before I got tired.
That happened very quickly now. It felt like there was a weight attached to my back, slowly pushing me down throughout the day. By 5pm, all I wanted to do was lie down and stare at the ceiling. And sometimes, it felt like my muscles were made of concrete, and every movement hurt.
But the hallucinations were gone. Just as I couldn’t see Cam, I didn’t see The Thing either. I could walk to class without fear, and for a while, I started imagining I might actually have a normal life.
One unexpected thing that came from the medication was that I started having vivid dreams. I supposed that was because I was always so tired when I went to bed.
I had a particular dream again and again. I was lying in bed in a hospital, and I was just a child. There were bruises all over my body, but I couldn’t remember where they had come from.
On the table opposite the bed there was a pile of toys for kids, but one stood out to me. It was a toy dog, except it didn’t look like a dog. It was black, and one of its arms had been pulled off, and there was fur coming off it in big pieces. It looked more like a spider than a dog. The light shone strangely on its eyes, and it filled me with a sense of dread.
I tried to forget about the dream, but there was something strange about it. Nothing ever happened. I just lay in bed, felt my bruises, felt the dog’s eyes on me. It seemed too simple, and yet too detailed, to just be a dream.
Perhaps it was a memory. There were large parts of my childhood that I barely remembered. I chose not to remember them. I knew kids at school had been horrible to me, but I didn’t think they’d ever hit me. Or had it been my mother…?
Whatever the case, there was probably a good reason I’d forgotten.
I shook my head whenever I thought about the dream. This was normal, wasn’t it? The medication was working. I was becoming normal again—or maybe for the first time—and normal people remembered things. So my mum had hit me once or twice and I’d forgotten. So what? Worse things had happened to me, probably.
What worried me more was the dog. I couldn’t explain why, but it felt familiar, like seeing someone from your childhood as an adult.
One day, I was going to the doctor’s office for my therapy session. I wondered if I should tell them about my dream, but I decided not to. They would look into it too much, and if they thought my mother had abused me, they would become all serious. I didn’t need that.
I was early. The place was mostly empty, as it was a Monday morning. I didn’t like sitting in the big empty waiting room alone, so I went to the disabled bathroom and locked the door.
Then I turned around and saw the toy dog from my dreams.
Except it wasn’t a toy dog. It was ten times bigger, had blood-red eyes, and it was only a few feet away from me.
It was The Thing.
I screamed, and tried to unlock the door, but my hands wouldn’t work properly. Ever so slowly, The Thing moved towards me. I couldn’t see its feet, but it moved like a zombie.
‘Cam, Cam!’ I cried. ‘Please, I need your help!’
I didn’t care if all the people in the building thought I was crazy. If that thing touched me, I was dead.
‘I’m sorry, Cam! I’m sorry!’
The Thing came so close I felt its breath on my back, like warm air coming from a rubbish bin. Every hair on my body stood up, and I felt like I was going to be sick.
Finally, I managed to undo the lock, and the door fell open. I fell through, and an arm caught me.
I looked up, and Cam was staring down at me. The honey in his eyes had never looked so liquid.
‘Get back,’ he grunted.
He threw me behind him, pulled out his gun, and shot at The Thing.
A horrible squeal sounded through the building. Black fur flew into the air, raining down like party decorations. It sounded like a dog crying, like a child screaming, like punches that would leave bruises and bruises and bruises.
Cam fired again and again, and the sounds got louder, rang like bells, crashed like an old television screen. The sound reached inside me, shook my heart, pulled at my teeth.
And then it stopped. I opened my eyes, and through Cam’s legs, I saw the remains of The Thing.
It looked like those pictures they put on cigarette packets, of smokers’ lungs, to scare kids and stop them from smoking. It looked like a toy dog that had had its arm torn off and been left out in the rain.
Cam turned around. Strong arms lifted me up, carried me out of the building, and took me home.
‘I’m not going to tell you to stop taking your medication,’ said Cam, when I woke up.
I sat up in bed and shook my head.
‘Too bad. I’m stopping.’
It was funny how we’d started our conversation just like that. Like he’d never disappeared.
Like I’d never killed him.
‘But I don’t understand. How are you here?’
He gave a sad smile. ‘You’re on the wrong kind of medication. That’s how you saw that thing, as well. When you let your doctor know, they’ll change your prescription. In fact, they’ll be especially worried about you. You just had a vivid hallucination. They might put you in the hospital.’
‘No,’ I said firmly. ‘I won’t tell them.’
Cam stared at the floor and said nothing.
‘Tell me what you really are.’
He sighed. ‘I’m not going to lie and tell you that I’m a guardian angel. Really, that’s just what your brain decided. I suppose your mother took you to church long enough for you to think of things like that. And I’m not going to lie and tell you that I come from another dimension, that you’re a hero who has to fight those monsters and save the world. So no, I can’t tell you the truth, because you don’t know it.’
‘You have all the answers, huh?’
He smiled. ‘That’s my William. You know, there’s no such thing as “crazy”. Anyone who doesn’t fit into society is crazy, right?’
‘Yeah, but most people don’t see monsters following them around. That is crazy.’
‘Most people also don’t have sexy guardian angels who protect them from the monsters.’
‘Who said that you’re sexy?’ I said, gently kicking him.
‘You tell me. Your mind created me, and you seem to have picked the kind of man you find attractive. Also, the skinny jeans.’
‘God, I hate you. I just survived a monster attack and you’re making fun of me for being gay again.’
Cam laughed. ‘Not making fun of you. You know, pretty much all the angels are gay.’
‘Do you have big sexy parties?’
‘OK, now you’re just distracting me from the actual topic of conversation.’
He leant over the bed and brushed my hair aside. It felt like the kind of thing a mother or father would do, except I couldn’t remember my mother ever doing that.
‘My point is, we can fight the monsters however we choose. You can take pills to try and make them go away. You can fight them on your own. You can find friends to help you. Or you can call on your sexy guardian angel to put some bullets in their brains. But you have to fight, William. Or you’ll end up like that thing.’
I stared up into his honey eyes, and then said, ‘Huh. I guess you can’t just be a hallucination, because that was way too clever for me to think of by myself.’
Cam smiled. ‘You’re finally getting it. Let me get you some water.’
He went and came back with a big glass. He carefully put the water down on my bedside table, next to my medication.
I sat up, greedily drank the water, and threw the pills in the bin.
Cam let out a sigh of relief.
‘What, you didn’t really think I’d make you disappear again, did you? Anyway, if they won’t even get rid of monsters, what’s the point?’
‘I… don’t know what I thought.’
I yawned and climbed out of bed, pulling some clothes on.
‘Where are you going?’ said Cam, surprised. ‘You’re still weak.’
I shook my head. ‘I’ve got some monsters to fight.’
Everyone thinks I’m crazy, and they don’t even know about the voice inside my head.
But on the other hand, nobody thinks I’m gay anymore. They know I’m gay. I knocked on Vance’s door and told him that yes, I’m gay, and if he has a problem with it, then that’s too bad. If ever he touched me again, I would go straight to the student office and report him.
‘You wouldn’t,’ he said, crossing his arms. ‘I’ll beat you up if you do.’
I smiled evilly, like a monster come to life.
‘The difference between you and me, Vance, is that I have nothing to lose. I know you’re cheating on your girlfriend, and that you take drugs in there with your idiot friends on a Friday night. I even know where you buy them. I will destroy you, if necessary, and your punches will only make it easier. Bruises don’t lie, Vance.’
His jaw was on the floor by this point, which was good, because my courage was quickly running out.
‘So yes, I’m gay. Get over it, or be destroyed by it.’
The news quickly spread around our small university, but I ignored it. I had bigger problems.
I emailed my mother and told her that I wasn’t coming home over the holidays. I was going to pay extra and stay in my accommodation over the summer. I would have to get a job, but that was OK. I had Cam to help me.
I also emailed my professors and gave them a title for my dissertation. It was made up quickly, and I had no idea what I was going to write about. But that was how most students did it, it seemed. I asked some of the other people in my class, and found out that I wasn’t even that far behind.
Dealing with the doctors was a bit harder. They wouldn’t trust me if I told them I’d just stopped taking the medication. So I pretended I was still on the drugs. I went to the appointments, said the right things, and finally they let me go.
Funnily enough, they only seemed to care about me when I was sick. As soon as I started getting healthy, they lost interest, like a child who had gotten bored with their toy. They barely even said goodbye when I left.
But Cam stayed, of course. He disappeared occasionally during the first few days off the drug. But eventually, he stayed.
I knew there were other monsters out there, waiting. I could feel it in me. And maybe they weren’t real. Maybe my guardian angel was just a strange part of my mind, protecting me from some painful memories.
But as long as he fought for me, as long as he continued to kill the monsters, did it matter? Because without him, I couldn’t fight.
So yes, people think I’m crazy. But I know I’m not. And so does my guardian angel.
Just before I finish, I want to make my thoughts on medication clear. I don’t want anyone to read this story and think that I am saying medication is always bad. Many people with mental illnesses find medication incredibly useful, and it can make their life livable.
However, medication comes with lots of side-effects, like Will experiences in the story. Side-effects are things like headaches, stomach pain or weight gain, that you get when you take a certain medication. They are extra effects to the main effect of the medication.
While medication can solve some problems from a mental illness, most people will only feel truly safe and healthy when they are in a good environment. Often, it is society that needs to change, and not the mentally ill person.
Personally, I have never experienced psychosis like William in the story. However, I have struggled with mental health and used medication before. In my own experience, it was helpful, but it was only one part of solving my problems. And as a transgender person, I have had many negative experiences with doctors and the medical system, which partly inspired me to write this story.
So my feelings on the topic of medication are complicated. Please don’t take the story to represent my exact feelings on it. But if you feel like I have been inaccurate in the story about psychosis, or you disagree with the way I represented it, please leave a comment or email me at Ariel@EasyStoriesInEnglish.com.
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