In 2009, Open Minds Quarterly published my short story, The Never-Ending Battle, in their Fall edition, Volume XI, Issue III. Along with stories in The Country Connection and A Thousand Faces, it was one of four of my published work that year. It was my first time I’d ever been published. I’ve published The Never-Ending Battle on here before. Some say it’s my best work to date. I don’t know if I can confidently agree. Looking back, I had many problems with the over 10-year old story (I’d written it years before it was published). I thought the writing was sloppy. For years, I’ve wanted to fix it.
Fortunately, OMQ gave me that opportunity. Editor/Publisher Dinah Laprairie contacted me earlier this year. OMQ planned on publishing a special Classroom Edition of their magazine, taking the best stories and poems about mental health they’d published over the years. Their intention is for teachers to use the Classroom Edition at a high school and college level. Dinah believed The Never-Ending Battle should be included.
I was honoured, happily agreeing. However, since this was a new publication, I thought I’d take the opportunity to edit and rework the story. Dinah agreed.
So, I’m happy to introduce the NEW and IMPROVED Never-Ending Battle (geez, I sound like a car salesman), published recently in the Open Minds Quarterly Classroom Edition. Naturally, I hope everyone also gets a copy of the wonderful magazine. I especially invite teachers to pick up a copy. After the story, I’ve also included some pictures of the magazine, including my bio, which is the first time my picture was included with one.
The Never-Ending Battle
by Nick Piers
Word Count: 1,422
On my fourth Christmas, I became Superman. It all started with the best gift ever.
My little hands shredded the wrapping paper as I excitedly opened the box. It was a homemade red cape, with a Velcro clasp, and yellow letters that spelled “Super Nicholas” sewed into the back.
I whirled it around and draped it over my back. My inner strength surged. No one else understood, but from then on, I was Superman! Arms poised high, I readied myself for flight. I whooshed around the house, deftly avoiding obstacles.
Oh sure, I didn’t have The Last Son of Krypton’s trademark powers, but try telling that to an over imaginative four-year-old. Even before the cape, Mom told me about my great feats. My super strength liberated my family when only I could turn the doorknob with the rubber child-stopper cover. My two sisters pretended to burn when I squinted at them, employing my heat vision. I didn’t save cats out of trees; I rescued helpless pots and pans from Mom’s cupboards. While I hadn’t rocketed away from an exploding Krypton, I shuffled my crib across the floor. My crying fits made Dad ponder my super-breath. I’m convinced I had super-speed, though. Some days, I’d sneak out the living room’s ground-level window, dashing down our quiet street in Oromocto. Why, I couldn’t sit idle with a neighbour’s Dalmatian to pet! I’d make it half way before my parents or my sisters caught me.
Despite the lack of powers, three things convinced me I was Superman: I had compassion, I had integrity. And, like a superhero must, I had an arch nemesis.
I’m not the only one who has this villain. In fact, this malicious creature plagues the world. Its ambivalent towards its targets, indifferent about age, race, or gender. When it targeted me, it embedded itself within me like a parasite. It sapped my strength. It nagged me, bullied me, mocked me. It made me feel like nothing. It fed on my growing sadness, weaponized it, and turned it against me. It revelled in my misery. It swam in my pessimism.
It fights optimism with cynicism. It runs from enthusiasm, fiercely fighting back with despair. Every positive thought is counter-attacked with a negative thought. It racks me with guilt. It is callous. It is relentless.
What’s this horrible force of nature? What malevolent entity dismisses any means of happiness? You can’t fight it with guns or knives. Physical force can’t beat pure, evil incarnate. It stalks from a dark, hollow void deep within my very being. It bides its time, waiting for the most opportune moment to attack. It always chooses the worst time to pounce, leaving me helpless. It convinces me that outside help from others is useless. It makes me think that no one can help me, or that I’m not worth helping.
It assures me I’ll never destroy it.
Depression is my arch-nemesis.
My imaginary powers are useless against this antagonist. I grasp for happiness with my super-strength, but Depression sucks it back into the emotionless vacuum. Time and again, this void holds me down. The gravity of feeling nothing nixes my flight, spinning me into an oversensitive tailspin. Depression blinds my super-vision with tears. It silences my super-breath scream with the belief that no one wants to hear. Its cold heart is immune to my heat vision.
Depression makes me feel powerless.
It makes me compare myself with others. I see no good in myself. Any accomplishments seem worthless. My happiness is irrelevant. My foe returns with a vengeance, reminding me that I’ll never be happy. It’s unstoppable. It’s unrelenting. I’m left defenseless. My pathetic, minuscule life feels cheerless and worthless. Depression makes me want to die.
Some people say they understand what I’m going through. How could they? Depression tells me I’m completely unrelatable. Even in a crowded room, among people I should care about, Depression makes me feel invisible. I feel like I don’t deserve to be there. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. Why must I feel like a burden on everyone? Why must I feel unworthy? Why must it have such control over me?
Depression took complete control one night in late February of 2000. Maybe it’d grown tired of me. Maybe it wanted to focus on another of the affected millions worldwide.
My legs straddled the side of the Princess Margaret Bridge.
I wanted to jump.
I wanted to die.
The cold night reminded me of how Depression made me feel. The dark, gushing water looked so inviting. I could fly, I thought. I could fly just this once. One small jump and all my pain would end. Depression’s soothing voice made it sound that simple. Within the water, I imagined the swirling void that always pulled at me. It wanted me to join it. This was the end of my battle.
I don’t know how long I was on the bridge, but someone drove by and called the police. Depression didn’t consider that. It never thought a stranger would care about me. In all its unforgiving power, it miscalculated two officers pulling me off the ledge. Tears filled my eyes as they kindly took me to the hospital. I spent two weeks in its mental health facility, getting help and getting better.
Depression lost that day, but I still felt the void’s siren song. Depression wanted me to take the final leap, figuratively and literally. After the bridge incident, I still felt miserable. Depression refused to leave. It scraped my soul, destroying my hope. I’d try looking inside myself and saw nothing. Depression constantly whispered in my ear, using the same voice as a middle school bully: You’re a loser. You’ll always be a loser. You’re nothing. You’ll never amount to anything. Maybe that classmate was under Depression’s thrall, too. Maybe that bully knew exactly the most hurtful thing to tell me because he heard it, too.
Depression knows its effect on me. It continues pulling familiar emotional strings throughout my life. It will never leave. It surfaces like a serpent from a bad horror movie. It shadows me. It always reminds me who I am. It goads me on, telling me that I’m nothing, I’ve always been nothing and I will always be nothing.
Except…my adversary forgot something. It overlooked the most powerful factor in my life. This destructive force ignored the most important, unchanging part of me:
My heat vision – my fiery passion – will never let Depression win. My super-breath is my voice, letting others hear of my struggle. My super-speed means Depression will always lag behind me. It will never beat me in the race. My super-strength is my inner strength; the strength that cape gave me; the strength that keeps me fighting. My x-ray vision lets me look within myself, to know myself, to recognize Depression’s lies. My telescopic vision helps me see the future; a future without Depression; a future filled with happiness and contentment.
Most importantly, my pen is my new cape. My writing is the key that unlocks Depression’s cage. I can soar free in the skies of my imagination. Depression forced me to feel alone throughout my life, but it never realized how powerful I could become. While I was all alone, I honed my skills. Since I was a child, I’ve been honing these skills and continue to do so.
I proudly wear the Man of Steel’s famous shield. It’s my barrier against my arch nemesis. To me, S stands for strength. S stands for security. The S brings a smile to the faces of others. Depression is blinded by the glint of white ivory. It hates laughter and smiles and merriment!
Deep down, Depression still lurks inside me, as it does in many people. It’s a parasite for the downtrodden and those with low self-esteem. This virus has consumed the world. I won’t allow that anymore.
I’ve beaten back Depression for now. It was right: I’ll never fully destroy it. But that doesn’t mean I’ll give up. I’ll fight it for the rest of my life. While I still hear it, I can now ignore its foreboding whispers. It reaches from the shadows, eager to regain control. I won’t let it. I still sometimes see the void, but I know what it is now: it’s an attack on my self-worth. It feels uninviting, now. I fly freely with my imagination. Depression’s plan to dominate me will fail.
People say Superman fights a never ending battle.
I will never stop fighting mine.