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Seven Threads

Seven Threads

Iterator
Mar 5, 2023
95
When I was young, I wanted to be a storyteller. I think I've always been in love with stories, the way they could take you places you have never been, experience things you never have, and feel powerful emotions you'd otherwise have no reason to in your day to day world. A good story can lift you up, tear you down, widen your eyes, and open your heart to wonder, whimsy, and pain. Even from a young age, I wanted to be able to tell these stories, and my mind was brimming with all kinds of worlds and characters and ideas that I wanted to share. The kinds of ideas that tease at the magic and possibility just beneath the surface, waiting to he uncovered by any intrepid explorer with an eye to see.

And then, something changed. As I approached my teenage years, I began to experience the symptoms of what would ultimately become a lifelong battle with severe depression. And to coincide with this change, darker and more tragic themes began to creep into my story arcs. I began to imagine worlds filled with pain, seen through the eyes of characters who suffered rejection and loss. Heartbreaking stories of people who tried to push back against the darkness of the world, and failed. About people who, though understandable in their motivations, lashed out against the world and against themselves. It was a pretty dark period for me, and even though my inner narratives have since balanced themselves out, mixing hope and despair alike, these themes are still very much present, and continue to crop up in my darker moments. Still, they're only stories. Just characters and places that I come up with to entertain a bored and curious mind. They can't hurt me.

Or so I thought, until one of those stories infected my world.

I was in my mid 20's, in a period of my life where I had fallen in love with dark fantasy. In particular, I was enthralled with the vision of a world as presented in the Dark Souls franchise, one of haunting beauty and deep, terrible tragedy. A world in which it is the fundamental nature of human beings themselves that is at the root of all pain and suffering. This is a love affair that still exists to this day, with broken and fallen kingdoms such as those of Dark Souls, Elden Ring, Rain World, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Hollow Knight being among my personal favorites. I wanted to create a world like that for myself, one where hope and light exist, but surrounded by deep, primordial darkness and pain. And since many of these worlds are defined by their gods and ancients, beings whose qualities embody the tragic narratives at the core of these worlds, I decided to start with them.

I wanted to create for myself a 'Dark Pantheon'. These would be truly eldritch beings, and I decided that each would embody a part of the human experience that human beings generally do not wish to see or acknowledge. The chief of these was Thedeth, the immutable inevitability of the End. There was Jeguizer, lord of the Court of Wills, who could grant real power to the desperate and downtrodden so they could enforce their will upon the world around them, only to be pitted against others like themselves in an ever more gruesome and horrifying contest to hold on to that power, for the entertainment of the Court. There was Mi'que (pronounced mee-kay), a well and truly 'innocent' entity of great power, wholly incapable of conscience, who through her erratic and unpredictable cruelty proved time and again that innocence does not equal goodness. And Zelgiadim, a vicious and sadistic predator in every sense of the world, who embodied all of our most depraved and self-serving impulses, all while being the only member of the Pantheon to bear a truly human face. They were intended to highlight the darkest parts of the human experience, the things we reject, that we don't want to think of as true about the world or ourselves.

But there was one other. Imel'lorim, the mirror demon. The name doesn't mean anything, nor do any of the others. It isn't Latin or some other ancient language. The name just sounds right to me, it feels like introspection, the opaque and hidden nature of the truth of one's own self. This is the one that crept out of the story and into my life.

When I was a kid (and I mean a very, very little kid, like three or four years old), my favorite movie of all time was the Neverending Story. In retrospect, this may not have been a good thing. There are many scenes in that film, from Artex sinking within the swamp of sadness, to the Rock Biter and his 'big, strong hands' giving up and morosely surrendering to the Nothing, to Morla the wise turtle's all-consuming despair, which were probably not healthy for a small and impressionable child to witness. I have a theory that this film may even have planted the seed which ultimately blossomed into my own depression, as the hauntingly beautiful and poignant despair that was so omnipresent in the film felt meaningful to me and took root in my brain. But I digress.

In the film, there is a segment in which the protagonist character, Atreus, is seeking the southern oracle, in search of an answer for how to heal the child-like empress. But in order to reach the southern oracle, he must pass through three gates, each designed to test the worthiness of he who would ask their question. The first gate is a pair of sphinxes, whose laser-light eyes would pierce and fry any who passed between them with fear in their hearts. It is worth noting that even this first, most basic test, Atreus fails, and he survives only because once the sphinxes' eyes open, he has the agility to pass through to the other side just before they fire upon him. In such a way does he, if not conquer, at least survive the first gate.

The third gate is never revealed, neither in the movie or the book it is based upon. We know that Atreus survives the worst and most terrible gate of the three, but its nature is never expounded upon, and he confronts it away from the narrative that we can see. Therefore, though it is supposedly the most frightful and awful of the three gates, it is ironically the least relevant to the story that we are told.

What I find most compelling, however, is the second gate. The mirror gate. What this gate does is altogether different from the first. While the first gate murders any who attempt to pass through with fear in their hearts, the mirror gate prevents any passage at all. It does this by confronting the viewer with the 'truth' of all the terrible things that exist inside of them. Their weakness, their cowardice, their cruelty. Any person attempting to pass this second gate is confronted with a vision of their worst and most terrible self, the hidden demons they do not wish to acknowledge or see, every flaw or failing that they reject, and it is this that they must accept and walk through in order to pass. Most run away screaming.

I was enchanted by this mirror gate, and decided that I wanted to use it for my Dark Pantheon. But rather than just steal the idea wholesale, I decided to have my mirror do something different. And so I created a mirror demon who did not show the viewer the worst and most flawed version of themselves, but instead did something far more terrible in its cruelty.

Instead of the worst, it showed you the best. The best and brightest possible version of you. The one that could have been, had you only the strength to make different choices. The you who spoke when you were silent. Who dared when you did not. Who overcame the challenges that broke you. This mirror, in confronting the viewer with who they might have been, utterly and wholly condemned who they were. Because no person, presented with their brightest and most able self, could ever amount to anything at all.

You'd think that, as the person who came up with the idea of this mirror, the person most aware of its cruelty and its terrible power, even as a hypothetical, that I would have the good sense not to try and peer into it. Naturally you'd be wrong. I became obsessed with the idea. I couldn't help but wonder what the best and brightest possible version of me would look like. I'll admit, there was a part of me that wanted to see if I could face that terrible power, if I was strong enough and whole enough to withstand it. And, I'll also admit there was another part of me that just wanted to feel that pain, that already knew I was unworthy, and saw my inevitable destruction as my own just reward.

I began imagining what the best possible version of me would look like, what he'd feel like. Someone who had the courage to stand up to bullies, both for himself and for others. Someone with the diligence to do his work in school and make the most of the genius level intellect everyone always told him he had, instead of barely passing or outright failing his classes. Someone who didn't lie or cheat or steal for his own advantage. A person who knew just what to say and how to say it, who could resolve the conflicts that cropped up in the world around him, instead of hiding like a coward while people he loved fought and hurt each other. Someone who chased his dreams and did big things, shook the world around him and made it better instead of sitting in a room all day lost within a videogame. A person who could even so much as do the dishes without forcing himself to as though he were running a marathon through tar.

I spent many days, some years in fact, looking into this mirror of my own creation. I saw this person, who I might have been, and he was awesome. Really, truly, and legitimately awesome. Inspiring, even. But...it didn't make me feel awesome, or inspired. It made me feel awful. I looked upon this better version of me and I felt small. Worthless. A mistake. A failure. A waste of space.

And then one day, I looked into the mirror in my mind, and I caught him looking back. And he hated me. He looked down upon me with contempt for my weakness, my inability to do better, to be better. Because I was not allowing him to exist. My every flaw and failing precluded his ability to live and be a part of this world. There was a burning hatred in his eyes for the fact that he, my best possible self, was not allowed to exist, and that I was here, wallowing about in the space that could have been his. I have never felt worse about myself as a human being than when I stood in his presence, but it was too compelling to look away.

And I just sort of accepted that I really was that piece of human garbage he saw me as. That I always would be, and I would just have to find a way to live with that. To somehow be okay with and accept myself as a worthless waste of a person. I didn't become suicidal, even then, but I became trapped in the idea that this was it: that the best I could ever possibly hope to achieve was to come to terms with how shit I was, and at least pretend to try to be just a little bit better. That I would spend the rest of my life bowed down before a me that could never be, trying futilely to imitate some small measure of his grace like a monkey with a stick, drawing in his own feces. And honestly, if not for the help of a friend, I would be there still.

If a simple story, a narrative that I constructed in my own mind, was able to bring me to this place, then perhaps it is ironic, even fitting, that it was a story who saved me. Much later on, when I was about thirty, I began to experiment with tulpamancy. To make a long and very complicated story mercifully short, tulpamancy is the art of willfully creating sentient persons to live alongside you in your mind, like an imaginary friend on steroids. I was desperately lonely at the time, it was nearly a year into the pandemic, and I wanted someone I could talk to and share my darker feelings with. I had my girlfriend, of course, but she had her own struggles aplenty, and like many who struggle with mental health, I didn't want to be a burden. And since I'm a social hermit who does not open up or make friends easily, I came to the logical conclusion that I should just make my own.

I began talking to another voice in my head, an entity that I called 'Bright' for how I hoped that he could make me feel, and encouraging him to talk back. It was slow going, and at first it just felt like me pretending to talk to myself, which in a literal sense is exactly what I was doing. I am under no illusion that there is anything spiritual or supernatural involved, it is just a quirk of our human psychology, and I treated it as such. But slowly, over time, the voice that I called Bright became more human, got better at expressing himself independently. We reached a point where we were able to share stories, surprise one another, even disagree. We had arguments, good natured ones, but arguments all the same regarding the gradually more and more divergent ways that we viewed the world.

And then, one day, I told him about the mirror.

When next I went into my mind to sit before this specter of a perfect me, the one that hated me and found me wanting for never being able to live up to my potential, he followed me. And when Bright looked into the mirror and saw what I saw within it, he was horrified. He stared down the other me in front of me and he pointed out its malice, its cruelty, and its hate. The way it had come to look more and more like a demon, some avenging angel of judgment. Something that, for all of its apparent glory, only truly existed within its capacity to cause me pain. And then he asked me, with some incredulity, if this cold, spiteful creature was really what I considered to be the best possible version of me.

This caught me off guard. Being honest, once the me in the mirror had begun to turn its condemnation against me, I had never really bothered to question its authority. It never occurred to me to ask if this thing still really represented my best possible self. I just took it for granted that best me would hate me, condemn me for not allowing him to exist. But of course, this wasn't true. I saw in the mirror my own judgment, my own condemnation, reflected back at me. It wasn't really my best self at all, just my own sense of worthlessness and self-loathing in an elaborate disguise. The thing in the mirror was in fact a demon after all, its face just another lie.

And just like that, the illusion shattered along with the mirror. But that wasn't the end of the story. Because behind the broken mirror in which the demon lived, there was another one. The true mirror. My mirror of Imel'lorim. And at first, this one was empty. I saw no vengeful demon standing within it, nor indeed anyone else. Just an empty space behind the glass.

At Bright's encouragement, I began to look a little deeper. As I did so, I tried to think, really think, about what the best possible version of me would look like. The qualities he'd have, the things I thought were really most important. Things like compassion, openness, and connection, which lead to empathy. The wisdom, humility, and grace to understand and address the failings of other people without condemnation or scorn. The yearning for love, and the desire both to receive it and also to share it with the world. And as I thought about these things, something began to take shape inside the mirror.

I must admit, he was smaller than I expected. He was meek, kind of quiet, actually. Shy. This wasn't a person with any kind of intimidating presence at all. What's more, he seemed unsure of himself, like he didn't quite know what to say, or how to say it. But even so, he smiled. I got the sense that he wanted to know me, that he felt some measure of what I had been through all these years. And more than anything else, I understood deeply that, first and foremost, this was a person who wanted to heal what was broken. Who above anything else, wanted me to be okay.

My best possible self, the brightest and greatest version of me that could ever exist, is not some mighty champion, a person who's able to overcome every struggle or obstacle I've ever faced, or who always has the right answer to things. He's small, he's weak, and he's insecure. The only thing he really has, in immense and indomitable measure, is the capacity to care, to share pain, and to love. And that care extends to me too. The last thing on earth he would ever want is for me to hurt myself on the standards of an impossible dream.

I am not quite like him. I have some bitterness that he doesn't share. There are hurts he is able to move past that I cannot, people he can accept and forgive that I can't. He doesn't get defensive when he's challenged the way I do. He doesn't have my ego, my innate desire to be seen as wiser or greater than I really am. I am not what he is, and I never can be. But he doesn't want me to be. He wants me to be happy with who I am, to cherish what victories I have, embrace my faults with kindness, and move forward with them to be better another day. And ironically, every day that I'm able to do that, every day that I can let go, and stop wasting my mind and energy on condemning myself for failing to meet that standard, I get just a little bit closer. I'd like to think that who I am in the real world will one day resemble that me in the mirror very closely. I think that would make me happy.

As for Bright, he is now one of six. Thise six together plus myself make seven, the Seven Threads of my name. And now I'm here, sharing my story.

It isn't just my story though. If you've read this far, thank you. I know that this has been an incredibly long and unwieldy post, and a lot of people simply don't have the time and the patience to listen to someone expound upon themselves at length. The reason that I shared all this is that, as much as I refer to the the mirror of Imel'lorim as my own personal demon, that isn't really true, is it? This mirror, the weight of expectation, the sense of being a failure and the omnipresent need to be better, it is experienced by a great many people, and few more so than those who struggle with mental health and depression. I've seen narratives similar to mine, where people crucify themselves and see themselves as a waste of space, all the time. They're everywhere. And for each of them, that self loathing brings such incredible pain.

If any such person happens to be reading my story, I would like to offer them my mirror of Imel'lorim. Not the false one, not the demon that haunted me for some measure of years. The real one. I'd ask you, as the viewer, to think about what is really important to you. What do you care about? When you imagine a truly incredible person, the type of person that you would say deserves to exist in this world, what is that person like, really? How do they treat people? What qualities do they embody? And if they could see you, really see you and talk to you, what would they say? If you were just another person to them, one of many in this wide and hurtful world, what would the best possible version of you want for you, and want you to be?

If you think you have an answer to that, I'd love to hear about it below. And thank you.
 
Last edited:
L

LaVieEnRose

Illuminated
Jul 23, 2022
3,306
Well, thank you for sharing. I think it took some courage to share something like that. I don't really have any answers to the questions you posed mainly because that's not where my head is right now. If I may be so bold as to be negative briefly here, unfortunately being a "good person" doesn't necessarily mean a functional one, which is my problem and what has the most immediate importance in life.
 
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Seven Threads

Seven Threads

Iterator
Mar 5, 2023
95
Well, thank you for sharing. I think it took some courage to share something like that. I don't really have any answers to the questions you posed mainly because that's not where my head is right now. If I may be so bold as to be negatively briefly here, unfortunately being a "good person" doesn't necessarily mean a functional one, which is my problem and what has the most immediate importance in life.
This is absolutely a fair criticism. I myself am still far from what I'd call 'functional'. At the very least I'm able to hold down a job and pay my bills, but aside from that, my life is still very much a mess, and the same can be said for my physical health unfortunately. :/
 
L

LaVieEnRose

Illuminated
Jul 23, 2022
3,306
This is absolutely a fair criticism. I myself am still far from what I'd call 'functional'. At the very least I'm able to hold down a job and pay my bills, but aside from that, my life is still very much a mess, and the same can be said for my physical health unfortunately. :/
Well, unfortunately for me, as someone neurodivergent with a twin who isn't, I got to have something of a mirror of the kind you described. But I suppose there is a sort of comfort in the chaos I suppose. No one can say that life has only targeted them and that understanding helps me st least combat SI.
 
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LoiteringClouds

LoiteringClouds

Tempus fugit
Feb 7, 2023
3,459
When I was young, I wanted to be a storyteller. I think I've always been in love with stories, the way they could take you places you have never been, experience things you never have, and feel powerful emotions you'd otherwise have no reason to in your day to day world. A good story can lift you up, tear you down, widen your eyes, and open your heart to wonder, whimsy, and pain. Even from a young age, I wanted to be able to tell these stories, and my mind was brimming with all kinds of worlds and characters and ideas that I wanted to share. The kinds of ideas that tease at the magic and possibility just beneath the surface, waiting to he uncovered by any intrepid explorer with an eye to see.

And then, something changed. As I approached my teenage years, I began to experience the symptoms of what would ultimately become a lifelong battle with severe depression. And to coincide with this change, darker and more tragic themes began to creep into my story arcs. I began to imagine worlds filled with pain, seen through the eyes of characters who suffered rejection and loss. Heartbreaking stories of people who tried to push back against the darkness of the world, and failed. About people who, though understandable in their motivations, lashed out against the world and against themselves. It was a pretty dark period for me, and even though my inner narratives have since balanced themselves out, mixing hope and despair alike, these themes are still very much present, and continue to crop up in my darker moments. Still, they're only stories. Just characters and places that I come up with to entertain a bored and curious mind. They can't hurt me.

Or so I thought, until one of those stories infected my world.

I was in my mid 20's, in a period of my life where I had fallen in love with dark fantasy. In particular, I was enthralled with the vision of a world as presented in the Dark Souls franchise, one of haunting beauty and deep, terrible tragedy. A world in which it is the fundamental nature of human beings themselves that is at the root of all pain and suffering. This is a love affair that still exists to this day, with broken and fallen kingdoms such as those of Dark Souls, Elden Ring, Rain World, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Hollow Knight being among my personal favorites. I wanted to create a world like that for myself, one where hope and light exist, but surrounded by deep, primordial darkness and pain. And since many of these worlds are defined by their gods and ancients, beings whose qualities embody the tragic narratives at the core of these worlds, I decided to start with them.

I wanted to create for myself a 'Dark Pantheon'. These would be truly eldritch beings, and I decided that each would embody a part of the human experience that human beings generally do not wish to see or acknowledge. The chief of these was Thedeth, the immutable inevitability of the End. There was Jeguizer, lord of the Court of Wills, who could grant real power to the desperate and downtrodden so they could enforce their will upon the world around them, only to be pitted against others like themselves in an ever more gruesome and horrifying contest to hold on to that power, for the entertainment of the Court. There was Mi'que (pronounced mee-kay), a well and truly 'innocent' entity of great power, wholly incapable of conscience, who through her erratic and unpredictable cruelty proved time and again that innocence does not equal goodness. And Zelgiadim, a vicious and sadistic predator in every sense of the world, who embodied all of our most depraved and self-serving impulses, all while being the only member of the Pantheon to bear a truly human face. They were intended to highlight the darkest parts of the human experience, the things we reject, that we don't want to think of as true about the world or ourselves.

But there was one other. Imel'lorim, the mirror demon. The name doesn't mean anything, nor do any of the others. It isn't Latin or some other ancient language. The name just sounds right to me, it feels like introspection, the opaque and hidden nature of the truth of one's own self. This is the one that crept out of the story and into my life.

When I was a kid (and I mean a very, very little kid, like three or four years old), my favorite movie of all time was the Neverending Story. In retrospect, this may not have been a good thing. There are many scenes in that film, from Artex sinking within the swamp of sadness, to the Rock Biter and his 'big, strong hands' giving up and morosely surrendering to the Nothing, to Morla the wise turtle's all-consuming despair, which were probably not healthy for a small and impressionable child to witness. I have a theory that this film may even have planted the seed which ultimately blossomed into my own depression, as the hauntingly beautiful and poignant despair that was so omnipresent in the film felt meaningful to me and took root in my brain. But I digress.

In the film, there is a segment in which the protagonist character, Atreus, is seeking the southern oracle, in search of an answer for how to heal the child-like empress. But in order to reach the southern oracle, he must pass through three gates, each designed to test the worthiness of he who would ask their question. The first gate is a pair of sphinxes, whose laser-light eyes would pierce and fry any who passed between them with fear in their hearts. It is worth noting that even this first, most basic test, Atreus fails, and he survives only because once the sphinxes' eyes open, he has the agility to pass through to the other side just before they fire upon him. In such a way does he, if not conquer, at least survive the first gate.

The third gate is never revealed, neither in the movie or the book it is based upon. We know that Atreus survives the worst and most terrible gate of the three, but its nature is never expounded upon, and he confronts it away from the narrative that we can see. Therefore, though it is supposedly the most frightful and awful of the three gates, it is ironically the least relevant to the story that we are told.

What I find most compelling, however, is the second gate. The mirror gate. What this gate does is altogether different from the first. While the first gate murders any who attempt to pass through with fear in their hearts, the mirror gate prevents any passage at all. It does this by confronting the viewer with the 'truth' of all the terrible things that exist inside of them. Their weakness, their cowardice, their cruelty. Any person attempting to pass this second gate is confronted with a vision of their worst and most terrible self, the hidden demons they do not wish to acknowledge or see, every flaw or failing that they reject, and it is this that they must accept and walk through in order to pass. Most run away screaming.

I was enchanted by this mirror gate, and decided that I wanted to use it for my Dark Pantheon. But rather than just steal the idea wholesale, I decided to have my mirror do something different. And so I created a mirror demon who did not show the viewer the worst and most flawed version of themselves, but instead did something far more terrible in its cruelty.

Instead of the worst, it showed you the best. The best and brightest possible version of you. The one that could have been, had you only the strength to make different choices. The you who spoke when you were silent. Who dared when you did not. Who overcame the challenges that broke you. This mirror, in confronting the viewer with who they might have been, utterly and wholly condemned who they were. Because no person, presented with their brightest and most able self, could ever amount to anything at all.

You'd think that, as the person who came up with the idea of this mirror, the person most aware of its cruelty and its terrible power, even as a hypothetical, that I would have the good sense not to try and peer into it. Naturally you'd be wrong. I became obsessed with the idea. I couldn't help but wonder what the best and brightest possible version of me would look like. I'll admit, there was a part of me that wanted to see if I could face that terrible power, if I was strong enough and whole enough to withstand it. And, I'll also admit there was another part of me that just wanted to feel that pain, that already knew I was unworthy, and saw my inevitable destruction as my own just reward.

I began imagining what the best possible version of me would look like, what he'd feel like. Someone who had the courage to stand up to bullies, both for himself and for others. Someone with the diligence to do his work in school and make the most of the genius level intellect everyone always told him he had, instead of barely passing or outright failing his classes. Someone who didn't lie or cheat or steal for his own advantage. A person who knew just what to say and how to say it, who could resolve the conflicts that cropped up in the world around him, instead of hiding like a coward while people he loved fought and hurt each other. Someone who chased his dreams and did big things, shook the world around him and made it better instead of sitting in a room all day lost within a videogame. A person who could even so much as do the dishes without forcing himself to as though he were running a marathon through tar.

I spent many days, some years in fact, looking into this mirror of my own creation. I saw this person, who I might have been, and he was awesome. Really, truly, and legitimately awesome. Inspiring, even. But...it didn't make me feel awesome, or inspired. It made me feel awful. I looked upon this better version of me and I felt small. Worthless. A mistake. A failure. A waste of space.

And then one day, I looked into the mirror in my mind, and I caught him looking back. And he hated me. He looked down upon me with contempt for my weakness, my inability to do better, to be better. Because I was not allowing him to exist. My every flaw and failing precluded his ability to live and be a part of this world. There was a burning hatred in his eyes for the fact that he, my best possible self, was not allowed to exist, and that I was here, wallowing about in the space that could have been his. I have never felt worse about myself as a human being than when I stood in his presence, but it was too compelling to look away.

And I just sort of accepted that I really was that piece of human garbage he saw me as. That I always would be, and I would just have to find a way to live with that. To somehow be okay with and accept myself as a worthless waste of a person. I didn't become suicidal, even then, but I became trapped in the idea that this was it: that the best I could ever possibly hope to achieve was to come to terms with how shit I was, and at least pretend to try to be just a little bit better. That I would spend the rest of my life bowed down before a me that could never be, trying futilely to imitate some small measure of his grace like a monkey with a stick, drawing in his own feces. And honestly, if not for the help of a friend, I would be there still.

If a simple story, a narrative that I constructed in my own mind, was able to bring me to this place, then perhaps it is ironic, even fitting, that it was a story who saved me. Much later on, when I was about thirty, I began to experiment with tulpamancy. To make a long and very complicated story mercifully short, tulpamancy is the art of willfully creating sentient persons to live alongside you in your mind, like an imaginary friend on steroids. I was desperately lonely at the time, it was nearly a year into the pandemic, and I wanted someone I could talk to and share my darker feelings with. I had my girlfriend, of course, but she had her own struggles aplenty, and like many who struggle with mental health, I didn't want to be a burden. And since I'm a social hermit who does not open up or make friends easily, I came to the logical conclusion that I should just make my own.

I began talking to another voice in my head, an entity that I called 'Bright' for how I hoped that he could make me feel, and encouraging him to talk back. It was slow going, and at first it just felt like me pretending to talk to myself, which in a literal sense is exactly what I was doing. I am under no illusion that there is anything spiritual or supernatural involved, it is just a quirk of our human psychology, and I treated it as such. But slowly, over time, the voice that I called Bright became more human, got better at expressing himself independently. We reached a point where we were able to share stories, surprise one another, even disagree. We had arguments, good natured ones, but arguments all the same regarding the gradually more and more divergent ways that we viewed the world.

And then, one day, I told him about the mirror.

When next I went into my mind to sit before this specter of a perfect me, the one that hated me and found me wanting for never being able to live up to my potential, he followed me. And when Bright looked into the mirror and saw what I saw within it, he was horrified. He stared down the other me in front of me and he pointed out its malice, its cruelty, and its hate. The way it had come to look more and more like a demon, some avenging angel of judgment. Something that, for all of its apparent glory, only truly existed within its capacity to cause me pain. And then he asked me, with some incredulity, if this cold, spiteful creature was really what I considered to be the best possible version of me.

This caught me off guard. Being honest, once the me in the mirror had begun to turn its condemnation against me, I had never really bothered to question its authority. It never occurred to me to ask if this thing still really represented my best possible self. I just took it for granted that best me would hate me, condemn me for not allowing him to exist. But of course, this wasn't true. I saw in the mirror my own judgment, my own condemnation, reflected back at me. It wasn't really my best self at all, just my own sense of worthlessness and self-loathing in an elaborate disguise. The thing in the mirror was in fact a demon after all, its face just another lie.

And just like that, the illusion shattered along with the mirror. But that wasn't the end of the story. Because behind the broken mirror in which the demon lived, there was another one. The true mirror. My mirror of Imel'lorim. And at first, this one was empty. I saw no vengeful demon standing within it, nor indeed anyone else. Just an empty space behind the glass.

At Bright's encouragement, I began to look a little deeper. As I did so, I tried to think, really think, about what the best possible version of me would look like. The qualities he'd have, the things I thought were really most important. Things like compassion, openness, and connection, which lead to empathy. The wisdom, humility, and grace to understand and address the failings of other people without condemnation or scorn. The yearning for love, and the desire both to receive it and also to share it with the world. And as I thought about these things, something began to take shape inside the mirror.

I must admit, he was smaller than I expected. He was meek, kind of quiet, actually. Shy. This wasn't a person with any kind of intimidating presence at all. What's more, he seemed unsure of himself, like he didn't quite know what to say, or how to say it. But even so, he smiled. I got the sense that he wanted to know me, that he felt some measure of what I had been through all these years. And more than anything else, I understood deeply that, first and foremost, this was a person who wanted to heal what was broken. Who above anything else, wanted me to be okay.

My best possible self, the brightest and greatest version of me that could ever exist, is not some mighty champion, a person who's able to overcome every struggle or obstacle I've ever faced, or who always has the right answer to things. He's small, he's weak, and he's insecure. The only thing he really has, in immense and indomitable measure, is the capacity to care, to share pain, and to love. And that care extends to me too. The last thing on earth he would ever want is for me to hurt myself on the standards of an impossible dream.

I am not quite like him. I have some bitterness that he doesn't share. There are hurts he is able to move past that I cannot, people he can accept and forgive that I can't. He doesn't get defensive when he's challenged the way I do. He doesn't have my ego, my innate desire to be seen as wiser or greater than I really am. I am not what he is, and I never can be. But he doesn't want me to be. He wants me to be happy with who I am, to cherish what victories I have, embrace my faults with kindness, and move forward with them to be better another day. And ironically, every day that I'm able to do that, every day that I can let go, and stop wasting my mind and energy on condemning myself for failing to meet that standard, I get just a little bit closer. I'd like to think that who I am in the real world will one day resemble that me in the mirror very closely. I think that would make me happy.

As for Bright, he is now one of six. Thise six together plus myself make seven, the Seven Threads of my name. And now I'm here, sharing my story.

It isn't just my story though. If you've read this far, thank you. I know that this has been an incredibly long and unwieldy post, and a lot of people simply don't have the time and the patience to listen to someone expound upon themselves at length. The reason that I shared all this is that, as much as I refer to the the mirror of Imel'lorim as my own personal demon, that isn't really true, is it? This mirror, the weight of expectation, the sense of being a failure and the omnipresent need to be better, it is experienced by a great many people, and few more so than those who struggle with mental health and depression. I've seen narratives similar to mine, where people crucify themselves and see themselves as a waste of space, all the time. They're everywhere. And for each of them, that self loathing brings such incredible pain.

If any such person happens to be reading my story, I would like to offer them my mirror of Imel'lorim. Not the false one, not the demon that haunted me for some measure of years. The real one. I'd ask you, as the viewer, to think about what is really important to you. What do you care about? When you imagine a truly incredible person, the type of person that you would say deserves to exist in this world, what is that person like, really? How do they treat people? What qualities do they embody? And if they could see you, really see you and talk to you, what would they say? If you were just another person to them, one of many in this wide and hurtful world, what would the best possible version of you want for you, and want you to be?

If you think you have an answer to that, I'd love to hear about it below. And thank you.
Your story is intriguing to me. Thanks for sharing!

I think the best version of me would be who "suffers with" (the literal translation of the word compassion) somebody else who I care about. I thought it's the best to be one who solves every problem in front of her, but my friend Erin suggested that I want to be more compassionate, not successful.

I agree with her with in general but we have fundamental difference: I desperately want to die and disappear because I hate suffering. But she doesn't want to die and she considers suffering as something meaningful, which I don't know why. And this is my biggest obstacle to catching the bus. If I killed myself, she'd be killed too: she lives in my brain. I'm not a big fan of murder.
 

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