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Afflicted with Little Dragons
Posted by goodgrief84
25th Oct 2018

“Feelings don’t try to kill you, even the painful ones. Anxiety is a feeling grown too large. A feeling grown aggressive and dangerous. You’re responsible for its consequences, you’re responsible for treating it. But…you’re not responsible for causing it. You’re not morally at fault for it. No more than you would be for a tumor.”
- Patrick Ness, The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Dracunculus medinensis is a parasite; more commonly known as the Guinea Worm. It relies on a mammalian host for its kind to survive. The life cycle of this creature is dependent on its unsuspecting victim drinking infected water and thus ingesting the fleas which live within it. These fleas are carrying their sinister guests. Once swallowed the fleas are digested in the stomachs juices, freeing the parasitic larvae to seek out cavities and crannies and crevasses within the victim’s body. There they settle, then they grow; and then they reproduce. Whilst the males are absorbed into the host’s body, the females move slowly through the victim’s flesh.

Dracunculiasis is derived from a Latin phrase meaning ‘afflicted with little dragons’. This beast is so named due to the excruciating pain it causes as it moves under the skin of its host. The only external sign of this creature appears in the form of blister on the host’s skin. The parasite’s head protrudes and the only respite from the agonising pain is to immerse the searing blister in water. At this point the female is free to release her spawn, and the cycle begins again.

“It’s the cuts we hide inside that really do the damage. They rub and they niggle and they bruise and they bleed. And as the pain and anxiety grow in your head, they become far more dangerous than a visible open wound. Until eventually, you have to do something.”
- Jane Corry

In the weeks following my brother’s suicide I began to feel a pull. At first it was just an expectant toddler, tugging incessantly, although relatively benignly, at my sleeve: “What are we going to do next?” it muttered shyly; restlessly. This sense could not be placated by mere stoicism however. The muttering swelled. It was a blight that grew under the skin and in time the tip-toeing toddler of my trepidation had become a grand inquisitor; racking me from the inside. At times it snarled, as if rabid; infected. Then it would sleep; exhausted from its tortuous exertions. But like a new mother, it would sleep while I slept, and so it was ready when I awoke.

“But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window — maybe rearrange all the furniture.”
- Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories

The first indicator that something was amiss came from physical, rather than mental impulses. The urge to walk was incessant. Not just to walk either. I would cycle for many miles down the Grand Union Canal; or dash through the streets of West London suburbs.

“Lungs burning, he charged forward, shadows gathering around him. Perhaps he could outrun them. But he’d never been able to before.”
- Hannah Heath, Colors of Fear

Music was always with me: a soundtrack to my mania that consisted mainly of Dance and Trance and House. Stratospheric, ethereal vocals coupled with the steady pulsating of drum and bass rose along my spine like a current. It had been my brother’s soundtrack too. It was where we lost ourselves in amongst the shadows and the flash and the thump: children of the beat. And now that junky energy was turning to poison under my skin. The grief-induced anxiety that began to burn was working its way under my skin.

“Every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at all to his advantage.”
- William S. Burroughs

At first the urge to change everything seemed voluntary. My brother had left us and the sting of mortality was at the forefront of my mind. Any future that I had ever comprehended featured him. We would appear in various stages of disrepair as my imagination plotted a future of family holidays, trips to the snooker club, quiz nights in quiet pubs, and walks in the country. Every possible variation on this projected theme had been abruptly and excruciatingly extirpated. So now a new future must be carved with urgency. It is the urgency that comes with death.

“We live in the hope that life will be different. Just a little more substance perhaps in the intrinsic frailty of the days. Such resignation frightens me. Between gunshots I get drunk. In secret, all knowledge becomes anxiety.”
- Floriano Martins

In the murky waters of my own contrived uncertainty, and self-imposed urgency, the parasite of my anxiety was born; and imbibed. Once absorbed, it began to thrive. The nightmare of a revolution begins with the purge and continues with the drowning disquietude of inconceivable change. The physical exertions became my therapy and the music staved off the crippling pain during the day. But at night, it began to stir. The chest seemed to swell and tighten as though the cavity was inhabited, not by my own organs, but by some bloated stowaway. In the hold of my ship all the cargo shifted and turned over; tossed in a tempest. On the outside I would just sit and, aside from the odd twitch, nothing seemed to be wrong at all. And inside, the storm-dragons had their fill.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
- Neil Gaiman, Coraline

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