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catatonia

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When they were younger, Phil didn't understand those days.

He'd sit on the other side of the bed and look at Dan with an expression of growing exasperation.

"Just move," he'd say, voice twisted with something - not anger. He was never angry with Dan. But he was frustrated. Phil's always frustrated by things he doesn't understand. He's reactive in a quiet, understated way that most people miss.

Dan doesn't miss it. He's had it directed at him too many times.

"Just move," Phil would say. "It's not that hard."

And Phil really meant it, because Phil only knew the experiences he had himself. He knew the feeling of wanting to stay in bed and not face the world. Phil, from his perspective, knew that the only way to get through those days was to just get up and start the day anyway.

He didn't know that it just didn't work the same for Dan.

Dan's so glad for all the ways they've both grown.

*

Therapy is a series of moments that feel like puzzle pieces slotting into place.

Before he started, he couldn't have imagined there was much to gain from hearing someone else say things he already knew about himself.

But there is a difference. There's a difference in the voice in his head telling him he's a fucking useless piece of shit for not being able to control how fucking sad he is, and having a calm composed woman with degrees lining the wall tell him that depression is a mental illness and he didn't do this to himself.

He curls up in bed and bawls after the first session.

And the second.

And the third.

*

Catatonic depression.

They spend an entire session on it.

She shows him bits of literature. Finds him videos to watch, because she's a good therapist who knows how to speak his language. She understands he'll go research the things anyway, that he'll read and watch until his eyes are dry and the sun comes up, so she tries to point him in the right direction.

Catatonia. Irregularities in the dopamine gamma-aminobutyric acid and glutamate neurotransmitter systems.

Big words for sometimes I just can't move, but there's reassurance in all the syllables he can't pronounce because it means people smarter than him have looked at people who act like him and figured out it's a fault of his brain and not his failing worth as a person.

*

He sits and talks to Phil about it, because that's their life.

Talking. Sharing. Living step by step, side by side.

He tells Phil how he feels. Trapped and relieved at the same time. Surprised, because he didn’t really know that depression didn’t happen like that for everyone that lives with it.

He talks about how it makes him feel seen. He sends Phil some of the same things to read that his therapist gave him. Not everything. Just some of them. The easier ones.

He knows it overwhelms Phil sometimes. Once upon a time, Dan lived with the constant fear of what peeled back layer of his fucked-up-ed-ness would be the one that was just too much for Phil. His nightmares felt like being alone.

But nothing of Dan has ever been too much for Phil and part of healing for Dan has been learning to trust in that.

*

Those were the hardest parts of his depression video for Phil to film.

Watching Dan pretend to be that way that Dan sometimes just is. Dumping popcorn on Dan. Joking about television. Throwbacks to conversations that really happened, embellishments of moments they actually lived.

Phil disappears for a while when Dan sits down to edit it.

Dan lets him. He gets it. Processing things works in different ways for different people.

Phil comes back with a box of cakes and two milkshakes.

"You idiot," Dan says, taking one. "You're going to be on the toilet all night after this."

Phil tips his head back against the sofa and rests his feet on the coffee table in front of him. "Sometimes you suffer for the things you love."

Dan knows it's just a joke, so he won't draw too many parallels there. He just laughs and leans over and kisses Phil instead.

Loving each other isn’t suffering.

*

It does still happen.

It doesn't matter how good his life is, how much brightness his future holds, how much weight is off his shoulders.

It still happens. He still wakes up sometimes, maybe once every few months, and there's just a blanket of weight across his limbs and a gnawing aching feeling inside of him.

Phil doesn't tell him just try anymore. Phil doesn't do much of anything. He'll ask Dan if he wants company. Sometimes Dan will be able to answer, and sometimes he won't. He'll ask Dan if he's cold or wants a blanket. Sometimes he's got the energy, the ability, to nod his head. Sometimes he doesn't. If Dan can speak, his voice sounds thick and slurred and strange to his own ears.

Sometimes Phil will brush a kiss against Dan's forehead and whisper that he loves him, whisper that he's here and Dan's not alone, that Dan's safe and he can take all the time he needs. Sometimes that love hurts in a sharp keen way but mostly Dan's just grateful for it, even when the words Phil uses aren't perfect. Phil's never going to get everything perfectly right, because no one ever does, and no one ever will. But Dan knows the intent behind the words.

He cries sometimes, tears dripping down his cheeks as his body lies unmoving.

*

"Hi," he says, dragging heavy limbs downstairs.

Phil lifts up the blanket he's lying under. "Did you call your therapist?"

He always calls his therapist after. Treat the issue, not the symptom. Keep her informed and aware. Keep all the options open.

He rests his head on Phil's shoulder and closes his eyes. He's just spent hours in bed but his mind never stopped and that's a different kind of exhausting. "I will tomorrow."

Right now he just wants this.