"I just haven't been feeling too well, of late," Cecil admitted to Daisy. She was an old friend of his, and training to be a doctor. Both were things that he desperately needed at the moment. And while he continued to explain his feelings to Daisy, she listened attentively. He described things like self-loathing and self-doubt. He described a negative self-image and nearly no self-esteem. He second-guessed himself all the time and constantly compared himself to everyone else, even an idealized version of himself.
He also talked about how it felt like no matter what he did, or how hard he tried, it was never enough. He'd do something good, but then another side of himself would try to either water down the achievement, or rewrite it as if it were a failure. The only thing his brain would process as a success was absolute perfection, but even then, that still sometimes wasn't enough. It was maddening, to say the least. And then to constantly be comparing himself to others did him no favors. And when those two things combined (his habit of comparing himself to others and feeling like he, himself, was never enough) often led to feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, inferiority and an overall sense that he did not deserve the life he had. But even worse than this sense that he was not pulling his own weight, so to speak, was that he was 100% aware of the irrationality of it all.
"I know I'm not supposed to compare myself to others! I know that constantly trying to measure up to an idealized version of myself will only result in disappointment! I know I'm exaggerating! I know I'm better and worthier than I think I am, and I know I'm nowhere near as bad as I describe myself! I am aware of my own cognitive dissonances and distortions, and yet I still fall victim to them! They have words for that, like Imposter Syndrome! I know everything that's wrong with me, every single irrationality! And heck, I even have loads of friends and family who tell me all the time that I am good and kind and successful and worthy, but I literally don't know how to believe them! I try, but it feels as forced as if I were trying to believe in the existence of leprechauns or unicorns! I don't know how to fix myself! I don't know how to change my thoughts! I truly don't know how to believe it when people tell me that I am good, and it is driving me insane!"
And Daisy understood him perfectly. It was one thing to suffer from some sort of issue, but it was arguably worse to be 100% aware of that issue and yet still not know how to get out of it. She had no doubt that this awareness, if anything, made Cecil feel even worse about himself because he was clearly smart enough to know what was wrong, but "stupid" enough that he had no idea how to fix it or cure himself or escape. Daisy didn't need to hear him say more to understand the unmatched frustration and helplessness and despair he must've been feeling. And even more tragic, he said that he had a huge, supportive network of friends and family who could attest to his worth and talent, but he simply could not bring himself to believe a word of it. Without that belief, all the kind words in the world were useless. And now the biggest question was how to change that. How did one start to believe the kind words said about them? Well…
"Come with me," Daisy said at last, getting an idea. Perplexed, but still too unhappy to question it, Cecil obeyed and trotted after her.
A few minutes later, the duo was standing in a surgical room.
"Woah! Hey! Wait a minute! Hold on! You aren't going to operate on me, are you?" Cecil suddenly looked terrified.
"I need you to look into this mirror first," Daisy replied cryptically, gesturing to a mirror right by the door. "And look for 10 seconds!" she added.
"What? Why?" Cecil continued to look nervous, but Daisy only gestured again to the mirror. Heaving a sigh of fear and resignation, Cecil finally turned his gaze onto the smooth, silvery surface. Despite himself, only a second later, he cringed a little at what he saw the mirror.
It was only his reflection, his own face, but seeing it filled him with such disgust, distaste, discomfort and discontent that he still recoiled slightly. He wasn't even that ugly (actually, he was quite handsome), but being forced to look at his own face made his skin crawl and, without even meaning to, he began to scowl at his reflection. This made him look even more sinister…
"Why are we even doing this?" Cecil finally demanded as the 10 seconds ended. He turned to Daisy, still scowling slightly.
"To diagnose you," she replied calmly. Then she explained. There were tiny parasites, informally known as Sp-eye-ders, that looked exactly like what their name implied and did exactly what their status as "parasite" implied. Through unknown means, they would crawl into people's eyes and distort their visions and thoughts, making it hard for them to see the goodness and beauty in themselves. They would nestle in the eyeball and travel back and forth along the optic nerve to the brain. It was the natural venom they secreted that caused these visual and cognitive distortions, that venom coating the eyes, brain and optic nerve, and that was exactly what Cecil was dealing with now.
"I could tell by the way you glared at your reflection," she said.
"They aren't… fatal… are they?" Cecil asked, sounding disgusted and horrified at the thought of spiders living in his eyeballs. They were living in his eyeballs. Tiny spiders. Parasites. Living in his eyeballs… And they would scuttle along his optic nerve with their long, pointy little legs, and burrow into his brain and make themselves at home there before crawling back along his optic nerve again to settle back down inside his eyeballs!
"No," Daisy reassured him. "And there is a way to get rid of them, but it's a slow process and it can be mildly uncomfortable…" Then she explained again. Surgery. That was the cure here. In order to flush out a Speyeder, all someone needed was a donor eye from a loved one. If it was compatible, that eye would replace one of the two infected eyes that a victim had. By sheer exposure to one normal, healthy, functional, non-infected eye, the other eye would slowly correct itself and kill the Speyeder off. It would be flushed out of the eye, leaving the victim with two normal eyes once more. That was when the second operation came into play.
The donor eye was removed again and returned to its original owner. Then the remaining infected eye of the patient was returned to the patient. Just like in the first round, by being exposed to a noninfected eye, the infected eye would slowly begin to heal itself and dispose of the Speyeder, dissolving it down until there was nothing left. It was a kind of gross process and there was some discomfort (both from the surgery and the slow ocular readjustment) involved, but it was a surefire cure. Besides, when it came to things like negative self-image and esteem, these problems could not just be solved with a snap. Instead, it was going to take some time and effort.
"Gross! Why does it have to be so complicated?!" Cecil cringed at the thought of having one of his eyes cut out, then replaced with someone else's, only to have that eye re-cut out and replaced with his old eye (which would apparently still have a spider living right inside it).
"Because the Speyeders are currently making it impossible for you to see the real you. You are only seeing a distorted reflection, the flaws and faults magnified while the virtues and beauties are muted," she said. "One of the ways to fix that imbalance is to get a clean, healthy eye, which will help you to see the real you again. And that's also why I advise getting a donor eye from a loved one. People like that will see you in a very positive light and that will help restore the balance to your vision," she added. "Once the power of the clean eye starts working, you learn to love yourself again and that will eventually kill off the Speyeders in your infected eye."
It still sounded needlessly complicated, but it was starting to make sense to Cecil. What was one way to fix negative self-image? To see yourself through the eyes of another person, preferably one who held a positive mental image of you. Likewise, what was one way to start believing it when people complimented you? To see yourself through their eyes rather than your own. And besides, like Daisy had said, it was not easy to overcome cognitive distortions. It was not simple to learn to love yourself after hating yourself for so long. It took time and effort and discomfort to see the beauty in yourself, especially if you had gone so long seeing otherwise. Just like a broken bone took time to heal, so too did a "broken" eye. The physical and mental effort it would take to recover would be high. That was why this had to be so needlessly complicated, because the healing process was never fast, easy, simple or painless.
"But wouldn't that be such a wonderful, liberating thing?" Daisy asked Cecil gently. "To see the good in yourself again?" and Cecil had to admit, it sounded pretty relieving. Oh, what he wouldn't give to feel ok again!
"But who should I ask to get an eye from?" he asked. Daisy only replied by smiling and tapping her own. "For real?!" Cecil gasped.
"I love you," Daisy replied gently, and that was the only answer he needed…
The operation took the rest of the day, but the next time Cecil woke up, he was met with three interesting sights. The first was of Daisy, now wearing an eyepatch over her left eye (socket). The second was a jar. Floating inside it was his own left eye, the one Daisy's eye had replaced. Then the third thing Cecil saw came when he looked again into the mirror by the door. He noticed that he was now slightly heterochromatic. Both he and Daisy had brown eyes, but of differing shades. Hers were a bit darker than his. And then, he actually noticed a fourth thing, though it was so subtle that only his subconscious picked up on it. That fourth thing was that, for the first time in quite a while, he was able to look at his reflection without cringing, and he almost thought he saw traces of the handsome man he used to see…
And while Cecil continued to gawk at his face, Daisy stood a few paces away and smiled softly at him again. This handsomeness that he was just now noticing had been there all along. It just took her eye to see it. It took a new eye to remind him of an old trait he had since forgotten…
The rest of the healing process would take a while, and it wouldn't be all sunshine and rainbows, and there would be setbacks, but at least for today, Cecil was on the road to recovery. In Daisy's mind, that was more than enough for now…
AN: I just wanted to make negative self-image into an actual, physical creature, and this is what I came up with.