Fandom: The Magicians (TV)
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Quentin Coldwater/Eliot Waugh
Characters: Quentin Coldwater
Additional Tags: it's not NOT quentin-eliot, they're always in the background, Depression, canon-typical suicidal references, fuck me what a tag, Canon Disabled Character, Disabled Character, Mental Health Issues, Monsters, q could really use that filliorian opium right about now, Podfic Available
Series: Part 1 of love + rhetoric + blood
But this is far from the first time Quentin has sat in a room with a monster that has a vested interest in fucking Quentin up from the inside out.
Er...this is not what I meant to write. Oh well.
Sort of 4x07ish, 4x08? I guess anywhere from 4x04 to 4x08, really. Please note this piece engages with Quentin's mental health consonant with the show's canon; check the tags to see if it's your speed.
This is some alchemical brew of my own experience with major depressive disorder and Quentin's narrative voice barreling through, drowning out any other thoughts until they're written down. The thing about Quentin for me is that -- this is, I think, the first time I've seen my own personal experience with depression, what depression looks like on me, on a character on my television. It's not that depression doesn't show up on various forms of media -- it of course does, with varying degrees of competency and sensitivity -- but in terms of what I actually experience and how I appear during periods of depression, Quentin (and Jason Ralph) hit it with eerie accuracy.
The defining moment for me, with the Magicians -- because I'll be honest, on the first watch through I skipped and skipped and skipped on the episodes due to feeling very squicked out by Julia's whole storyline and the way her desperate desire to (what we later learn) correct a very core, identity-mangling wrong done to her without any evidentiary context to affirm that wrong was structured as an addiction, in a very "Girl, Interrupted" male gazey way. I just couldn't deal, it fucked me up and simultaneously recalled my experiences of dealing with friends who are addicts while almost gleefully ruining Julia's life down to the very foundations.
Anyway. The defining moment for me with the Magicians is in 1x11, "Remedial Battle Magic", when Alice and Quentin are discussing the use of the emotion bottles:
Q: "I just...I feel like sometimes you don't hear yourself."
A: "All I said was that I think we should try--"
Q: "This is what that looks like." [beat] "I am trying as hard as I can."
I had to pause the episode -- not just the first watch, but the second too -- to just...breathe. Breathe through that moment. I have never seen a character convey what my experience of depression is like, so brutally honest, clear-eyed, and uncompromising. "This is what trying my hardest looks like", Quentin tells all the people in the world who don't get it. "It may look like slacking or being lazy or procrastinating or not being sufficiently motivated or being dead behind the eyes or -- who the fuck knows. I don't know what it looks like to someone who doesn't live it. But I am telling you. This is what trying my fucking hardest looks like, and go fuck yourself if you try to hold me to a different standard than my own.
What a fucking gift that is.
I'm a high-functioning grossly disabled person. My disabilities are multi-variate and legion: I have ADHD, executive function disorder, and a numerical learning disorder called dyscalculia. I deal with major depressive disorder and situational anxiety with panic attacks. I am chronically migrainous, Hard of Hearing, and require several types of medical equipment to walk outside, drive a car, work a job.
My body is hypermobile, which means in practice that my limbs don't always go where my brain tells them to, I trip on air, and various body parts malfunction in bizarre and inconsistent ways. I was immunocompromised as a kid, with asthma, severe environmental allergies, and ME/CFS. I have an extremely challenging sleep disorder called delayed sleep phase disorder, which basically means that, by default, my body is active and night and inclined to sleep during the day. About six years ago I experienced trauma-induced fibromyalgia, which was underdiagnosed for several years before finally getting appropriate treatment. I've been living with chronic pain in various formats for twenty years.
Any one of those things, on its own, would be challenging but not debilitating. Any three of those things would be extremely difficult to life compromising. All of them together in disharmony? Well. Like I said. Grossly disabled.
I'm generally very private about the nature of my disabilities. I definitely talk about being disabled, and will relentlessly pursue the necessary support I need to exist in the world, but all that shit above is very complicated and time consuming to manage and for about six years I was all but flattened by it -- I lost jobs and housing and a steady income, private high-rate health insurance and many, many opportunities.
But -- I'm high functioning. And I'm private. So there are days when I'm trying my hardest, and that looks like "walking the dog and then sleeping another four hours." Sometimes it looks like "writing an extensive to do list and completing all the tasks and still having energy and motivation to go out to the bar." I am heavily educated and very intelligent and pass as neurotypical and generally healthy (apart from the hearing aids and sometimes a cane).
The gulf between "trying my hardest" and "what looks like trying my hardest" is vast, cavernous, and changes shape on an hourly basis. To see that on a tv show, from a character who is also disabled, also high-functioning, also passes -- well. I rarely see myself, my lived experience on television. This moment turned me from "general interest and enthusiasm" to "I need every aspect of fandom to converge upon my brain right NOW."
All this to say -- my personal experience significantly informs the writing of this and other stories about Quentin. I hope it resonates with the reader, as well -- either as a fan digging into Quentin's characterization this season, or a person who is also trying their fucking hardest.