Just because I wasn’t going to kill myself didn’t mean that sometimes I didn’t want to die.
A Splitting of the Mind delves into the psychological burdens and sorrows that we all seek to contain. All bundled up in a My Chemical Romance fiction that centers around the relationship between Gerard Way and Frank Iero.
WRITTEN BY SHOVED2AGREE
Note: This review was written many months ago and has only been republished as of now. My opinions and views may have changed.
Where do I even begin.
Here’s the summary of the story, as the author puts it.
Gerard Way sees the world differently. Alone and institutionalised, Gerard claims that he is being hunted, and that his mind holds the key to existence. Does Gerard really hold such a powerful secret? Or is he just insane like everyone else in the institution?
A Splitting of the Mind is a My Chemical Romance fanfiction. Yes, I know that sounds weird if you’re not into fanfiction, or My Chemical Romance, or My Chemical Romance fanfiction. Just hear me out. Also, if you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry. I won’t be discussing any spoilers until later on, and I will clearly mark where spoilers begin. If you’ve read it, feel free to dive in. If you haven’t yet and you’re interested, use the links above. Personally, I read the story on ao3 due to the presentation style being much more familiar to me.
I’m still breathless, but I will do my best to describe the beauty that is this story. It’s a fantastic tale of 144 thousand words that delves into topics such as mental illness, schizophrenia, depression, overcoming trauma, and love between broken people. It is a Frerard fic, meaning that there’s a pretty intense relationship between Frank Iero and Gerard Way going on. There are smut scenes as well, and they are actually quite crucial to the story, so it’s not recommended that you skip through them. Nothing is described too intensely, so no worries.
Honestly, if you’re not a My Chemical Romance fan, just swap the names out and you will still enjoy it if you’re into these types of books. It’s a thrilling tale of self-discovery, the true nature of mental illness, and the lives of ‘broken’ people.
Also worth noting, that the first chapter of the story was written in 2007, which is quite a long time ago. Frank and Gerard were both unmarried and, you know – still had a band. It was finished in 2011, before the breakup. Also, the fact that the band has broken up makes it way more painful – if you haven’t guessed yet.
It’s… so realistic. If you suffer with any mental illness, or are close to any one, this will truly grip at your heart. The writing style pulls you in from the very first chapter it’s, the tense atmosphere of what’s going to happen between our silent, black-haired narrator that is Gerard, and the way he observes things around him… it’s just amazing and so lifelike. It’s like he has come to life in words, and I am not talking about the character in relation to the actual person. It’s the character in the story that is so real and lively, and the first-person narrative style is just perfect for this. It makes the mentally-ill Gerard Way real. The Gerard Way that knows nothing about his past. The Gerard Way who strangely knows things.
I first heard about this story on Twitter. A lot of people had been quoting something called ‘asotm’. With further research (and by further research, I mean a quick google), I found out that this actually referred to a fanfiction called ‘A Splitting of the Mind’. I honestly thought that at first, it was just a silly romance story with uh, smut or something (knowing that it was a Frerard fic). Then, I saw some quotes from it (but nothing enough to spoil things) and they actually intrigued me. So at around 10 PM on the second of June in 2015, I decided to read all of it in one sitting.
I ended up sleeping at 4 AM that night, my breath in scattered heaves and tears all around my pillow. My laptop screen dimly lit and my heart still pounding, and my mind racing with what I read. I did not expect a Frerard fic to move me as much as it did.
I love My Chemical Romance, if you couldn’t tell. My heart and mind changed ever since the first note of ‘Welcome to the Black Parade‘. It was played to me when I was about seven years old, and My Chemical Romance still continues to touch me today, even after their breakup. It was the first band that I truly ever loved, and the first band break-up that really hit me. The fact that I know these people as my saviors, speaking to me not face-to-face or even feet away on a concert stage, but in the waves of sound from my bedroom speakers, made the emotional impact even more extreme. The connection that you have with these band members is strengthened, and seeing them transformed into characters in a story, then falling in love with them all over again is just amazing. I know a lot of people are against fanfiction but these types of stories make me love it.
There are two main groups of people who enjoy bands. The first appreciates them for their music, for their skill in whatever instrument each band member plays, sometimes even making covers of their songs if they’re musically-talented. The second group is often given a bad name, and is a bit more extreme. They follow the lives of their heroes. From the interviews, to saving hundreds of pictures (I have no shame, I find them as blessings through music as well as through aesthetic appearance), to attending every concert that they could go to, to constantly talking about them and putting their songs on repeat non-stop for days. I fall under the second group, if it wasn’t obvious enough. I haven’t ever had the opportunity to go to a My Chemical Romance concert, and I never will, but the way I look up to these people from their personal lives, to their little quirks, to their instrumental stills to their ideals… It’s really something.
You could dive into the story with no knowledge on My Chemical Romance. As I’ve said before, you could picture them as anyone else, or just swap out their names, or just deal with not knowing that they’re actually members from a band that is commonly deemed as emo. The only thing you’d be missing out on is a clearer picture of what they’re actually supposed to look like, the real-life quirks that carry on to their characters, and the stronger emotional connection that you’re going to have with them. I am already a sucker for easily forming emotional bonds with characters (that usually end up dying, and I am sure you know what popular unfinished book series turned tv shows this refers to). The fact that I know who they’re based off on makes it hurt even more.
The story mainly takes place in Bluestone Mental Institute, a center for mentally-ill teenagers. I have no experience around such places, but I have indeed read about them a lot. Of all the stories that I have read so far, a fanfiction takes the honor of being able to depict an asylum with the most realism and depth. It’s not just a place for crazy people. From the minor and supporting characters that the story introduces, you can tell that they care, and mental institutions aren’t just haunted places where mentally fucked up people are sent.
There are a few grammatical errors now and then, and a rare spelling error thrown in as well, but those are honestly negligible and they are close to nothing compared to other fanfiction. The sentences aren’t run-on, they flow smoothly and dig into your head. Some chapters are shorter than others, but the 20 chapters and epilogue all have a reasonable length. It’s not a negative thing to have chapters hugely vary in length per se, but it’s worth noting that the transition of chapter length in this fanfiction is amazing. You will slowly notice how the middle and later chapters build up in length, with the shortest ones being the first few, of course. There are no sudden erratic changes as well, which is great.
The writing style and the capturing of words is phenomenal. The way the author captures Gerard’s mind as he deals with his schizophrenia and delusions, the way he attempts to deny the fact that he’s in a mental institution… so much realism and it hurts my heart with how accurately mental illnesses were captured. From Gerard’s strange oddities such as his extraordinary intelligence, to his thought process and the way he counts things and simply knows things is also thrilling. He does the right decisions too. It will be a rare thing for you to be screaming on the inside, wishing to just slap the character and tell them to ‘say it! do it!‘ in this fanfiction. I find myself doing that in many forms of media, but in this one, he gets punished and rewarded for doing what is right so well.
It’s like that common thought that people have about horror movies. It’s a pain that they keep doing stupid things, which ends up with them getting killed. What is truly scary and terrifying is being punished for doing the right thing, and this is what this story does so well.
Like many other stories, it’s not all sunshine and daisies. Where is the emotional rollercoaster when everything constantly goes right? Also, the mere fact that it deals with emotional trauma and illness is enough to tell you that it’s not going to be an easy-to-read thing. It will grip at your heart, because it certainly gripped mine. I was sobbing uncontrollably for over two hours after I had finished the story. I was going back to chapters and re-reading things that made much more sense the second time. I was going over quotes from it, pinpointing where it had been said and crying at the memory of the scenes in which they had occurred. I was a wreck, and this story was the cause of it. So much pain and fuck, it left me so empty.
There are few books – no, scratch that. There is only one other book that had left me in a similar state. It was Flowers for Algernon, and I remember reading that book around midnight and finishing it around the morning. I was crying the whole afternoon. Unsurprisingly, it also dealt with the problems of depression, mental illness, and it had a very intelligent (at some points, if you get me) narrator. It broke me. It really did.
And so did this fanfiction.
** // SPOILERS START HERE // **
** // SPOILERS START HERE // **
** // SPOILERS START HERE // **
Let’s start with Them.
A popular debate between people is the thought of whether They were real. From the frequently asked questions, the author very kindly provides an empty blanket response. “What do you think?”
Personally, I do believe that They were just figments caused by Gerard’s schizophrenia.
I could take the other route and believe that they were real in some other form (such as not being human). I’m set on the fact that they were caused by his schizophrenia, mostly because of Frank’s reaction towards Them. Frank and Gerard had a bond that was extremely special, they were both broken, and I know that despite the insistence that Gerard was just alone and Frank was the one that needed fixing. They were both broken. Yet they both had a connection that was a bit more than real… it was special. Like, how Gerard just knew things special. Not everything to it was just normal, lovey dovey romance. There was something special about their connection.
Despite this surreal connection, Frank did not see Them, and he never saw Jasper. The fact that Gerard’s closest friend and lover, Frank, was never able to see them, is what makes me dead-set on believing that They were just in Gerard’s mind.
The first time the book broke me was in the third chapter. I was confused at how extreme everyone’s reactions were towards Gerard. I knew that he was cold, but I didn’t realize that he was a selective mute. When it finished, I remember staring at the screen agape, with tears pouring out of my eyes – of course. I knew that things were going to start going up, and then downhill fast at this point. Frank’s reaction towards Gerard saying those words was also amazing. I couldn’t believe how intense fictional actions and thoughts could touch me, but here I am now. Writing about it – and crying about it all over again.
I know things. Remember?
The epilogue is what made me freak out. The way that Dr. Markman told Frank about the time Gerard casually and nonchalantly mentioned the fact that she cheated on her test, it all flashed back. I remembered that scene. I remembered the horror in her look. That was when I realized that Gerard wasn’t fully crazy, that there was something greater in him. There was something about his secrets that he had wanted to keep so badly, about those twenty-four words that were never revealed to us.
The way Frank reacted when he was given the piece of paper gave it all away. There was something about those unknown twenty-four words. In the frequently asked questions, the author states that it could either be gibberish or the secret to fixing people, and with the fact that I had bolded it, the latter is what I believe. Frank was so intent and never gave up on asking Gerard about how he could replace memories, and I believe that is what the ninth secret was. There were things about Gerard, how someone like him that was just disregarded as a mental case by half of the world and understood as intelligent and misunderstood by the other half… but he managed to still feel so much guilt and he wanted to fix Frank so badly. He knew that he could do it, no matter how hard it was, no matter if he thought that he was going to be put at risk by Them. He loved Frank so much, and in every chapter, that love grew deeper. Although there were times when he was set back by his schizophrenia, those aching words that keep echoing into my mind until now keep killing me.
He needs someone to put him back together. He needs someone to fight for him. He needs to know he’s loved.
Shit, the stupid cornflakes (I am not sure if it was another cereal, so in case it is, I apologize for getting it wrong) and how Ray and Bob’s predictions came true – that freaked me out. They were also written amazingly, by the way. When they kept telling Gerard to fight for him, I kept crying. I’m so fucking sensitive, and there’s something about how Frank felt that really hit me. He was so broken, and everyone else saw that. Gerard saw that. Gerard wanted to fix him so badly, and so many people in this goddamn world need that fixing, and the fact that there was someone out there who loved him so much (even if this is just a fictional story) and was willing to fight even if they were in a mental institution and were generally fucked up… It messed me up. The chants from them – their encouragement, it just kept racing through my head.
When Gerard was about to go for scans and went back quickly to try and make everything right – I was foolish for expecting something amazing, for all the tears shed to finally make sense… My heart was already in a wreck from chapter three when he spoke for the first time in two years. I was just waiting for their short-lived happy ending. That anti-climactic turn of events made me mentally punch myself. Of course good things won’t happen. Of course that huge ‘major character death tag’ meant that I won’t get my happy ending, but still, I kept reading.
Nobody said loving him was going to be easy
Stupid fucking predictions. This hurt so much, and this is also about the ‘fight for him’ bullshit too. My cursing is stepping up its game at this point because there are no adjectives in the English language that I find sufficient enough to describe the heartbreak that I feel from reading this fanfic. Scratch out all the adjectives in the Filipino language too, because you could literally shock my body a dozen times in a row, and that would not leave me crying for two hours in the ungodly morning.
As I said before, I started the fanfiction at 10 PM and I ended around 4 AM. In reality, I read the last word of the epilogue at exactly 2:46 AM, which I know because I tweeted ‘I know things. Remember?’ at that time. From that moment to the unknown time around 4 in which I passed out in tears, was me looking back at quotes and sobbing and having no one to talk to about it. Which fucking sucks, because when I finish a Song of Ice and Fire book I have friends who actually give a fuck about it, but sadly, no one is an emo piece of shit like me that spends their whole night reading Frerard fanfiction.
When you feel worthless for so long, you feel guilty every time you feel happiness.
I relate to this quote so much it’s not even fucking funny. I have nothing else to say about it. Just let it sink in.
Another thing that I want to discuss about the fanfiction is Mikey fucking Way. Everyone has their favourite My Chemical Romance member, or maybe you’re a filthy liar and like saying that you love everyone equally, but that is complete and utter bullshit. Who likes Bob Bryar after the family breakfast incident? No one.
Obviously, my favourite member of My Chemical Romance is Mikey Way. From the moment I saw his name in the tags, I was waiting for him to appear. Why isn’t he visiting his brother? Is he dead? Then, from the ‘major character death’ tag, I thought that Mikey had died in the past. When Gerard started having the water polo dreams, to the white walls and the pool of blood, I was almost sure that he accidentally ended up killing his brother in the past, which is why he was locked up in the institution and never visited by his family. Why would his family want to visit their homicidal son who murdered his younger brother?
But of course, that was too typical.
One of the stick figures had black hair. “Is that Batman?” I asked.
Mikey made a loud growling noise in his throat. He sounded angry. I didn’t know what I had done wrong. “No, you stupid head!” he exclaimed, his words disjointed and strained as though it was hard for him to say them. “It’s not Batman!” he said and his voice rose. “It’s my brother. It’s Gee-rard.” He growled again and his hand twitched. “Not Batman.”
The hospital visit. I was crying so hard. I know he wasn’t wearing the Anthrax shirt, but I was just picturing him like that. I’ll gladly say that I had different views on kids with Mikey’s illnesses prior to reading this story. It just… changed me. He wasn’t the same, and Gerard probably felt so much guilt. I don’t know about what he was feeling, but he probably thought that it would have been better if he just ended both their lives on that fateful day. Mikey was ruined, and Gerard knew that this was the type of broken that you could never patch together. Gerard was responsible for that, and the fact that Mikey was drawing his brother as a superhero… Fuck that. Mikey is my absolute favourite, and the fact that he was in that state, and the fact that Gerard was in that state, I couldn’t handle it. I knew that a breakdown was going to come soon, and it indeed happened.
Mikey even remembered. He loved his brother.
“Mikey,” I said forcefully. “Where’s Gerard?”
Mikey didn’t look at me. “He got lost,” he said indifferently and put one of his gloved fingers in his mouth. The therapist pulled it out quickly.
He still knew about Gerard. We were never even given notice of his condition after Gerard died, but I sincerely hope he did okay. We will never know if he probably forgave his brother, or if he will ever know that the strange man that visited him one day was that lost brother that he had been finding, and thinking of, for so long. I’m just glad that Gerard got to see him, after all those dreams, after the trauma of finding out that he did something that he didn’t even remember. It’s barely enough emotional closure, but in a story like this, I am just glad that we had an ounce of it at all.
“I’m so sorry,” I choked out.
“Why?” Mikey asked.
“I did something very bad and lots of people got hurt.”
Mikey tilted his head to the side inquisitively. “Gee-rard did something bad t-too. Th-that’s my brother,” he added as though I’d forgotten.
“Gerard is very sorry,” I said and lost the fight to keep from crying.
“I’m hungry,” he announced and rubbed his stomach.
The hallucination before he died. The palm reading. I was so fucked up. At first, I thought that good things did come true, that Frank actually got to visit Gerard. That before he died, Gerard knew that in true words, from a physical, mental, and emotional perspective, that Frank really did love him back. I thought it was so true. I thought that maybe everything would be okay. That when he died, he wouldn’t be alone in a white room. That at least if that did happen, he would have some form of closure. That everything he went through was worth it.
“Shhh!” he says loudly, and places two fingers over my lips. “Do you feel that?” he asks. He shuffles closer to me so my arm isn’t stretched as awkwardly.
At this exact moment I’m really quite baffled as to what Frank is trying to convey to me. I shake my head but it doesn’t put Frank off. Instead he removes my hand from his chest just long enough to lift up his shirt. Then he presses my hand to his chest again, but this time there is no clothing between our skins. “Do you feel that?” he asks again.
“I can feel your heart beat?” I say slowly, confused.
Frank smiles. “Exactly.”
I am crying as I type these words, and I hate myself for being like this… but holy shit. I will never stop thinking about this fanfiction. I may go through life, getting busy, maybe My Chemical Romance will only remain as a fond memory, as a band that saved me in a really dark part of my early life, but this… This fanfiction will remain, along with Flowers for Algernon. The way it delved into mental illness, the way they acted – how sometimes, I saw myself in them. Shit.
Gerard’s confusion was what made me think that it was so real.
“My heart is beating, Gerard.”
I nod. “Well, yeah, if it wasn’t you’d be dead,” I say sensibly.
Frank sighs. “Gerard, I’ve been waiting for my heart to start beating again for almost two years.”
His sarcasm as well.
“I’ve been waiting for as long as I can remember. It stopped because I felt like I’d died. I felt so disgusting and dirty and ashamed and abused and my body shut down. I didn’t want to live anymore and I felt like my heart just stopped as a result. It’s been stopped so long that I thought it was going to stay that way forever.” He looked thoroughly miserable as he revisited the memory. He poked me in the arm. “But then you came along with your stupid theories and your stupid face and you kept doing things to me!” He pushed my hand harder up against his chest. “You came along and you kept making it beat for a few seconds and for those precious seconds I would feel alive. But then it would stop and I’d go back to being dead again.”
This reminded me of the article that Frank’s internet did on him. I’m not sure who he was, and I am sure as hell not diving back deeper into that emotional shithole. (I do remember Brendon Urie though, and I was very pleased at his appearance and as I was reading, I pictured him exactly as Panic! At the Disco’s leading man.) It was title ‘Alive‘, and I just wanted Frank to tell Gerard directly about how he felt exactly, that his presence made Frank feel things. That he, face-to-face, would tell Gerard that he loved him, and after his rape and trauma, he was okay.
That Gerard wouldn’t just know things like that, he would hear them for himself. That they wouldn’t just remain as one of his twenty-four secrets, he would hear it. He would believe it for himself. That maybe he’s not so delusional. That there is truth in his thoughts.
“I fixed you,” I say in disbelief.
“Yes,” Frank says quietly. “Gerard, I’m good. I’m going to be okay.”
Gerard told himself and Jasper many times, that he could fix Frank. That it didn’t matter what he had to go through, he would fix him. He knew that it was going to happen, he would walk towards the ends of the earth for it to happen, as he said himself. He knew, but he was never sure. In the hallucination, he knew. Even if it wasn’t real… even if his mind just acted up, at least he believed in his brain that it happened, even if he didn’t.
Even if Frank never got to say it to him, at least Gerard heard it, in a way.
“I love you.”
I pull Frank away from where he had buried his face in my chest and kiss him. I don’t care that he can see my stupid tears and my weakness. I love him more than anything. I fixed him.
“I love you,” Frank repeats, his lips still pressed to my own. It’s him who had said it the first time. He loves me.
Frank never said it, but Gerard knew.
He fucking knew.
I love this fanfiction so, so much. If I could get it printed and binded for myself, I definitely would. In fact, I am going to research on that and see if I could have it done, because I want a physical copy of this to be stained in my tears. Also, I want some of my friends to read it and see how good it is, and I like discussing things that destroy me. (See: Young Blood Chronicles.)
In the four or so hours that it took me to read through this, I remember playing From Under the Cork Tree, Gerard’s solo album Hesitant Alien, then Frank’s Stomachaches, American Beauty/American Psycho (which didn’t really fit the story, but I did enjoy The Kids Aren’t Alright, Fourth of July and Jetpack Blues). I remember going halfway through Infinity on High then switching to my sad Panic! At the Disco playlist around the end, and that went on repeat for quite a while. It enhanced the reading experience a lot, especially with the contrast of Gerard’s solo album to Frank’s, and how dark Frank’s album was, just like his character in the story. Also, how developed and changed Gerard was in comparison to his character in the story.
You could say that the roles are reversed in real life, as Gerard had went through a really tough time, but My Chemical Romance changed along with him. The Black Parade was a masterpiece in sadness, sorrow, and death. Then Danger days came along which I grew to love, and I realized that as you develop, you go along the My Chemical Romance albums too.
I just wanted that to happen in the story so badly. For them to both be okay, and to not have an end like that. I wanted so many loose ends to be tied up, but there’s only so much that you could ask for. Honestly, if I hadn’t read the facts, I wouldn’t have known that Frank’s visit was just a mere hallucination. When I read that, I teared up. I thought it was real, I thought that Frank got to see him, that he died with Frank being able to see him and just say those words. That Frank could tell Gerard how much he meant to him.
Let’s just say that I am glad Gerard shared his ninth secret. I am glad that Frank kept it in his wallet, that he was shocked after reading it. That he has a piece of Gerard with him. That Markman knows that even if the paper that she had carried around every single day, has some sort of value, even if she couldn’t understand. That maybe that paper (I choose to believe this as opposed to the other option in the FAQ) contained his secret on how to fix people. That the world really was okay.
I am glad that Gerard died knowing that he saved the world. He died knowing that Frank said those words to him, even if he really didn’t.
I am glad that I found this fanfiction, that fucking destroyed me and ruined me mentally. I am glad that my mind is fucking split after reading this, that I am fucking shattered so badly. I am glad that I found a fanfiction that I could see myself in, that maybe even if I don’t get fixed, there’s thousands of other people out there who are broken – and maybe their tale is similar to this. That even if I don’t find someone, they’re going to find someone to fix them. I know that.
I know things.