Overthinking

Ah, overthinking, the bane of those with depression and anxiety disorders alike. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, overthinking has a specific meaning in this context; according to this article on PSYweb.com, “Overthinking is examining and reexamining negative emotions, thoughts, and memories. Both men and women can fall into a pattern of overthinking, although women tend to do it more often.” Basically, it’s going over and over the same thought, or series of thoughts, in your head until it starts to be all you can think about, and it can be really difficult to break out of.

I can relate right now, because I have about five different things in my head currently vying for Chief Overthinking Topic. The current frontrunner is one that has repeated frequently over the years, and basically revolves around my inability to have a successful romantic relationship; the two times I’ve seriously tried, I failed, and only one of those women will still speak to me, and then there’s the woman I had a huge crush on in (English) grad school, and my completely-out-of-my-league celebrity crush… there’s a lot of wondering if I do this to myself because I don’t feel I’m worthy or deserving of a relationship, or I just don’t appeal to women, and left unchecked, it can very easily keep me up at night wondering where I went wrong.

Along with that beauty of a thought process, we have “What am I doing with my life”, “Why do I feel haunted by the memory of the friend I lost”, Am I tormenting myself with emotional videos I find, or are I just re-learning how to feel after nearly two decades of emotional repression”, and other such hits. Yeah, looking at these, any one of them could easily tie up my entire brain for hours, if not days, and would almost certainly leave me feeling miserable, depressed, alone, and useless. Since I can really do without feeling like that, I have to find ways to distract myself from those thoughts until the bouncer in the nightclub that is my brain (yes, it’s a weird analogy, sue me) decides they’re disturbing the other customers and kicks them out – at least, until the next time they come around. So, how do I do that?

Well, doing this helps. I find that being able to get my thoughts out of my head and onto some other medium, even if it does sometimes come across as nonsensical or stream-of-consciousness, can help to clear out some of the really annoying stuff going on in my head. Knowing that other people might read this, and may even feel like commenting on it (seriously, I don’t bite… well, not unless I’m drinking, but I haven’t had a drink in going on 4 years) helps to focus my mind, and keep the nagging perils of the thoughts I tend to overthink at bay. Finding a good TV show or video game helps, too, especially if it’s one that really draws me in. This is, in part, why I may often seem a little obsessed with things like Captain America, Game of Thrones, or RPGs – because they can get my attention and keep it, and I can much more easily talk about, say, movie Captain America versus comic Captain America, or the relative merits of a Daenerys/Tyrion ruling duo, or even what kind of RPG I would love to run (or play) in. Well, with other people, anyway. These topics are much more relatable than the screaming morass of lunacy that my mental illness can throw off. Most people (well, excepting my therapist, I suppose) don’t want to hear me whining about my nonexistent love life, but they are more than willing to go toe-to-toe with me on geek topics. So I get distracted, they get (hopefully) decent conversation, everyone wins.

For those of you unfortunate enough to be my friend on Facebook, this is often the reason behind a fair amount of the seemingly random stuff I can end up posting, whether it is a YouTube video, or a TV quote, or an article on TV/comics/RPGs; I’m just trying to distract my mind long enough to get the really unpleasant stuff, the stuff that can spin around in my head for days, trapping everything else like Odysseus between Scylla and Charybdis, out of my head for a while. It will probably come back later, but until then my mind will be a little less chaotic. I always enjoy engaging people, so if you want to respond to whatever I’m Facebooking, blogging, or Instagramming about, I will happily chat with you about whatever you’re responding to. It might even be helpful. But The responsibility of dealing with my overthinking is mine, so don’t ever feel like you have to take part in my own guerrilla war against my thoughts.

And with that, I’m out (for now).

Fire and Blood

Despite it being Suicide Awareness month, my story and experiences with suicide have been pretty well documented elsewhere on this blog. So instead I thought that today I would engage in some geekery.

For those of you who have been asleep for the past 6 years, Game of Thrones is A Thing. Based on the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series of books by George Returns. R. Martin, the TV series on HBO is enormously popular. In fact, at the Emmy Awards this past Sunday, it became the new record-holder for number of awards for a fictional show. The acting is great, the action is brutal, and the story is pretty captivating. So it is no surprise that I’m hooked. What may be a surprise is the character who has become my favorite – Daenerys Targaryen.

Daenerys is played by British actress Emilia Clarke, and so some of the appeal to me is her attractiveness – Esquire did declare her the series that woman in the world in 2015, after all. But there’s more to it than that, a lot more, so bear with me as I geek out about my favorite character. Warning: there will be spoilers for those of you (heathens!) Who have not seen all 6 seasons.

Daenerys is introduced to the viewer as a beautiful girl (she starts the series at age 15), but one who is meek, afraid, and controlled by her older brother. She doesn’t seem like she will last long in the world of Game of Thrones. Sure enough, we find that she and her brother are the last heirs of the Targaryen family, former royalty of Westeros, and have been on the run from the forces of the usurper essentially their entire lives. Viserys, Daenerys’ older brother, is angry and wants to retake the crown he sees as his – and is going to sell his sister as a bride to a Dothraki  (think fantasy Mongol) warlord in exchange for an army. Despite her objections, the marriage happens, and she is raped on her wedding night by a husband she cannot communicate with. Not a good start.

But rather than be broken by her situation, Daenerys flourishes. She throws herself into learning the language and customs of her husband, and while learning to be the new khaleesi  (basically a queen), she grows to love her husband, as he grows to love her. She becomes loved by her new people, which angers her brother, who impatiently wants his promised army. He tries to abuse his sister like he used to, only she has grown, and is no longer willing to be abused. Viserys’ impatience leads to his death, and Daenerys acquires his advisor, an exiled Knight from Westeros, as her own. Sadly, mistakes are made, resulting in the loss of Daenerys’ husband. Unborn son, and most of her followers, but when she walks into her husband’s funeral pyre, already lit, and is found naked – but otherwise unharmed- the next day, with three newly hatched dragons, we begin to realize that Daenerys is special.

Daenerys goes on to make her fair share of mistakes – much of season 2, for her, is continually making mistakes, whether through lack of knowledge or arrogance. But given the chance, she learns from her mistakes – she doesn’t approach Astapor in season 3 with the same arrogance she came to Qarth with, for example, and her plan to get an army of Unsullied soldiers – while rather ruthless – is pretty smart. Season 3 is pretty successful, for her – she gains an army, conquers several cities, and is in pretty good shape to continue further. And when season 4 rolls around, and she is confronted with the fact that, despite her high-minded attempt to eliminate slavery around the eponymous Slavers’ Bay that the people she deposes will retake power once she moves on, she decides that rather than return to Westeros to try to take the Iron Throne, she will instead work to fix her mistakes and ensure that the cities she conquers remain slavery-free. This takes her until the end of season 6, because even with an army and dragons, beating entrenched oppression is hard, but she does it.

Part of her strength is that she realizes there’s still a lot for her to learn, and so she listens to the people she surrounds herself with – and many of them are very good at what they do, though some are more trustworthy than others. It’s when she departs from this – when she decides that she knows best, like in Qarth in season 2, or Meereen in season 5 (after ejecting Jorah Mormont) – that she has the most trouble. But by the end of season 6, she has surrounded herself with brilliant advisors – the former spymaster of Westeros, Varys; the commander of her Unsullied army, Gray Worm; her talented translator, Missandei; and my second-favorite character, and brilliant mind in his own right, Tyrion Lannister. Alongside the enormous army she has gathered, this dream team is pretty well poised to conquer Westeros, by fire and blood. Oh, and she has three very large dragons.

There are a fair amount of nude scenes for Daenerys, to be sure, but I actually find most of them to be either uncomfortable or rather non-sexual. Every nude scene in season 1, for example, makes me feel kind of sick to my stomach, especially since I know that Emilia Clarke had rather strong reactions to doing those scenes. There are one or two more in seasons 2 and 3, but there’s nothing spectacular about them, it just seems like HBO was using nudity because it could. And her only nude scene since season 3 occurs in episode 4 of season 6, and it is far from sexual – it’s all about power. She burns an entire building full of Dothraki khals alive, with herself inside it, but she’s fireproof – so when she walks out, standing tall, naked but otherwise unharmed, the only survivor, the other Dothraki all bend the knee to her. She conquers them without ever lifting a sword or raising an army. In that scene, her nudity isn’t about being attractive, it’s about being threatening, and it works.

To me, she’s kind of an inspirational character. She’s not a (fictional) role model, like Captain America, but she has had to overcome a lot to get to where she ends season 6 – an abusive older brother; a not-terribly-nice husband, part of a not-terribly-friendly culture; moss of both a husband and a child; near-starvation; imprisonment (multiple times); and frequently, people questioning whether or not she can do what she sets out to do because she’s a girl. Granted, she does start the series at age 15, but she has done far more in 5 years than I have, at least on a purely physical level – from being a scared, abused, meek beggar princess to a queen surrounded by some of the finest minds we’ve seen, backed by an army at least 50,000 strong. She is the conqueror of the Bay of Dragons, the Mother of Dragons, Mhysa, khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea. She can be impulsive, and there are hints that she might have inherited some of the hereditary Targaryen mental instability, but she’s a fine example of a character who rises from an enormous disadvantage to a great position of power, and doesn’t have to sell her soul to do it.

Daenerys is strong; she took a situation that would have broken many people, and used it as an opportunity to become a ruler. She’s smart, and she is willing to listen to those around her – mostly – if they have ideas she hasn’t thought of. She can be ruthless; witness her treatment of the Dothraki khals or her dragon-riding exploits in season 6. But she can also be compassionate and charismatic – Yunkai citizens name her ‘Mhysa’ for a reason, after all. Despite never having picked up a weapon, she is poised, at the end of season 6, to attain her goal since the beginning, retaking the Iron Throne, and her chief competition – Cersei Lannister – has no idea how outgunned she is. Alongside characters like Arya and Sansa Stark, Cersei Lannister, and Olenna Tyrell, Daenerys has helped to make most of the show controlled by women, and I can’t see that as a bad thing. I look forward to the epic awesomeness to come in season 7 – though waiting until June is going to be hard.

Me Before You

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. Much of that has been being busy with school, and my new internship, but sometimes I just don’t particularly feel like giving others a look inside my head is a particularly smart thing to do. But right now I can’t sleep, and it’s partially because of the title, so let’s get to it, shall we?

I read the book, Me Before You, months ago – largely because I knew it was being made into a movie with an actress I really like (Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones). And I’ll be honest, it kind of messed me up. The general story of the book (and movie) is this – a handsome, intelligent, wealthy young man, Will Traynor, is in a terrible accident that leaves him almost totally paralyzed, but for his head and a finger and thumb. Unsurprisingly, he spirals into a deep depression, since his life falls apart. Enter Louisa Clark – a down-on-her-luck young woman who has recently lost her job, and sees the pay of being Will’s caretaker as a godsend for her and her family. She is bubbly (and a little bumbling), and he is generally a terrible ass, and then it comes out – he has tried to kill himself once since his accident, and is planning to do so, medically, in six months. Unbeknownst to Louisa, she has been hired, essentially, to try to convince him not to kill himself, and she very nearly quits when she finds out. But she starts to warm to Will, and he to her, and their six months together culminate in a Hail Mary of a shot – a beautiful vacation where Louisa finally, passionately, declares that over their time together she has fallen in love with Will, and she knows about his plans, but she wants him to live and be with her.

Will, sadly, never had any intention of being talked out of his plans. He knew Louisa was falling for him, and he for her, but he just can’t stand living like he is – a shadow of the man he used to be – and tells her that it just isn’t enough. Then he asks her if she’ll come and be with him while he dies. Which goes over about as well as you’d expect. Eventually the two do come together, and he does go through with his plans, and the book ends with her following some post-mortem advice from Will on how to try to move on. The book is far more nuanced than the movie, including several sub-plots the movie jettisons for time constraints, but Emilia Clarke is a perfect casting choice, but both the movie and book hit me right where it hurts, because I can see both sides of their doomed relationship.

Like I’ve talked about many times, I’ve been suicidal before; like Will, I planed my last attempt for months, though mine wasn’t essentially euthanasia. If you watch the movie or read the book and you can’t understand why Will, even when a beautiful, lively, fun woman is practically throwing herself at him, still decides to die, then you’ve probably never been depressed enough to try to kill yourself. The hopelessness, the emptiness, is so profound that it’s difficult to explain; there’s really nothing else in life I can compare it to. It does strange things to your mind, like convincing you that the rest of the world, and especially your loved ones, will be better off when you’re gone. So I can understand why he’d want to die; I don’t think it’s necessarily to do with his disability (the book has an extensive subplot where Louisa talks to other people with similar quadriplegic issues, and many of them are leading long, productive lives), but rather the depression that has come from no longer being able to be the person he sees himself as. In fact, if I, during my last period of serious depression, right before I tried to kill myself a second time, had been in the same situation as Will – with a woman like Louisa telling me she loved me, and begging me to at least try to live for her – God help me, I think I still would have tried to kill myself. So I understand where it comes from.

And, like Louisa, I’ve been on the receiving end of being told that my love was just not enough, and that’s a kind of pain they just don’t make a bandage for. It’s like having your heart ripped out and torn to pieces in front of your eyes, and there’s no salve for that, no magic pill or cure – just the slowly-fading ache of having been told that your love wasn’t enough for someone else, someone you trusted with one of the most vulnerable parts of you only to have them demolish it. I imagine the pain of this kind of rejection is something a lot more people, sadly, are familiar with, and the pain is no less real for being emotional – there’s just no blood to see, no wound to heal. I’ve lost a good friend to suicide, though not in a situation like Will’s, and the pain of that leaves scars on the heart that don’t heal easily or well. And I can only imagine the extra pain that comes when someone who has just rejected you then asks you to be with them when they die – not of some natural cause, but because they just can’t stand life anymore. I don’t know that I would have had the strength, the ability to forgive, or the willingness to help someone I loved die that Louisa shows, even knowing how badly it will likely mess her up.

I think both the book and the movie are worth seeing/reading, and the sequel to the book, cunningly titled After You, continues with Louisa’s efforts to recover from her time with Will. It’s also good, if hard to read, and I think that it’s largely because it’s marketed as romance (both the movie and book). While there is a romantic element to the story, I think it’s much more of a tragedy, because there are times when love can’t conquer all – when something like depression takes over and beats love bloody. It’s not a happy story, but it is one that I don’t think I’ll be able to forget anytime soon. And now that I’ve written this, maybe it will let me sleep.