The Reality in Fiction

Why do we get so attached to fictional characters?

This is a question I’ve asked myself a lot. For me, in particular, it’s because many of the most formative, influential people in my life are not physical, in-the-flesh beings, but fictional constructs, whether written down on the page, drawn, or portrayed by an actor/actress in a TV show or movie. Anybody who knows me, in particular, knows that I have a particular attachment to two characters especially: Captain America and Daenerys Targaryen. They aren’t the only two who I feel have been formative in my life, obviously; Daenerys didn’t exist until I was in my college years. But they are the two I would say I feel the most attachment to in recent years – to the point where I have a tattoo signifying Captain America on my left shoulder, and I’m planning a Targaryen crest on my right.

Partially, it comes down to actual science (I know, right?); to a certain degree, parts of our brains don’t distinguish between a real person and a fictional character, much like if you read Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, you discover that the reason we get a rush when we accomplish something and get a reward in a video game, it’s the same feeling as receiving an actual, physical reward because our brains just don’t differentiate. While the rational parts of our brain can tell us that these characters just aren’t real, the more emotional areas of the brain don’t distinguish between real and fictional – a fictional character can be just as close to us as a trusted friend or a beloved family member.

This also happens because, through fiction, we often get a direct line to a character’s inner thoughts and reasoning that we don’t normally get in real life. Creators of fiction have to explain why bizarre things are the way they are, because anything too unrealistic and we will stop caring, while reality is under no such constraints. So, in the case of my two example character above, we can read comics and get a look into Captain America’s thinking, much the ways we can see the thought process inside Daenerys Targaryen’s head in her viewpoint chapters. When these characters are then portrayed on the big screen, whether television or movie, we also tend to get some of this, though not direct thoughts, but often characters will take time to explain their actions or motives so that we, as the audience, can understand.

Bring together the fact that our brains, on some level, view these characters as real, and that we get a feeling of knowing them personally (which is helped along by media portrayals, as the actors chosen for the roles are often very attractive, and we as a species just tend to innately trust attractive people), and we begin to develop empathy for these characters. We see the things they go through, and we feel sorrow when they suffer, joy when they overcome, and the whole gamut of emotions in between. We feel like we are right by their side, like we are with friends or family, when they are having their most important, intimate moments. We feel for them, and the feelings are genuine, though the characters are fictional.

This connection only grows through time; much like the ‘real’ people in our lives, time apart brings distance, but time together – watching them on screen, reading about them in books or comics, playing them in video games – brings us closer. We may never be able to reach out and touch these characters, to form a bond through contact that produces oxytocin like a genuine hug, but the longer we are with them, the closer we tend to feel to them. And, of course, the degree of closeness varies from person to person; some people may never think of characters as real at all, while others might become dangerously obsessed with the characters, to the point where they stalk the actors/actresses who portray them or the writers who write them.

It’s important to be able to differentiate; I think that’s a sign of a healthy mind. I like Daenerys Targaryen, and I feel she’s been a powerful female force on a show dominated by men in Game of Thrones, but I also know that Emilia Clarke, the actress who plays the role, isn’t Daenerys, though she may project parts of her personality into the character, or take parts of the character into herself. Similarly, I know Chris Evans, as Captain America-like as he may act in social media, is not, in fact, a super soldier, just a talented actor who did the role justice.

I’m writing this mostly because right now I am in a strange place regarding these two characters. Captain America, at least as portrayed on-screen by Chris Evans, has finished his story, and passed on his legacy, and I feel that the build-up and resolution of his character arc was a great story, to say nothing of how all the other character arcs of the Marvel Cinematic Universe intertwine in a way nobody would have thought possible had you described it a decade ago. Captain America will continue on in the comics, but the shield will be taken up by a new person on-screen. I felt sad, but also an immense sense of satisfaction with how the character’s story resolved.

At the same time, I feel much more conflicted regarding Daenerys Targaryen. Built up over 7 seasons of beautiful, superbly-acted television, the character was, while on occasional brutal and ruthless, also someone who genuinely wanted to make the world a better place, to free the slaves of the world and lift up the downtrodden, as well as being a powerful woman who didn’t require the affirmations of men to succeed. In this final season, though, she has been changed, and did something horrible which I don’t think had been adequately justified on-screen, while being betrayed by every man in her life (many of whom called her crazed even before she did anything terrible) and suffering tremendous loss. The build-up of her character seemed to have been thrown away for the sake of hitting a single, specific plot point, and once that was achieved she was no longer necessary to the story and was killed off. In the 5th episode of the final season, I did feel a sense of betrayal, of horror, but not because of the character, but rather because I don’t think the character’s previous actions had shown the necessary work to get to where she ended. Fiction, unlike reality, needs to show us how characters get to where they are, and I don’t feel like it did, and because the series is now over that is where the story ends.

These two are by no means the only characters I feel have been real in the past to me, and have helped shape the direction of my life; you have only to see the characters I feel were largest in my mind – Sturm Brightblade of the Dragonlance Chronicles; Paksenarrion of the Deed of Paksenarrion; Picard and Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation; Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in Star Wars; Beowulf; Michael Carpenter in the Dresden Files; Superman and Captain America; Eric Draven from the movie The Crow, one of my all-time favorites – to see the directions in which my mind goes, morally and emotionally. I have formed attachments to all of these characters and more, and seen them all as friends and valued comrades; I cried when Mordin Solus gave his life for others in Mass Effect 3, and cheered when Captain America picked up Mjolnir in Avengers: Endgame. I’ll likely continue to form attachments to characters, though the personas of Captain America and Daenerys will loom larger because of their reminders on my skin.

We form attachments – we CARE – about these characters because in a very concrete sense, they are real to us.


It’s so hard to find someone who cares about you.

I heard that on the radio as I was coming home (from the song Someone Who Cares by the band Three Days Grace), and right now, that really feels true.

It’s been almost a year since my last entry, and a lot has changed. I started a job in the social work field doing something called wraparound, and boy is it intense. But the really big one, the one I’m talking about here, is that I was in a relationship.

It started in January, and I think things had been slowly building to that for a while; we were friends, but she knew I wanted to be more, so we started dating. And I really threw myself into it; I was the best boyfriend I could think to be. I cooked for her, bought her little gifts, drove across town to drop off emergency chocolate for her at work, listened to her when she was having troubles, spent as much time as I could with her. It was a slow build-up, but I was happy with her, even joyful, and it lasted for months, and felt like it could have lasted for years.

As you might have guessed from the title of this entry, it was not a happy ending. A few weeks ago when I was asking her where she saw us going, I got a very blunt answer: nowhere. While I had fallen deeply, crazily in love with her – to the point that I was making long-term plans and even considering uprooting my life for her – she had come to the conclusion that she felt nothing for me. I was someone who was occasionally fun to do things with, but nothing more.

As I’m certain I’ve discussed here before, I’ve struggled with issues of self-confidence, of feeling worthless and unlovable. And so to be told by someone I loved deeply that not even a tiny portion of that was reflected in her… well, it wrecked me. It’s been a little over three weeks, and I still don’t know what to do with this feeling of emptiness. I feel like having put so much of myself into this relationship, to have tried so hard and done so much only to be told it was worth nothing made me feel like I was worth nothing.

Rationally, I know that’s not true; I’m valued at my job, and I know my friends like having me around. But emotionally… well, it’s not hyperbole to say I wish she would have stabbed me rather than tell me that. At least with stabbing, there are guidelines for what to do, how long it takes to recover, painkillers to dull the pain. But no painkillers numb that emotional wound. Nobody can tell me how long recovery will take -and bear in mind, this was my first serious relationship (yes, at 38; I’m a really bad introvert, and my depression made me even worse at doing things to start relationships earlier in life). I don’t have much to compare it to, and nothing to look back on and say that it’ll get better in x amount of time.

I don’t form deep emotional connections easily. I’m pretty empathetic, which is a boon to me in my job, but deep connections take time, and I don’t risk them often. But when I do, I don’t hold back, I go all the way. And here and now, it’s not served me well. I feel hollow. I described it the other day as that feeling you get when you think you’ve forgotten something in another room, and then you go to find it and can’t remember what you were looking for – but that feeling, all the time. Like something is missing.

Something is, of course – my relationship. The person I loved. Who was one of my closest friends. Now I can’t bring myself to speak with her, because it’s so painful – just one text from her a little over a week and a half ago sent me halfway into a panic attack. So much doesn’t feel like it makes sense anymore – was I just too blind to see that she didn’t care? Did I do something wrong? Is what I have to offer in a relationship really as worthless as it feels right now?

My head is a mess of emotions- sadness, anger, bitterness, guilt, shame. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to start feeling better. To start feeling like maybe at some point I can think of myself as someone who can actually reach out to another person in a relationship kind of way, like I have something to offer besides misery. I could probably keep going with this for some length, but I think it would devolve into a sad, pathetic exercise, a bitter screed, or something even less palatable. So, I’ll end it with this: like the song I started this entry with says:

Why is it so hard to find someone
Who can keep it together
When you’ve come undone?
Why is it so hard to find someone
Who cares about you?


I thought about naming this post after former President Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, but I figured that would be a bit presumptuous of me. So instead,I went with hopepunk. What is hopepunk? Well, as the person who seems to have originated the term, I’ll go with what author Alexandra Rowland says: hopepunk is the opposite of grimdark.

Grimdark is, according to the website TVTropes, a tone shift in how a work, whether in film, books, or some other media, is presented – rather than go for a lighter, more hopeful tone, instead it moves in the other direction, darker, edgier, more dystopian, more amoral… more hopeless. Nowhere in geek culture is this more obvious than in the setting of popular miniatures wargame Warhammer 40,000 – where there are no good guys to play, nobody is clean or pure; even the nominal ‘good’ guys think nothing of exterminating whole planets of their own people to halt the spread of infectious ideas, or to deny ground to their enemies. In a grimdark setting, hope is a thing of the past; all that can be hoped for anymore is survival, and perhaps revenge.

I bring this up today because of the events in Las Vegas on Sunday night, of a shooting rampage that left, as of this writing, 59 people dead and 527 injured. I spent much of yesterday after hearing about this in a daze. That someone could inflict such terror and bloodshed on his fellow man, and for (thus far) no discernable reason… I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it. The thing that came to my mind most readily was a quote from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by Theoden, king of Rohan: “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” I was sickened, saddened, depressed, horrified, angry. I despaired over what could have caused this, and raged over those who decided to take the opportunity to say that it happened because of disrespect for the president, or who decried any possible attempt at conversation about gun control. I was trying desperately to find something to help me make sense of things when I remembered reading about the concept of hopepunk a couple weeks ago.

I’ve written about hope before here; in the process of recovery from mental illness, and learning to manage what will be a lifelong condition, sometimes hope is all that you have. And I am, by nature, a cynic; I tend to think that things will likely get worse, not better, which is odd coming from someone who has adopted (and should probably get tattooed somewhere) the credo dum spiro, spero – while I breathe, I hope. But I was having a hard time finding anything to be hopeful about in this situation until I remembered the idea of hopepunk. It’s not the deepest philosophy, but I felt that it somehow touched something in me, something that helped me to come back out of the dark hole I was descending into. Like the concept’s author says:

“Jesus and Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Robin Hood and John Lennon were hopepunk. (Remember: Hopepunk isn’t about moral perfection. It’s not about being as pure and innocent as the new-fallen snow. You get grubby when you fight. You make mistakes. You’re sometimes a little bit of an asshole. Maybe you’re as much as 50% an asshole. But the glass is half full, not half empty. You get up, and you keep fighting, and caring, and trying to make the world a little better for the people around you. You get to make mistakes. It’s a process. You get to ask for and earn forgiveness. And you love, and love, and love.) ”

Things are dark now. They will be dark again. For some of us, there hasn’t been a time in recent memory where it hasn’t been dark. But they won’t always be that way. Despite whatever is happening now, things are slowly getting better. Sometimes they aren’t perceptibly better; sometimes they might not get better for us, but rather for our children or grandchildren. but things are getting better, though it can be hard to see. 60 year ago, I probably would have been put in a sanitarium – and that’s assuming I survived my suicide attempts. Even 5 years ago, I was unable to get health insurance, because I had a pre-existing condition and that meant insurance companies avoided me like the plague. Now I have insurance, I just finished my MSW (even got the degree int he mail today), and I’m looking to get into the field and get to work because I want to help.

The world is dark at times. Grim, painful, and ugly. What happened in Las Vegas Sunday night was a gruesome, terrible example of that. But there is hope. Sometimes we can see it in the events in the news, and sometimes in the lives of the people around us. And sometimes we can see it in the media we choose to immerse ourselves in. For me, a website I read a fair bit,, has created a fair list of media they feel qualifies as hopepunk storytelling, and I agree with many of them. And, because I’m a geek, I think I’ll point out a few of my favorite examples.

Game of Thrones, a show famed for its brutality and character death count, has moments of this – fans of the show will see it in ‘dancing master’ Syrio Forel, when he says “And what do we say to the God of Death? Not today.”

Fans of DC Comics will see it in the oath of the Blue Lantern Corps: “In fearful day, in raging night, With strong hearts full, our souls ignite. When all seems lost in the War of Light, Look to the stars, for hope burns bright!”

Some may even see it in the 90s Kevin Costner vehicle The Postman, where a grifter in a post-apocalyptic USA takes up the guise of a US Postal Service mailcarrier, initially as a way to con others – and starts a movement he ends up believing in (plus, as a bonus, it has a cameo with Tom Petty, who passed away yesterday, playing himself as leader of a settlement).

I think the two that might do the most for me, though, are these two: the first is from the first season of the HBO series True Detective (and, as a warning, it does include some NSFW language):

The second comes from the TV series Angel, a spinoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was  a show that was all about a group of monsters, misfits, screwups, and criminals trying to find some kind of redemption in fighting against evil the best they could, and this idea became one of the central points of the show:

So, rather than rant about people like Pat Robertson, or how desperately the country needs gun control or something like it to keep these terrible things from happening over and over, rather than add to the deluge of negativity and despair, I write to you about hope. Find it where you can; ask others for help if you can’t find it on your own. Hope for a better world is how the world gets to be better. I leave you with some of the final words of Canadian politician Jack Layton: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

I would love it if those reading could contribute their own examples of things they think might fall under the classification of hopepunk; please do so in the comments section below.


Who are you?

This is a question I ask myself all too often, because there are times when I feel it’s not too apparent. I mean, yes, on a literal level, I know who I am – I know my name, and when I was born, and where I live. But on a deeper level, I often have difficulty knowing exactly who I am.

Some of this is because of my experience with mental illness. I know I have made a lot of changes in the four and a half years since coming to Menninger (and Texas), but sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly how much. I can’t clearly remember what I used to be like before depression became a looming figure in my life; I’m aware of events, and I know some generalities – I have always been on the quiet, bookish side – but I can’t clearly recall what my personality was like before. Who was I when the crushing bulk of depression wasn’t weighing on my mind all the time?

This isn’t a particularly new phenomenon; many people have reported that their mental illness seemed to take over a large portion of their life and even co-opt parts of their identity. There have even been studies done about it, and articles written; you can find one here entitled Stealing Me From Myself about how people with mental illness, and the loved ones in their lives, have noticed significant changes in personality and identity when the illness sets in. Living with a mental illness, especially a severe one, can majorly redefine what we see as our ‘self’, our identity; it becomes a part of who we are, and it tends to be quite forceful about it, crowding out other portions of our identity. The things we used to enjoy may not appeal to us anymore, either because we just find ourselves incapable of feeling joy that way, or because we lack energy to participate anymore.

When we learn to deal with or manage our mental illness – however long that takes – we often find that old parts of our personality return. Someone whose crushing depression made them unable to enjoy hiking might have the energy to take it up again, for example. Someone whose delusions made it impossible to read without discovering hidden messages and conspiracies, when medicated, might find that they can pick up an old favorite book and enjoy it for what it is once more. But not everything comes back. As another article – Mental Illness, The Identity Thief – talks about, sometimes there’s just no way to get back to where, or who, we were before. I can’t watch some of the movies and listen to some of the music I used to enjoy because of the rush of negative emotions they bring on. There are people whose presence I used to enjoy, but whom I just can’t be around because some of the things they do are dangerous to my own self-care.

And then there is how others see us. This can be one of the worst parts of the change in our identity, because the people who have known us as mentally ill often have difficulty seeing us as anything else. There aren’t many people in my life who actually remember me for who I was before – mostly just my family and a couple old friends. And there are a lot of people who I have met since who have had to deal with me when I was at my worst, and often haven’t had the chance to interact with me since I’ve begun to successfully manage my illness. Do they see me differently? Will they always see me as the guy who couldn’t smile, who was all too easily tired out, who was relentlessly negative and cynical? If I were to meet them again and speak to them as who I am now, would they be able to reconcile the person I am with the person I was? Or, like Melissa Kirk writes in Psychology Today, will that image of me as a mentally ill person be the only way they’ll be able to view me? Will my identity in their eyes always be shaped by that?

Going forward, I’m not sure who I’ll be. I’m not really all that sure who I have been; many of my memories are cloaked in the fog of depression. There are parts of my identity that I am sure of now – I’m a geek; I’m an academic; I’m a liberal’ I’m a Christian. But how much will my identity change as my life continues to move forward? Will moving into employment in the social work field shape my identity at all? And if so, how? Depression will continue to leave some lasting impression – I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t since it’s a permanent passenger – but how much of an impression will that be?

I don’t really know who I’m supposed to be, but I’m interested to find out.


I’ve spent the last week mulling over the death by suicide of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington. was one of those 90s kids who picked up their first album, Hybrid Theory, and I really loved their first few albums, though I started to drift away as time went on. There was something about the music, the lyrics, the power behind what was being sung that really spoke to me – probably because, whether I knew it or not, that was a relatively dark period in my life. For my last two years of high school – 1996-98 – I was dealing with the fallout of having a thyroid condition that was mostly unmedicated, and a lot of the symptoms mimicked depression pretty well. This continued into college, where I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder when I was 20. I was not in a good place mentally, so many of the songs of Linkin Park spoke to me – Numb, Crawling, In The End, Somewhere I Belong… I didn’t know much about Chester Bennington or his background, then, but the things he was singing about really felt close to my heart.

Hearing about his suicide was kind of a blow because of that impact his music had on me. I’ve learned more about who he was and what he had dealt with in his own life over the last week, and I can see now why his songs touched me – because it seems like he had many of the same kinds of feelings I did. And I’ve attempted suicide myself, as well as lost a close friend to it, so I know what it can feel like to be on both sides of that divide. I even managed to have an acquaintance-ending argument with someone on social media because of the way they reacted to Mr. Bennington’s death; they asserted that his choice was weak, selfish, and a ticket straight to hell, and I strenuously disagreed.

I can’t speak to what Mr. Bennington felt; I never met him, and I only really know him through his music. But the idea that suicide is somehow weak or selfish is one that just burns me up. For me, and for some other people who have contemplated (or attempted) suicide that I have spoken with, suicide is a solution of last resort, when the pain – usually emotional and mental – just becomes too hard to deal with. It’s not a spur-of-the-moment decision, but usually comes with prolonged suffering. Only it is suffering that others can’t see, and it is suffering that often those who suffer can’t (or don’t feel they are able to) show, because of how that suffering is perceived. There’s a sort of societal assumption that ‘real’ suffering has to have a visible component; a broken limb, a huge gash, even a tumor. If it can’t be seen, then, some assume, it must not be real, it’s just imaginary.

While yes, it is all in the heads of those who are suffering, that doesn’t make it any less real. Being in one’s head does not somehow make suffering imaginary. But when people feel like their pain won’t be taken seriously, they keep it inside, and that just lets it grow and fester, like an infected wound – only there is no iodine or antibiotic for emotional trauma. People living with that pain fight a daily battle just to be even marginally functional, and when you’re fighting a part of your own brain, there’s really only so long you can keep fighting without help. For some that means medication, others therapy, still others can find some activity to help, and a combination works for many. But it’s not weakness to give in after fighting a losing battle – if that were true, we’d view the Spartans as weak for losing at Thermopylae.

As for selfishness, that’s trickier. Suicide can appear selfish to someone who has never thought of it, and again, I can only go on my own experience and what has been told to me by others. But depression can get your mind so twisted up that you feel like a burden to others – your family, friends, the people you work with, even casual acquaintances. It feels like every time mention is made of how terrible one feels, that it is somehow a burden to those around us. So we pull back, and stop sharing, because we don’t want to be a burden. but that puts more metaphorical weight on us, and we pull back more, until we become certain that removing ourselves from the lives of those we care for will be the best thing we can do for them. I know in my darkest times, I believed that my friends and family were so burdened by my presence and by the things in my head that my loss would actually be a comfort to them, that it would be a relief to not have to deal with my issues anymore. It seems nonsensical – how could someone we love and care for be such a burden that their death would be good for us? – but that’s the insidious nature of depression. It twists our thoughts around to such a degree that up seems like down, black seems like white.

Don’t even bring up suicide being a trip straight to hell with me. I am a Christian, and I know that one can read one of the commandments – ‘thous shalt not kill’ – to be a condemnation of not just murder, but suicide as well. I’m familiar with the medieval treatment of suicide, seeing it as a crime against God and man alike, so much so that suicides were buried, not in graveyards, but at crossroads (discussed here). My response to any of that is this – that God, who is infinitely loving and compassionate, must see the pain that someone who died from suicide was in, and that they may not have been thinking clearly. Such a loving and compassionate deity would see that soul’s pain and, instead of banishing them to hell, accept them into heaven, because surely they had already suffered enough. And a God who would condemn someone who died from suicide to an eternity in hell because they finally gave in to the pain they were suffering from is not a God I would feel is worthy of worship. There may be a theological argument for hell being self-imposed, that perhaps a person who died from suicide felt themselves unworthy of God’s love and intentionally separate themselves from their deity, but I would think that in such a case, the door would still be left open to them. If you really want to have this argument with me – and I don’t suggest it – it will start off hostile, and will probably involve a whole host of profanity. So let’s move on, shall we?

I’m going into social work, as anyone who has read many of my previous entries will know, so therapy is what I want to be able to do. This is because I want to be able to reach out to people before they reach the point of no return; I’ve been there, and I know how hard it can be to reach out, but having someone to talk to, who isn’t going to judge you, make fun of you, or try to second-guess you, can be a godsend. I don’t know how Mr. Bennington handled his feelings, and I wish he hadn’t died the way he did, but I know the demons that can be crawling in our skin. I know there are wounds that won’t heal, that can’t be seen. I know what it can be like to feel so numb that pain is the only thing that makes an impact, and death seems like the only answer. These are real things, even if they aren’t visible, and there are millions of people in this country alone dealing with them every day.

I welcome discussion here. If you have questions about my own experiences, please ask them. If you want to talk to me about anything, feel free to message me, and I’ll answer. I know that here, I’m just an anonymous voice on the internet, but I know that talking to someone else can help, even if only a little. I’m not as eloquent in my handling of this topic as a former colleague of mine, one of the most intelligent and well-read people I have ever had the pleasure of learning alongside, who covered this in his own way with The Grendel Crawling In Our Skin: In Memory of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. And I know that for people who are suffering from thoughts like this, it can often be nigh-impossible to reach out, even to someone who may have an idea what they are going through. I’m sorry; I wish the internet allowed me to just step through it and sit with you through your pain, and do what I can to help. But right her, right now, this is what I can do.

Goodbye, Mr. Bennington. Your music helped me through some very difficult periods in my life, and I know it helped many others. Your music helped inspire the work of another of my favorite artists, Icon for Hire (whose singer did her own cover of Numb several years ago); many of their songs are about dealing with emotional issues and mental well-being. It may not have helped you, but it did reach many who might otherwise have felt alone in their suffering. Wherever you are, I hope you have found some measure of peace.


Well, I just flew in from my 15th undergraduate reunion, and boy, are my arms tired.

What? It’s not only a good line, but it happens to be mostly true – I haven’t actually boardedmy flight home, but I’m typing this in the airport, and my arms are tired. Mostly from lugging my weekend luggage up and down hills that I’m certain got steeper since the last time I was at my undergraduate alma mater, Kenyon College.

I haven’the been there since I graduated in 2002, and I was expecting…. well, I’m not really aure. While Kenyon was the place where some dark parts of my life happened, or started, it is also where I met some of my closest friends. I guess I was expecting to feel like I belonged, like I was coming home. Nostalgia, you know? Instead, I felt a profound sense of alienation.

I’ve never been the most social person, and this weekend made that especially clear; of the 50 or so members of my graduating class who attended, I recognized only a handful – with a few fingers left over. I was placed for the weekend in a student dorm, on a part of the campus that I had never spent much time when I was a atudent, largely because of the party/fraternity reputation of those dorms. And for many of my fellow ’02s, those were the times they were there to reenact.

Drunken singing, loud conversations until the wee hours of the morning in dorm halls, and at least one loud, angry meltdown… the things in college I tried to avoid. I spent two years living on the 4th floor (no elevators) of a dorm, on the Wellness (no drinking, smoking, loud parties) floor, avoiding that. And these were all people in my class, but I knew virtually none of them, and none of them (save a few) knew me. And when I spoke to the people I did know, reminiscing about our college years, it became clear to me that a great deal was missing.

Moatly, I’m speaking of my memories. Kenyon is where my depression first manifested, and even that is hazy to me. One friend spoke of a D&D game I ran involving puzzles, which he seemed to remember vividly, and which certainly sounds like something I would have done… but I found myself smiling and nodding, because I have no memory of that. I remembered playing D&D with him, among others, but my memories are all hazy and unclear; I have few details I can recall. That was just one incident among many that showed me how little of my time there remained in my mind.

It isn’t that it wasn’t important – as I said, I met some of my closest friends there, and was taught by some amazing professors. But whether the depression muted my memories, or they were lost in the many attempts at treating my depression (ECT, I’m looking at you), they just aren’t there anymore. I have bits and pieces, flashes of vivid memory, but most of the rest is just a dark, muddled mass of blurred shapes. And with those memories gone, so, too, was much of my connection to the college. Things still mostly looked the same, but I had to rely on the cues of others around me when it seemed something was new or changed. It didn’t help that the reunion was almost entirely on the ‘upper classmen/women’ side of campus, which I had few memories almost no little connection to in the first place.

Still, it was great to see the few people I did recognize, including my former roommate; we roomed together all four years, and so when he showed up, it felt like falling into familiar habits. The people I knew looked so similar to what I remember, with few exceptions, that it was both surprising and comforting at the same time. 15 years has made them wiser, and more adult, but not visually too different, at least to my eyes.

And yet, it felt like so much was missing. Both my memories, and the connection I expected to feel. I walked for miles around the campus, but while things were familiar, nothing pulled at me. My emotional connections were with the people I knew, and few of them were there. And the lack of memories is worrying, because, thinking about it, it reminds me of the gaps that a blackout drunk has (I’ve heard them described quite vividly). I don’t know what kind of person I was when I was there, really; I was a poor student, certainly, but was I also a poor friend? Are there people I wronged many years ago who feel they are owed an apology, and have never gotten it because I can’t remember? Similarly, are there friends whose lives I have missed because I forgot how to reach them? Much of what I can’t remember is likely pretty boring, routine, mundane life… but are there important things I can’t remember, and if so, what are they? Troubling thoughts.

But anyway, nostalgia. Even in a dorm I had never seen in my college years, surrounded by people I never knew, I felt a strange tugging at my heart as I packed to leave. I don’t know if, or when, I might be back, and what the college might look like. Or who I might see, or miss seeing. Strolling the aisless of the college bookstore – a place I did remember, and felt oddly comforted by – I ran into an old professor of mine, my advisor, who had been one of my favorite teachers; it was his classes, in large part, that guided me towards medieval literature years ago. He was older; he walked with a cane, and couldn’t remember me – and, given my own memory troubles, I can’t judge. But it was one more familiar face before I left, burdened with collegiate memorabilia. One more reminder of things past, that will never come again, no matter how deeply they are missed.

Like one of the songs of Kenyon goes, farewell, Old Kenyon, fare thee well.

Sleep Cycle

People without mental illnesses often have real difficulty understanding a lot of what goes on when you have one. It’s hard to describe, for example, what real, long-lasting depression feels like to somebody who has never experienced it. But depression is not the only major symptom of a depressive disorder, just the most prominent. One of the others is one I’m having difficulty dealing with right now, and as the title might suggest, it has to do with sleep.

With depression, a lot of those who have it are either suffering from hypersomnia (sleeping way too much) or insomnia (not nearly enough). Both cause problems. But another common issue for people suffering from depression is that a standard sleep cycle can be very difficult to maintain. For those of you who can go to bed at 9 or 10 PM, waking up between 5 and 7 AM for your day, I know (from questioning others, mostly) that people on a schedule like this wake up refreshed, and gradually start getting more tired, both physically and mentally, as the day goes on. So, when the day is over, their bodies and minds are ready to sleep, and then the cycle continues.

For me, and several other people with depression I know, sleep works very differently. I wake up tired – probably about like many people would feel if they skipped sleep altogether. A lot of that tired feeling is mental; it takes my brain a lot longer to get up to running at full capacity than people who have a more normal sleep cycle. And so over the course of the day my body gets tired, like a regular person, but my mind wakes up. So I feel the most awake and aware – at least, mentally – at the time most people tend to be going to bed. This is, not coincidentally, when I do most of my schoolwork – writing papers and the like – because it’s when I feel the most coherent. Of course, my body has been up all day, and it needs sleep, but my mind runs the show, and so keeps going. This, of course, leads to me staying up far later than I should, because it is when I get the most productive time out of my brain. So I go to sleep, and then sleep less than I should, which leads to my body being more tired… and this goes in a cycle.

On days off, I’ll often get a couple hours of sleep in the middle of the day, because my body needs it and my mind isn’t working on all cylinders yet. But once my mind starts being active, I can’t really go to sleep until it runs down – literally. I can try to go to sleep, but my mind tends to be working overtime, and when your brain is working that hard it’s hard to get to sleep. I can sit in bed for hours, but until my mind gives the OK, no sleep will be had. So jobs that require use of my mind early in the day tend to not go so well, because my mind is not up to speed yet, and won’t be for a while. I can work doing physical things – like lifting, sorting, and packing or unpacking boxes at my last job – just fine, but if someone wants me to talk about social work policy or attachment theory, or how I would handle a particular case, my response is going to be sub-par. For some jobs, this is obviously a problem – working someplace at a 9-5 job, where my brain needs to be constantly in motion, is going to be messy for me, because my brain just won’t work that well when I arrive. There’s not really a way around that; even arranging my schedule so that I sleep directly after such a job, my mind still tends to get going around 10 or 11 PM. And when that happens, my body gets up, too.

You can see how this might be a problem, because there aren’t a lot of jobs that start at times like that, and the ones that do are third-shift jobs which are often more physically than mentally demanding. And while my mind is plenty willing to work at that time, my body generally isn’t. So it’s an interesting and annoying tightrope to walk, finding the place where both my mind and body can operate efficiently and get enough rest while still maintaining a life that allows me to be something other than a pasty vampire. And this is an issue that persists even without my depressive episodes being active; even when I’m not suffering through an episode of depression, which could be weeks or months long, my mind and body still function like this. It’s difficult to retrain your body to a more normal way of working when the body is willing, but the mind is not.

So just imagine that your situation was this – that instead of being exhausted when you go to sleep, you are exhausted when you wake up. And when you should be going to sleep, you are instead wide awake, and your mind is working at peak efficiency. But you still have to deal with a job that works regular hours, and may require relatively regular use of your mental acuity. What do you do, hotshot? What do you do?

That is part of what depression does to me.









The Overlap of Gaming and Mental Health

This weekend, two of my biggest passions – gaming and mental health – collided rather violently. I’m still not sure what to think of it, and my bias (or counter-transference, to use a fancy social work-y term) may be obvious. I’m trying to be detached, so I may come off sounding cold, but it’s not intentional; I just felt the need to write about this, since it deals with two big areas of interest in my life.

So, a little background: there’s a roleplaying game company called Palladium Games, run by a man named Kevin Siembieda. It’s often a very polarizing company in the RPG community, as they have a tendency to promise games they don’t always deliver on (one book, Mechanoids Space, has been available for pre-order since 1994, with no evidence of it ever being any closer to done), or have fundraising campaigns for the company to essentially replace things like personal collectibles, and melodramatically naming them (this was the Crisis of Treachery, which occurred in April, 2006; see this link). There are some very loyal fans, and many former fans who have been, or felt, burned very badly by supporting this company.

In 2013, Palladium acquired the rights fora Robotech miniatures wargame, in collaboration with a company called Ninja Division; they began to raise money for this on the Kickstarter platform, and the Ninja Division involvement allayed a lot of those worried about Palladium’s involvement – it raised over $1.4 million, and was slated for delivery by the end of 2013. Almost immediately, though, the production was plagued by mistakes and delays, and it became clear that Palladium had basically total control, and Ninja Division – whose involvement had made many backers feel safe – was barely involved at all. It was pushed back six months, then a year, and then Palladium proposed that, to allow them to raise a little extra cash, that they be allowed to sell advance copies of the game – which, by all rights, should go to those who had backed the project – at the nation’s largest gaming convention, Gen Con. A survey was put up, and Mr. Siembieda noted that any backers not responding to the survey would automatically be assumed to be in support. This did not go over well, but it turned out customs delayed shipment anyway. Some product – the first wave, of at least two and possibly more – was eventually delivered later in 2014, but as of today – over three years past the original predicted delivery date – wave two has still not been delivered, with no estimates as to when it might appear. So, backers, many of whom paid hundreds of dollars for this product, hold a substantial amount of bitterness.

Enter freelancer Carmen Bellaire, who has done work for Palladium in the past, some of which was on the Robotech Tactics Kickstarter. He has formed his own company, Rogue Heroes, which he was planning to have produce a boardgame based on Palladium’s RIFTS property. He had, presumably, seen some of the bitterness about the Robotech Kickstarter on that project’s Comments page, but decided that he should try and advertise his proposed product there nonetheless (you can see his original post on the topic here as well as the posts that followed his). His post was aggressive and confrontational, and this encouraged similar aggression and confrontation from a community that already felt betrayed and bitter. Arguments fired back and forth for about a day, before Mr. Bellaire said he was done, that he was leaving. That was that, as far as the Robotech Kickstarter supporters were concerned, but clearly Mr. Bellaire took it harder than it appeared.

According to a project update from Mr. Siembieda on today (February 19th), Mr. Bellaire, not long after his leaving the Comments section, apologized to Mr. Siembieda, and then not long after that attempted to kill himself. We know this because the update (which can be found here) goes into this in some detail, and Mr. Siembieda, essentially, blames the backers for this project – not just the ones who argued, but all of them – for Mr. Bellaire’s crisis.And so we come to the collision of gaming and mental health. Many of those who commented on this update were – to put it politically – less than sympathetic to Mr.Bellaire’s plight, and some even appeared to take a sort of glee in it (you can see the comments if you scroll down past the update). Many are also contrite and wishing Mr. Bellaire the best and hoping for his recovery, and there is a lot of discussion here.

For me, I have little experience with Palladium; I played one of their games once, many years ago, didn’t really enjoy it, and have only known it since then by various online discussions. I have no stake in the Robotech Tactics Kickstarter, except in my knowledge of its poor handling. But I do have experience with suicide, having attempted it myself twice; and seeing it happen in such a public way, and in the gaming circle I spend a lot of time in, is new to me. I’ve spent much of the day today looking into this, because it’s something I don’t see happen in such a public forum – especially a gaming forum – and I’m torn on how to respond here.

For one, I read Mr. Bellaire’s original posts talking about his upcoming game on the Palladium message boards (you can see them here) and he’s significantly less confrontational. I don’t know what made him change his tone between the two areas, but in my experience reading the Comments sections of Kickstarters that are quite late or having large problems, the people there are often quite angry – justifiably – about having paid money for something that may never appear. Engaging with these angry customers seems to work best when you remain calm and non-confrontational; if Mr. Bellaire had gone to the Kickstarter Comments with the same degree of calmness he displayed on the Palladium messageboards… well, I don’t think he would have gotten a happy welcome, but it would have probably toned down the harsh reception he got.

But that seems like I’m blaming Mr. Bellaire for the inciting the commenters, and I’m not; I’m just curious as to why he decided to change the tone of his approach. As someone who has struggled with major depression for over 15 years, I know that the insults and aggression Mr. Bellaire received, while harsh and unpleasant, may have been weathered by a person not struggling with mental issues – but they would have likely been deep, biting, and felt intensely personally by Mr. Bellaire. Being confronted by people he assumed might be part of his main customer base verbally ripping him apart – which may have led him to assume that his business venture would be a horrible failure, affecting everyone in his life negatively – I can see how this would cause a depressed mind to turn to thoughts of suicide. And I feel for Mr. Bellaire, and I don’t wish any ill on him; I know that while it may seem selfish and terrible to outsiders, suicide makes perfect sense to the person contemplating it. A suicidal person would feel so terrible that they would likely assume their presence in the world is a net negative, and that their loss would actually be a gain.

I do question that Mr. Siembieda would make this so public, though. As someone who has attempted suicide, I know that it is an intensely personal problem, and while support from family and friends is always welcome, making it public often shines a spotlight on parts of our lives we don’t want others to see. Making this news public might indeed have the permanent effect on his work life that Mr. Bellaire feared, because now his mental issues are spread in a public forum, made available to thousands (at minimum). I say this knowing that mine are, as well, though I don’t get nearly that kind of traffic here, but my choosing to disclose my previous suicide attempts was just that – my choice. We have no knowledge if this disclosure was made at the behest of Mr. Bellaire, or if Mr. Siembieda simply felt the need to use it to excoriate his customers.

And this is why I think that many of the most vicious and harsh commenters are being so unpleasant in their comments on this topic – Mr. Siembieda, with his constant broken promises and questionable choices has exhausted all his credibility to most of his supporters. They have no way to know if this is real news, or if Mr. Siembieda has made it up simply to gain sympathy, and to be able to blame the Kickstarter backers. I don’t know, honestly; I am not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, given what I have read over the years, but my knowledge is incomplete. So many people may feel comfortable in sounding terrible because they assume this is just a play for sympathy and not a real occurrence. Some, of course, probably feel comfortable being terrible because they feel anonymous. Some still feel angry because they have, essentially, been cheated, but realize that their anger should not be directed against Mr. Bellaire, especially now. And some have realized they are likely to never see the products they have paid for, but have come to peace with that, and feel sympathy and compassion for a person in need.

Personally, I hope that Mr. Bellaire makes a full recovery, and gets all the help he needs. I have survived suicide attempts before, and they are not easy to come back from. Reading the way this progressed – how it went from a somewhat aggressive initial post to internet arguments that apparently escalated, in his mind, to a cause worthy of suicide – has made it all too clear to me how badly anonymous arguments over the internet can very easily move otherwise rational people to irrational ends. While I wonder at Mr. Siembieda’s motives in making this news public, I do agree with at least part of what he has to say – words can kill, and in this case they very nearly did. Reading the reactions of the gaming community I consider myself a part of has made me simultaneously both proud and ashamed of the reactions I have seen. I’m still processing this, as well as some other news I have gotten in my own life recently.

Sometimes, when interests in your life collide, they do so with disastrous consequences.



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, “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.