There I was, alone outside an unfamiliar hotel-room door, with nowhere to hide. It was too late to flee. I had already knocked.
My newest tabletop RPG design was in my bag, ready to make a first impression. I felt like I had worms in my guts. I thought I could feel my brain’s insidious chemicals diluting the meds I take to keep my head above the waves. I took a breath, let it out.
Settle down, you idiot, I thought to myself. Just don’t be a dick.
Someone worked the latch on the door. It swung open.
“Hey, how are you?” Wil Wheaton asked, doorknob in hand. “Come on in.”
I went inside. But I’d already made my first mistake. It went into my mood like a drop of dye clouding into clear water.
Did you catch it?
When I called myself an idiot, I put a drop of poison into myself. It’s the little things, adding up. It sounds silly, I know. That one word, thought up like sharp banter between trusting friends, might not mean anything — might not seem so bad. I am not my trusting friend. When my brain is in a certain way, I can’t trust that what it tells me is a joke. It might be an accusation, a realization, a warning, because depression lies. Because depression lies, my ability to trust, my own self-esteem, isn’t like a rock in a storm-tossed sea, it’s like a beach, withering and widening with the season.
The words we say to ourselves matter. The language we use when thinking about and talking to ourselves in our heads? It matters. We’re people and we hear ourselves. Talking shit about ourselves puts us down, has an impact on our mood and our abilities as surely as our mood and our abilities has a capacity to make us think and talk differently about ourselves. It’s all happening in the same brain, right?
How would you feel about someone who called you an idiot? How would you feel if they followed you around, questioning your every move, doubting your every tactic and gesture, reminding you, “Yeah, you can say that, but remember that it doesn’t mean anything coming from a loser like you.” That is What It’s Like sometimes.
It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to carry out, to combat as a person, and to counteract as a friend. It makes it hard to be “on,” to put on a show, to present your best self — or to present a good RPG session for your friend.
Fortunately, that day’s game with Wil went pretty okay. The game I was running — Dark — runs well with a GM and a single player and even though I wasn’t at my best, I had handouts ready so I could lean on things I wrote when I was in a better place. It all adds up.
Since I launched the Kickstarter campaign for that game last night, I’ve been hearing some nice things about me and my work through Twitter and G+ and such. These things contribute to my mood in tangible ways … when I let them. Today’s a pretty good day, it turns out, so I’m letting them.
I shall do something stupid sometime soon, and I am sometimes idiotic, but I’m working on it.