We'd like to welcome a new contributor called Dorothy Donald (not their real name). This is Dorothy's first post, so many thanks.
Trigger Warning: this post does discuss suicidal thoughts.This is a very simple game. You start from a thought – any thought that it is possible to have – whether it’s “My bus is late” or “I’ve been invited to a wedding” or “The sun is shining today.” Next, see what the next thought that follows on from that could be. It might be “I will be late for work” or “I will have to go shopping for clothes” or “I will need my sunglasses.” And then the next thought from that. You get the idea.
Now, whatever your starting thought is, see if you can go from that thought to “I might as well kill myself” in fewer than six moves.
I am exceptionally good at this game.
I have been playing this game for a long time. I play it a lot. I play it at some of the obvious times you might already have thought of, like when I have a paper rejected (“I’m useless”), or a disastrous date (“I’m unlovable”), or when pretty much anything happens in the news (“The world is a terrible place”). But I also play it when I’m walking around the supermarket (“It’s not possible to be an ethical consumer”), or when I’m making my tea (“I have failed to do anything productive today”), or when I’m in the pub with my friends, laughing (“Everyone here is so much more fun and interesting than I am”).
Most of the time, I don’t even have to try – I just accelerate from nought to catastrophe as easily as I breathe. This means that no-one notices, which means there’s no problem. But sometimes one win leads on to another, and another. Before I know it I don’t seem to have the time or the energy for anything else like answering my emails or working on that grant or getting out of bed and having a shower. My friends start to worry and ask searching questions about how I’m ‘really’ doing. I find reasons not to talk to them. (All of this, of course, constitutes failure, which gives me a head-start for the next round.)
A few months ago, when I went beyond the mere abstract and started getting onto the particulars, I realised I was not well.
After rather a long time, I decided that I could use some help.
After quite a lot longer than that, I decided that the little voice telling me I didn’t deserve any help could shut up for a while.
After even longer than that, I found a phone number online and stared at it for a while. Then I closed my browser. Then I came back and stared at it again the next day.
Eventually, I made a phone call.
Tomorrow I have my first ever sit-down with a Cognitive-Behavioural-Therapy (CBT) practitioner. I want to learn a new game.
You can find Dorothy's second post here.
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