EmoHero: First Monster

This is based on a challenge I have joined on habitica, and I don’t know what to expect from it. The premise is to reimagine your emotions as people- heroes and monsters, specifically- and to describe them in more detail. This is my second post on the topic. All entries on this topic will be tagged with EmoHero, if only for my sake. If anyone is interested in looking at or joining the challenge, here it is.


This challenge was created by Take This

Today, I’m going to write my first monster. The instructions are to “turn one of my negative feelings into a monster,” “to list its vulnerabilities,” and to describe “the most effective way to take it down.” Seems pretty straightforward, I guess. I will begin with fear. Just like last time, bold is the character and plain text is the concept.

Fear is… I wanted to say that it was large or hulking, but I honestly think that fear is probably rather small with deceptive powers. Like a toy next to a nightlight casts a giant shadow on the wall, fear is often harmless, but very convincing. I’m not sure how to approach this, because there are times when things are dangerous and fear is both accurate and helpful. I think that for the sake of this exercise, situations where it is reasonable to feel fear should be separated from the fear that I’m writing about. If I am in the path of an oncoming car, fear is actually trying to save my life by telling me to run, so in that situation, fear could be a hero if you think about it.

Argh! I’m just sitting here, stuck, because I can’t decide if I want to create 2 characters and reflect on the duality and the power that one draws from the validity of the other… or if I want to focus on 1 character and just avoid getting bogged down in complexity. Either path seems fine. I will try the duality route, I guess. Caution is the rational feeling, the one that tells you to run from things, people, and places that will hurt you. Fear is the irrational feeling that keeps you paralyzed by whispering danger in your ear, even when you’re safe.

Most people meet caution first. They encounter something loud, fast, hot, unfamiliar, etc., and it startles or even hurts them. Caution shows up and makes the child faster or stronger, and it enables them to escape. Caution stays by their side until the danger passes, and then it leaves. Caution is ready to come running at a moment’s notice to help us endure and avoid danger. As someone with a service dog, I admit that I can’t help but think of Dora right now. She performs several alerting jobs, so she watches and listens to me and responds when I need her. Maybe caution is a super dog! (Let’s just pretend that the ‘super pets’ phase in DC Comics’ history was a good idea for a minute, OK? Just roll with it.)

So, you meet caution, and it helps you, which means that when fear shows up, you can easily think that it’s caution again. That means that fear also looks like a dog in this scenario, but… I can’t imagine it as a healthy or friendly looking one. It also feels like I may discover its appearance on my own if I come back to this question later, so I’ll move on.

Fear is a weak creature with powerful illusions, which makes it an energy type monster. With most casters, energy wielders, and support characters, the key to beating them is closing the distance between you and hitting them- hard. Sure, Cyclops’ optic lasers can punch you through a building, but he’s just as vulnerable to broken bones as a normal human. It makes sense, then, if the key to defeating fear is to get close to it before doing damage.

Let me think. There was an X-Man with mirage type powers… Danielle Moonstar, maybe? She could show people their greatest fear, and her role in battles was usually to… disorient people, I guess. Sometimes, she bought time for her teammates, so they weren’t fighting outnumbered. If I write more of these, I need to look for any teammates that fear might have- things that follow on its heels and strike me when I’m already vulnerable.

What are fear‘s weaknesses? I often get scared of things like walking into a room full of strangers, writing 2 pages of a project, asking someone I care about to make time for me when I’m lonely, exposing a weakness to my husband, attempting a skill that I haven’t mastered, etc. Here’s a few things I have found that are stronger than fear:

  • Objective information- Sometimes, I can rationally see that the fear isn’t reliable or helpful.
  • Another perspective- Because I know that my sense of danger is skewed, there are a few people I trust enough to base my actions on their view of the situation.
  • Determination- Sometimes, I can also be too stubborn for fear to stop me from taking the next step.
  • Support from others- When things are going to be difficult for a while (like when I’m struggling through the long process of learning a new skill), having others who are willing to walk beside through the ups and downs makes it possible to push through.

Overall, there are two approaches to defeating fear. The first is to invalidate its claims or break its illusions, and the second is to take action, even though the illusions still hold you.

Actually, now that I think about it, taking the time to examine fear‘s illusions is also the process of distinguishing between fear and caution. It’s like holding up a flashlight near them and figuring out who is looking back at you. I haven’t found a picture-perfect description of fear‘s appearance or anything, but every time I try to find one, I see something like a skinny dog with thin fur, like it has mange. Courage is a dog with thick, lush fur… like a golden retriever, perhaps. Fear also looks like it should be pitied.

Why is that?

Maybe it’s because it can’t actually stop anyone from doing anything; fear needs you to believe it, or it’s powerless. If you don’t evaluate what it says or you don’t choose to move forward in spite of it, then fear can keep you trapped in a small life. If you ignore it or dispel its illusions, then all fear can do is watch you walk away and try to catch you later.

Now, fear has been one of the dominant emotions in my life, because I have been hurt very deeply, starting from a young age. Honestly, if you had asked me what I expected to feel at this point in the entry, it would not have been empathy, but I almost feel sad for fear. It’s hard to put into words, but it feels like…. I think fear has been hurt before, and so maybe it can’t go anywhere any more either. Like its leg is broken and it doesn’t want to be alone?

Does that make sense?

I think that if I encounter fear again, I need to walk up close, pick it up and bring it with me as I move into new territory. Because I probably will be scared, and the future will be uncertain, but I still need to move anyway. So maybe fear and caution can both come, and we can all go forward together until fear can recover and either dissipate or transform into something healthy.

Wow. This challenge is definitely more than I expected it to be. I think I will write a few more of these.


“Help for the Fractured Soul” by Candyce Roberts

I just finished this book today, and it’s been a journey. As I mentioned in my recent letter to mom, I’ve been reading about how a child’s mind deals with pain that is too large to handle. Often, it breaks.

This book is primarily written for people working with traumatized individuals, but I can’t afford therapy, so I read it in search of understanding and tips for working with my own mess. The main take away that I found is “Take this seriously; some of your symptoms are more intense than you’ve acknowledged before and if you don’t change, you won’t be able to progress past them.” Roberts didn’t say that. I just recognized ways that I dissociate, and repress painful memories, and check out of daily life.

Healthy people don’t have all of these crazy, interconnected responses firing up when things hurt. I don’t want to go from calm to unresponsive in a few seconds forever. I want to feel pain, accept that it hurts, and move past it. Right now, I just lock up and then try to do anything but understand why I’m in pain.

It’s like running on a broken leg; if I don’t learn about how I got injured or give myself opportunities to recover and grow strong, I will just make it worse.

I need to be willing to revisit those dark days that shaped my image of myself and to reject the lies they planted. I didn’t deserve it. I can’t control the actions of others, so it was never about being good enough. I am not worthless or irreparably broken.

I am hurt. And angry. And betrayed. And bitter. There is a reason for my feelings, but these emotions are also keeping me trapped in those dark moments when I was vulnerable and helpless and deeply hurt by people I had trusted.

To put it simply, I suppose you could say that this book showed me that healing is more complicated than I thought. During an earlier stage of my healing journey, I only dealt with pain until I could get it contained enough to seal it in a box and not need to dwell on it any more. Instead, it seems like I’ll need to reevaluate some old things, and allow myself to disconnect from them.

It’s hard to put into words. By accepting the emotions connected with trauma, I can know myself more fully and have a stronger handle on the truth. Yet, once I reach that point, I can also release the weight and intensity of the emotions, so that I don’t have to carry or fear them any more.

Oh well. In any case, Candyce Roberts’ book was helpful for me, and I’m still trying to responsibly evaluate her approach and its implications for my current state. I’m glad I pulled it off my shelf to read in its entirety.

Self Care & Guilt

Right now, I just feel scared. Tense. Like someone is going to yell at me. I did so many things right today.

  1. I woke up on time to get my husband to work and keep the car.
  2. I got the car to the repair shop early and managed Dora in the crowded lobby.
  3. I went to the car rental place, answered the questions I could, completed the process, and brought the car home.
  4. I bought the yarn I’ve been meaning to get so that I can make a gift for a friend.
  5. I went to the post office at my husband’s request to pick up a package; it wasn’t there.
  6. I exercised for 40 minutes today, when I really haven’t put forth any effort since the winter started. (For me, <20 degrees Fahrenheit is too intense. I don’t have winter gear that’s actually good at preventing frostbite, and I have bad circulation all year round, so winters are tough enough without feeling my skin change texture after 5 minutes.)
  7. I went to the post office again, waited in line, showed them the tracking number, and asked them to check on it for me.  (They found it!)
  8. I picked up my husband on time and we made it home safely.

That was all good. All of it. Moreover, Dora was in public, on duty, five different times today. That’s five places where strangers can:

  • Talk to her instead of me while she’s supposed to be focusing
  • Try to pet her
  • Tell me that “it’s fine” when I ask them not to pet her
  • Look at me strangely when I body block them and move her behind me so they can’t pet her when they try again after I’ve already told them no
  • Ask me who I’m training her for
  • Ask me if I know when I have to give her to the disabled person
  • Ask me if she’s a therapy dog when her vest says “service dog” and we are in a place where therapy dogs don’t work (restaurants, repair shops, gas stations, banks, etc.)
  • Ask me what she’s trained to do (which is simultaneously asking me to explain my disability to them despite us never having met before)
  • Try to talk to me while I’m clearly talking to someone else, like the cashier or the government employee
  • Continue trying to talk to me after I ignore their first comment (because I’m just trying to move things along for me, the paid employee in front of me, and everyone in line behind me)
  • Tell me that I’m going to rip her throat open with her collar if I’m not careful (yeah, that was a fun day)
  • Ask me if she’s necessary for a medical purpose and then keep hounding me when I say “yes” because they totally think I’m lying
  • Make an offhanded remark about how ‘they should have put up a sign’ (which will presumably say “No service animals allowed here. Go ahead and sue us. We dare you.”)
  • Backtrack when they finally understand that she’s a service dog and that’s what I meant when I said that I need her for a medical reason

… I’m sure there’s more, but honestly, I’m tired of thinking up things that have happened to me in the last calendar year. For someone who already had social anxiety, believed she was a toxin that drained life from those around her, believed she was invisible, etc., it’s really been overwhelming.

So… what do I feel guilty about?


Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Staying home tonight, taking a bubble bath, and trying to relax. I chose to do that because I realized that I was staring blankly into space and once my eyes stop focusing, things only go downhill. Going out in public (again) may have pushed me into a meltdown. Better to take care of myself, right?

So why do I feel so guilty for NOT GOING? No one is blaming me! Why won’t my muscles release? Why can’t I breathe normally or just believe that I’m done for the day? I’m so tired. 

Days 110 & 111 With Dora 

Things are starting to go well. Yesterday, I was able to run two errands without The Flutenist along, for the first time in years. I had Dora with me and she filled the confidence boosting role. Now, keep in mind that these are things I am physically able to do, have done by myself before, and completely understand. I was just scared. Scared of going alone, of being outside, of being visible to others, of doing something stupid, etc. What did we do?

We took recycling to the collection dumpsters and ill-fitting clothes to a thrift store. That’s it.

I can’t really tell you why having her with me made it better/possible, but I cried yesterday because it was so sad that I hadn’t been able to do these things alone for such a long time. Often, when I make breakthroughs, the revelation of a new and healthier path is followed by me grieving over all the years I spent on my old, self-harming one. 😔

I also suggested a course of action AND took action on it within the same day.

And I made a phone call without needing 15-45 minutes to psych myself up for it this morning.

It’s… it’s really good. I’m actually starting to hope for things to be better.I haven’t had hope in along time. 😏 I don’t think there’s an emoji for sad smiles… one that means “Yes I know how bad that sounded and it really is that bad but all I can do is smile about how bad my life is because if I don’t I will break and I need to keep going.” 

Maybe one day.

(Note: Dora is still in training, but in my state, she is allowed to wear a vest and start practicing with public access at this time. The law is written this way so that dogs can be socialized to new experiences, people, environments, sights, smells, sounds, etc. before their handler takes custody of them. This allows trainers to work through any fear, disruptiveness, or other issues with a service dog trainee and for disabled people to receive dogs that are used to behaving well in restaurants, concerts, stores, parks, gas stations, public events, etc.)

Day 44 With Dora

It’s still pretty early, but I’m doing alright. Dora is doing well too.

I recovered ok once my brother arrived, which was surprising. I usually have my depressed/anxious/meltdown episodes by myself. I mean, I spent the bulk of the day carrying around my giant stuffed frog, for crying out loud.

When I’m in a really bad state, it helps to have something to hold on to and to feel pressure against my torso. I usually hug pillows, because they’re more ubiquitous, but I was at home, so I had more options. I may have started this as a child, wanting to be held in my distress, but knowing that no one was going to hold me. Regardless, when something works and calms me out of a panic, I don’t care if it looks weird or childish. I need that chance to regain control, and I do what it takes to get it.

Man, I really am broken, aren’t I? One phone call did this to me. One phone call was enough to start a major panic.

But, to be fair, I’m not scared of the phone. Well, I am, but in this case, I’m scared of the door to having a service dog being slammed in my face. I’m scared that someone else will tell me that the way I feel is my fault and my responsibility, so I just need to choose to be normal.


If it was that easy, don’t you think I would have done it?! Do you actually think I want to feel like this all the time?! What sort of sicko are you?


So I’m scared that the door will slam shut and all of my progress will be for nothing, since if Dora can’t be trained for public access, I’m just going to be even more homebound than I have been for the last year. You guys go have dinner; I’m going to stay with my dog.

I hope it works out. There’s nothing I can do either way, but I hope it works out.

Day 42 With Dora

I’m scared. We received the application from our chosen service dog training organization, and I need to submit proof of my disability. I understand this, rationally. It makes sense, and of course it’s part of the process. That’s fine.

But I’m panicking.

This is so dumb. 

At my core, I still don’t believe that I deserve help. I’ve been told so many times that it’s my fault that I sleep through class, my fault that I have no motivation, my fault that I can’t focus, my fault that I don’t feel better, my fault that I can’t just let go of the past, my fault that I’m overwhelmed, my fault that I’m not choosing better reactions, my fault, my fault, my fault.

I have tried, guys. I have run myself ragged, used all the energy that I had for classes, poured out everything trying to succeed. At the lowest, I wasn’t eating, wasn’t talking to anyone, wasn’t a thing, wasn’t washing my clothes, wasn’t brushing my teeth, wasn’t spending any time on hobbies, and I still failed.

I still failed. All of my classes but one, and that one was entirely based on 5 essays. No attendance, no exams, no homework.

It is so hard to pass classes when you’re only awake for a few hours a day because your body needs 20 hours of sleep.

It is so hard to succeed when you’re smothered by your shame at struggling, then disappointing others, then failing altogether.

It broke me, guys. I haven’t been the same since then, because I have absolutely everything that I had, without holding back anything for myself, and it still wasn’t enough.

I tried so hard.

Depression is stronger than I am. Bigger and faster and pervasive. I couldn’t beat it. Worse, it feeds into my anxiety, because as depression cripples me, I get stressed about my decreased abilities, which makes me more depressed, then stressed, then meltdown.

No matter how well I may be doing right now, I know that I’m not normal. I know that others don’t have suicide’s shadow lurking behind them, waiting for the light to fade. It’s been so long, my whole life, just drowning under the weight of my existence, that I’m used to it. It’s normal.

This is what it means to still be breathing. Of course I’m constantly afraid. Of course I’m ashamed of myself. Of course I prefer others over myself at every opportunity. Of course I feel alone, and hollow, and disconnected. I’m still alive, so why would those feelings stop?

I’m just functioning with them. It’s still here.

I hate my life. Why can’t anything be easy? Why can’t I ever rest? What does it have to be like this? What did I do wrong? Why?

{Aside: In case I’m worrying any of you, please rest easy. I’m not suicidal, everything is safe. Like I said, this is normal, and I’m used to it. It was simmer back down in a little bit, and I’ll just avoid poking at it. I will be ok.}

The troll is having a rough day too. Dora has been having a fabulous day, which is good. At least she’s happy. 

Day 40 With Dora

She’s finding her voice, and I’m not sure what to do. 🤔

Dora was a silent dog when we met her. She didn’t whine, cry, bark, howl, etc.- just watched the world. (Oddly enough, while I was typing this, she just got up from her nap to go bark at the darkness.)

Like I was about to say, Dora has started talking. So far, she barks at: diesel engines, the neighbors, kids playing in the snow, feral cats, flags(?), and… thin air). Yay. 😑 I don’t want to yell at her, to scare her into silence, but I also want the guy across the street to be able to change a tire without a 39 bark salute. When applicable, I’ve been breaking her line of sight or access to a room so she will stop. This mostly works.

She also sometimes just comes over and barks straight at me. Great! I want to communicate with you too! But I have no idea what that meant…

Or she will just start making these little whining sounds, usually with squeaky toys. I checked, and the internet says “excitement, especially if you’re talking about a hunting breed.” Labrador retriever- bred for fetching downed ducks and geese from ponds. Pit bull terrier- every terrier I know of exists just to get rid of rats and mice. So… I think Dora is doubly covered there. The whining is fine.

*sigh* The issue is just that while I can’t have her barking at everything, I also don’t want to traumatize her, since I know how long pain caused by someone you trusted can last. Hopefully, we can figure this one out. Somehow.