So, I just got home from my third full night of D&D (the second where we’ve actually been playing the campaign). Well…I can’t say I just got home since it has been close to an hour and I’ve been handling all the human things that come along with being away from the house for about 13 hours of the day. I got myself some food (a pizza slice is nice on the 15 minute break but it does not a meal make. Well, neither does chips but I’m in a weird place emotionally right now so chips it is) (Don’t worry, don’t worry I’m planning to get something more filling once I’ve finished up and posted this). I fed the cat. Called my mom and had a small cry because human emotions are scary and being 26 doesn’t make you better prepared for said emotions. In fact, I feel like I’m less prepared for them.
But, I will say this honestly, I’m currently working through some emotions that I wasn’t expecting and didn’t really hit until after the session finished.
All my emotions from before the session. Handled.
I didn’t expect it to happen. I figured D&D was going to be a tool to help me socialize more. I didn’t expect it to draw out certain emotions and allow me to detach from them, to allow me to put them in the character, play them out in a fantasy world, and then let go.
Let me set the scene.
The group is in a town where they are working off a debt owed from half the party getting drunk and causing drunken stupidity. Hobgoblins show up and basically warn the town guard that the town will be incorporated into their growing empire and we collectively decide to boobytrap the shit out of the town and fight it out: battle of Winterfell style…or any town siege in any Western movie you prefer.
We start patrolling the areas and because I’m a healer who’s not much use for anyone else: I go on the patrols. On the third day we discover a run down shrine that used to belong to the Everlight, the goddess my cleric serves under. Turns out though, that the inner sanctum has been used for rituals in the name of the Spider Queen. Lydia, my character is livid and angry and a thousand emotions she can’t express because she just had a moment of direct connection with the Everlight and now it’s been thrown in her face.
All of these emotions should be foreign to me. Nothing like this has ever remotely happened to me, and any event that could even be skewed toward a religious experience or complete meltdown rage happened years ago. Yet, as I played through the scenario, as I acted and spoke as Lydia would, I felt something in my gut uncurl.
During the break, when several of us hurried next door for a slice of pizza, I realized that a lot of the pent-up emotions from the passed week weren’t nearly as pressing.
It’s hard to explain. I’ve been trying really hard not to pen myself in, to let me emotions exist and not to shove them all deep down inside. Even trying to do that consciously though isn’t easy. I’ve been suffocating myself emotionally for so long that its second nature to put them in a box and put that box on a shelf and never even look at it again. To ignore it all until its all too heavy to ignore and everything comes crashing down.
More recently, I’ve been trying to understand myself better. I want to be able to identify my emotions, to put words to them, names, and to discover the root causes.
I’ve been trying to do all the emotional labor logically, not emotionally.
No wonder I had such a bad anxiety attack last month. It’s been either ignore it or over think everything while pretending to be all clinical about it. Set it aside, but be sure to label the box first!
But tonight, with Lydia there was no boxing things up and ignoring it. There was no way to do that in a story that demanded a sheer emotional reaction. Right before they discovered that the inner sanctuary had been used for evil purposes Lydia had prayed to the Everlight and experienced not only a vision but a physical manifestation too! (The Everlight wiped a tear from her face). It was a total moment of peace and love and acceptance that Lydia – and myself – had been craving for, for so long. A quiet steady moment in a sea of confusion, doubt, and fear. I didn’t even realize I had been holding myself so tensely until I felt myself give way and relax.
THEN THE DM FUCKED LYDIA UP WITH THE SPIDER QUEEN.
The moment of peace and tranquility was gone. The one being that had respected and comforted Lydia in her darkest moments was being insulted and her shrine desecrated and Lydia just wanted to smash it all. She didn’t want to study it, to try and figure out what was happening. She just wanted it all dead and gone and broken.
Of course, the other characters with her stopped her (physically picked her up actually…she’s barely over 3 feet considering she’s a halfling). They set her off to the side and sat with her until she calmed down. They reminded her to breath, explored a bit more, and when everything that could be was gleaned from the place, helped her wreck it and let her set it back up as a shrine to the Everlight.
And suddenly I realized how angry I had been: at myself for never letting myself be peaceful and content, at everyone else for never giving me the exact words I wanted to hear when I wanted to hear them, for having their own lives and problems that are priorities for them. For never being first in any one else’s lives and stupidly allowing that to decide that I shouldn’t be first in mine.
It was a completely different scenario but the emotions were the same. For a moment, I think I have it all figured out, then I’m proven wrong and lash out (usually at myself but sometimes at other people who sure as hell don’t deserve it). But there’s the reminder too that people do want to help, it just might not be in the way you want in the moment. Lydia didn’t want to get picked up and sat in a corner until she calmed down. No one likes being told to calm down when all they want to be is angry. No one likes being told to wait. But sometimes calming down and waiting is necessary. Sometimes it stops you from trampling important things (here being evidence of what was actually going on but in real life, more often then not, relationships that are important to you).
I didn’t even realize how much anger, and even resentment, was building up inside me until I saw it staring at me through Lydia’s mismatched eyes. And suddenly it wasn’t mine anymore. I didn’t want it.
I don’t want to be the angry, scared halfling who constantly blames herself when things go wrong, even (ESPECIALLY) when they’re out of her control.
I want to be the halfling who has quiet conversations with the dragonborn about home and losing it and growing up because sometimes you have to and that’s not the worst thing in the world. Sometimes home is different in your head and heart then what it actually was and when you get wise enough you’ll be able to see that and maybe, one day, even accept it.
I want to be that girl and after tonight I feel closer to that Lydia then I did before I entered the comic shop earlier in the day. I didn’t just name the anger and betrayal, and despair but acted them out in a safe environment. I didn’t box them up and hide them: I displayed them, played them out, and let them go. It’s not a perfect system, it’s another tool in the tool box, but it’s something I found that I didn’t even know I needed.