The Terror Of Happiness

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A while ago, I had to go see a counsellor on a bad day. What’s he told me stuck with me; damaged people tend to sabotage healthy relationships because they’re so unused to what it feels like to be happy. It’s easier for them to remain miserable, because they’ve learnt to trust unhappiness.

I can understand why, though unlike those people, I’ve learnt not to trust what my brain tells me.

Right now, I’m so happy that it hurts, and that scares me, because the idea of losing that small, overpowering piece of happiness feels like it could tear me in two. 

Alive

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I mechanically slipped the loop over my head, and pulled in the buckle to make it fit my neck. I walked over to the hinge on the door, and tossed the strap through the gap and over. I held the other end and gulped. Pull. 

I hoisted myself up, and clipped the end of the strap to my noose in one fell swoop. I closed my eyes. Sleep.

I was floating in space again, in the universe that I created. Dust and rock floated past me, the shadows swarmed around me. It was warm, not like Reality, which was steadily becoming colder and colder. 

Then someone shouted my name.

I woke up, struggling to breath. Of course, that was my intention. The banging coming from the other side of the door jolted me, causing my body to swing. Instinctly, I tried to regain my footing; but I was two, maybe three feet off the ground, dangling from my bag strap. 

I knew at once that I couldn’t do this to him. I couldn’t hurt him like this. I tried to unclip myself, but tugging on the strap only swung me around more, choked me more. I looked down. The lock. I attempted to reach it with my hand; bad idea. Desperately, I moved my foot to it, and pushed the lock down, and there was a click. 

Daniel barged in, slamming me and the door against the wall. I would’ve cried out at the pain if I had air to do so. When he saw me, his face twisted into a horrified expression. Immediately, he grabbed me and hoisted my body up. “How do I untie you?” he demanded. It was then that he noticed the clip. He held me up against the door, lifting me with his left arm, as he unclasped the makeshift noose with his free hand. 

He lowered me to the ground and loosened the bag strap, sliding it off. I just closed my eyes, ignoring his yells. I was too numb. Far too numb. 

Until I’d heard sobbing. I opened my eyes. Daniel was huddled over, tears streaming down his face. No… I crawled over to him, reached out to touch him.

He flinched. 

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered. “Please don’t cry. Daniel…”

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I spent the rest of the day in the hospital. Eventually they took me home, blaming it on the medication. And I locked myself in my cupboard, forbidding myself from seeing light.

I am a monster. 

I sobbed and screamed without letting out a sound. My parents knocked on the door occasionally to make sure that I was still alive, and I created a handy bulge in my bed to create the illusion that I was under the covers in case they came in.

How could I do that? Why would I even think about hurting Daniel in such a way? Not just him either. Willis, Flash, Bad Dog, Evil, Snugglepot. Fucking hell. I didn’t even deserve to be human.

Worthless, Inconsiderate, Selfish, Whore, Bitch.

Finally, I slept. It was cold, but I had slept in worse conditions than a closet. I should be back there, freezing to death. No, that’s not good enough. I need worse. I should have my head sliced off again, or get stabbed millions upon millions of times. Or I should be sent back to that brothel to be tortured. Neck snapped. Drowning, again. Throat slit. Something. Maybe all of those.

Suddenly, I was warm.  

I knew who it was. “Don’t Daniel,” I croaked. 

He ignored me. “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” I hissed. “Just leave me there, okay?”

He kept walking, with me in his arms. He dropped me on the bed and pulled the covers over me before walking out of my bedroom.

Promptly, I got out and walked back into the closet, closing the door behind me. Instantly, it opened, and he grabbed my arm. “Bed,” he growled.

“I’m sleeping here.”

“That’s mature of you.”

“Just leave me alone, okay?” I cried, wrenching myself free and slamming the closet door. 

It opened again. “Don’t be stupid,” he insisted. “You can sleep here.”

“You know that I can.”

“And you know that this is foolish,” he retorts.

I closed the door again. When it opened, I kicked him in the stomach, sending him flying. I immediately shut it, hearing his grunt and curse from the other side. He didn’t open the door again though.

Good.

The pain flooded through me, and I collapsed onto the closet floor, tears coming back again. I needed this. This was only a teaspoon of what Daniel must’ve been feeling like when he found me. Jesus, how many times has he found me in similar predicaments? Getting choked by a shadow. Beaten to a pulp by my mother. Lying on the bathroom floor coughing out water. Cutting my thighs with a razor. I deserve all this.

Then I heard him speak, from behind the door. “I know what you’re doing.” 

I remained silent. He sighed. “You’re feeling guilty.”

No shit Sherlock.

“And you’re trying to make me go away so that you can suffer by yourself,” Daniel continued. “Because you believe that you deserve to. But that’s wrong.”

Liar.

“Kicking me won’t make me think of you badly. Because that’s the only reason why you did it, so I’d hate you.”

I hit you in the beginning. When we first became friends.

“That’s the one thing about you. You’re so careful about everyone’s reactions that you calculate your every move. That’s why I know that you’re doing this to drive me away. Because you’re usually so deadly afraid of being violent towards someone you care about. And I know you do care. You let that slip today in the bathroom.”

I kept my mouth closed. I heard Daniel sigh. “I don’t hate you,” he told me. “I never would. I just want you to be safe…and I thought that was going to be possible without Delirium in your life. But…” His voice trailed off.

I curled into a ball on the ground, huddling under my clothes. Eventually, he spoke again. “Do you still need me?” he asked me. “Is there any reason for me to still be in your life?”

My heart lurched at the question. No was the right answer, the deadly logical side of me said. He’s part of Delirium, he doesn’t belong here. The longer you hold onto Daniel, the more you’ll be dragged away from the real world. And then you’ll never be normal. Say goodbye. NOW.

“I…” I found myself speaking for the first time since Daniel had began talking. I had to say it. Otherwise…. “I…” 

Send him away. Move on.

No.

So you’re going to be a freak that talks to herself for the rest of her life?

If he wants to leave, I’ll let him go. But he is the one person who has stood by me despite everything. And I’m not going to let pride get in the way, not this time.

“Of course I do,” I choked, sobbing again. “I…you’re….you’re the only person left that knows me for who I really am. And yet…you’re here.” I held onto the door handle and pulled myself up. “And I really don’t know why.”

The door opened and I was brought out into the light. Daniel stumbled backwards, as if he had been expecting me to be holding it back. His face was puffy and his eye was shining from tears. “But I love you,” I told him. “I know that. I know that I love you and I need you by my side, because…I want you to see me become a better person. I want you to see me be happy, and not post-breakdown-adrenaline-induced happy, but actually happy, and alive.” For the first time in what seemed like eternity, I smiled. It was an utterly broken smile, and the tears probably ruined it, but I didn’t care. “Is that…something you’d be interested in staying around for?”

Daniel stared at me before laughing weakly. “You and your moodswings,” he whispered. 

“Yours are worse.”

He laughed again. “And I’d love to. You being alive and happy sounds wonderful.”

Wonderful,” I mimicked him.

“Shush.”

I took his hand.

Addicted

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Things I have been/am not currently addicted to:

1- Delirium. Can you really blame me? It was a place where I could be strong and courageous instead of weak and useless. It gave me the opportunity to be this unstoppable force, and there was no better feeling.

2- Junk food. Then I decided that I’d hate myself even more if I was fat as well.

3- Cutting. This was back when I first tried to kill myself. I still couldn’t feel after that, and it took Daniel to make me snap out of it, another more powerful addiction.

4- Cracking my knuckles. I was even younger when I had this habit. For some reason, I always did it while playing video games. I don’t anymore.
Things I’m afraid of getting addicted to. A much longer list.

1- Prescription Medicine. Hence why I don’t take it. Probably should, but I’m too scared of the potential side effects, not to mention my negative history with St Johns Wort.

2- Sex. It’s not that I’ve got a problem with it, I just worry about the situations I could potentially get myself in because of it. And I can only think of the problems that it would cause if, for some reason, I happened to be in a relationship.

3- Not-so-Prescription Medicine. Ie, drugs. Togami mentions occasionally that one day I’ll be interested in experimenting, but right now, I’m too scared of permanently fucking up my already fucked up mental state to try.

4- Alcohol. Not likely, considering how the taste of my first drink wasn’t that good. But if I find a nice tasting alcoholic beverage, then this is likely to change.

5- Self Harm. If I am in that place where I have to mutilate my body just to gain some twisted sense of fulfilment, I’m checking myself into hospital. The end.

6- Shopping. I really don’t have that much money that I can afford to splurge it on luxuries like shoes and tea and corsets. If I’m going to be able to move out of home, I need to moderate.

7- Violence. I know that I’ve got that streak inside me. Right now, it festers as passive-agressiveness. And that’s where I want it to stay.
What I’m currently addicted to:

1- Modelling. I like people thinking that I’m beautiful. I like thinking that I’m beautiful. But I’m only capable of being that in front of a camera, and god knows for how long.

2- Friends. Mainly because if I’m by myself for too long, I’ll remember all the various reasons why I hate myself, which can contribute to why I don’t have friends in the first place.

3- Daniel. Probably the one lifeline I actually have. But what sort of life am I going to have if I can’t live without my imaginary best friend?

4- Anxiety. I thrive on those panic attacks where I can feel everything, pain and pleasure. I love to feel my heart race, to gulp down freezing cold air, right before my breathing gives out and I collapse from the feel of everything.

5- Depression. When the anxiety attack I’m hoping for just won’t come, I’ll just go lower and lower until I hit rock bottom and it hurts. Because then I’ll finally remember what better feels like.

6- Love. The scariest drug of them all.

My whole existence is a series of addictions, one after the other.

The Shrink List(s)

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Why I need to see a psychologist

1- Without one, I end up using the few people who remain my friends as a surrogate, much to their dismay. Seriously, they have enough drama. And they don’t even get paid.

2- Even though I’ve identified my problem area -a chronically pessimistic mindset- I still don’t have the stategies to deal with it on my own.

3- I need a constant. Modelling opportunities decrease when school comes back, and friends disappear when it’s time for exams. Family doesn’t qualify as a constant; the mood of the household changes on a daily basis. 

4- I’m lonely as fuck. I need someone to talk to that isn’t a Shadow. Or a feline.

Why I can’t see a psychologist

1- I don’t have enough time to study, model, exercise, lie in bed and stare into space, cry, draw, write AND talk about my problems.

2- Finding a new place is difficult. Must be reasonably close to school/home, and if not, would have to provide taxi/bus vouchers for me to get home before dark. Only government practices would have those, and I imagine those practices only cater to those under eighteen. If I went to one of those, I’d have to go through the same process once again from the fourteenth of September.

3- Finding someone I can communicate with is worse. Cheerful people I can’t take seriously when I’m having a bad day. However, a sense of humour is necessary as well, considering how most of my communication consists of awkward jokes about my cynicism and self depreciation. Being open minded is compulsory, though why you’d choose a career in psychology if you weren’t is beyond me. Being able to discuss philosophy and ideas is an added bonus. And above all, they have to understand the situation with my parents, and what should and shouldn’t be said in front of them. Finding a human with all these qualities on the first go is difficult. And trial and error is very discouraging.

4- Three words: Duty. Of. Care. Granted, this only remains a problem till Monday September 14th 2015, but there’s the dilemma of surviving August, which seems to be a particular time where everything comes crashing down once again.

Just writing and writing and getting stuff out of my system. Have a nice day humans. 

Cat Madigan.

Haven’t signed off in a long time actually.

Better Than Me

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I should really stop dreaming.

Also, there was a legitimate reason for me not posting. WordPress on my iPad wasn’t working. Not to mention Year 12 is crushing my soul. 

Anyway. Flashbacks fucking suck. The end. 

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 “Well? What do you think?”

I jump as the man behind me speaks suddenly. After quickly looking around for humans, I speak. “What do you mean?” 

 “I know you know,” he says flatly. 

 “About what?” 

 “About what just happened. Come on. What do you think?” 

 I turn around slowly. “Kaya…disappeared. After someone crashed into the palace, right?” 

 “…you know that someone, don’t you?” 

 “…” 

 “Who was it? Did you see them?” I can see that Daniel’s trying to keep his voice as non threatening as possible, but I can still feel the tension radiating from him. 

“…I didn’t need to,” I whisper. “There’s no one else it would be.” 

 “Who?” 

 “He killed her,” I say to him. “How could you not consider him?” 

 He’s silent for a moment. “You mean…” 

 “Yes.” 

 “But he’s in hiding. Why would he steal Kaya?” 

 “I don’t know. Because he can?” I feel drained from this conversation. Daniel’s eyes won’t leave my face, as if I’m hiding something. Which I am.

“You know what Kaya’s capable of,” I explain. “If he could control Kaya, imagine what he could do.”

It dawns on him. Even though this is more of an attempt to sway his attention away from the truth of her death, it is a genuine concern, not just for him, but for Kaya’s world. Not that I care. “You’ve got a point,” he says. “With Kaya’s body on life support, it wouldn’t take much for someone like him to reanimate her. She’d be a true weapon then.” My blood runs cold at the image of Kaya taking a step like a puppet dangling from a string, so much closer to reality than he realises. “I don’t understand why he’d leave her on the lake after killing her though,” he argues. “Why would he let the enemy take her back only to retrieve her again? As a result, we now have new information concerning Esper tech. Not to mention it would be a more effective strategy to leave us in the dark on Kaya’s status.”

“I don’t know. Maybe he’s just showing off. Showing us that he can infiltrate the castle. Putting us on edge.”

“Why not just kill us then?”

I frown. I didn’t take Daniel to be the type to not percieve this. “Obviously he wants to torture us before he kills us. It would be more fun for him that way.” I let my disgust of the monster show on my face.

Daniel just stares at me. “Since when do you know how psychos work?” he enquires.

I shake my head. “I’ve been watching monsters longer than you,” I told him. “Their insanity isn’t that hard to pick up on.”

Daniel accepts my excuse. “Still, it’s a big risk, letting us take her back. Would he really gamble the goals of the Espers for a quick thrill?” he contemplates.

“He’s not working for them,” I object too quickly. Immediately, Daniel’s face becomes suspicious again. I quickly clarify. “I think he hates them as much as he hates us,” I say. “He has no side but his own.” Just like Kaya.

Daniel watches me for a moment, and I worry that he’s picked up on what I didn’t say. For a moment, I feel guilty that I’m keeping this from him. If our roles were reversed, I’d want to know the truth. Then he speaks again. “He’s like you then,” he concludes. “No other concern except for himself. Maybe it’s not just Kaya’s viewpoint that makes you understand him.”

His words are cruel, and they sting as if he slapped me. Why was that necessary? I look away from him, gritting my teeth in silence. One thing was for certain; any pity or guilt I felt for him immediately vanished.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

That incident didn’t stay on my mind for long. Things at home were horrible, and though Daniel’s words stayed in my head long afterwards, I focused on other things.

Then he found out.

I didn’t speak to him when he appeared in my room. I never did. I always waited for him to start talking. And then he did. “Suicide,” he said flatly. 

My stomach leapt. 

“It was suicide,” he repeated. “Kaya knew she was going to die. And she did it anyway.” He stared at me, no set expression on his face. Then his eyes narrowed. “How long did you know?”

“…from the beginning,” I admitted, closing my eyes and shutting off my computer. I pushed it aside and sat up.

“Why?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“She didn’t want me to.”

“That’s not for her to decide,” he argued. “For gods sake, she was your friend too. How could you just accept this?”

I was shaking. “What could’ve I done?” I pleaded. “I couldn’t go into your world, remember? What could’ve I done to stop her?” Daniel continued to glare at me. “You don’t think I tried to stop her? After she told me, I begged her not to do this. But she ignored me, and then she was gone…” I took in a deep breath. “I knew her plan,” I admitted. “But there was only so much I could do. After she left, there was no way-“

“You could’ve told me!” he shouted. “I could’ve stopped her!”

“You would’ve. And then Kaya would been thrown in prison for conspiracy to high treason,” I retorted. 

“But that bastard would still be in jail. They would’ve released Kaya-“

“They killed her mother!” I blurted out. “And they wanted Kaya dead too, five years ago. Don’t you get it? This way, those men will die at the hands of the Espers. This is her revenge.”

“She wouldn’t give her life-“

“She would. You know that, don’t you?”

“I…” Daniel’s face was mixed with rage and despair. That’s when I figured it. He already knew that she’d give her life for this. That wasn’t the issue. It was that Kaya would throw him to the sharks too, despite everything they went through together. 

“Daniel…” The name was strange on my tongue. I had never called him by name before, and it was awkward. “I’m sorry,” I said at last. There wasn’t really anything else I could say.

Daniel quietly looked up at me. Immediately, I tensed up, already anticipating what was coming. And I was right. “Of course, it would be fine for you,” he spoke darkly. “None of this effects you. Even if Kaya’s dead. All you have to do is sit back and watch everyone die. That shouldn’t be too difficult.”

I had gotten up from my bed and had been pacing up and down my room for a while now, randomly picking up stuff from the floor, as if that would stop his words from hurting. He went on. “Nereida, Kaya, you’ve watched people die before. You’ll probably cheer when one of the Espers tears my fucking head off-“

That’s when I swung around, my fist smashing against his face. He stumbled back, caught off guard. Immediately, I backed away slightly, waiting for him to react. I just knew he’d get back at me. I knew that it was only a matter of seconds before I was lying on the ground getting the shit kicked out of me. I had no idea what possessed me to hit him.

Moments passed, and I realised that the blows I had been bracing myself for never came. Daniel just stood there, watching me, as if I was some strange beast that had escaped its cage. He once stared at Kaya the same way, in fact. “I deserved that,” he said finally. “I…shouldn’t have-“

“Shut the fuck up,” I hissed suddenly. His eyes widened. “How dare you. What do you take me for? I’m not…I’m not this twisted psycho who gets off on watching people die!” I was steadily losing control, but I didn’t give a crap. “Do you think I enjoy being able to do nothing? Do you think I’m happy to just sit there while people I care about die?! Why…” I tightened my hands into fists. “Why do you think I’d want you to die?!”

I could’ve slapped him for the incredulous look on his face. “You don’t?”

“No…” The anger quickly evaporated, and I was left trying to hold back what seemed like an endless supply of tears. “Don’t be stupid. If you died…” There’d be no one left to help me, I finished in my head. But I wouldn’t say them out loud to him. 

“…I spent the last few minutes verbally abusing you. You should hate me,” Daniel countered.

“I don’t.” I feel tired all of a sudden, and I sit down on the bed. “Kaya…was important to you too. I can understand how you feel.”

“….how do you do that?” he asked quietly. 

“…do what?” 

“Justify it. How can you allow people to do things to you that you can just sweep under the rug?”

I thought about that for a moment. It was just so…natural, that I never even questioned it until now. “It’s just…” I struggled to say, “it’s not like there aren’t more horrible people than them.”

“Like who?” Daniel retorted. “Is it even possible to hate someone who’s never done anything to you?”

“Yeah. It is.” If I looked at Daniel, I would burst into tears, so I kept my eyes firmly closed. “You were right, you know. About people who can’t do anything. Sometimes you can hate people so much just because they were involved and couldn’t, or didn’t, do anything to stop it.”

“…you mean…”

“…I’m sorry,” I said to him in a whisper. “I need to be alone.”

“You’re shaking…”

“I don’t care. Just go. Please,” I begged. 

For the first time since I had known him, Daniel did as I asked. I was finally left alone to shed the tears that I had locked in for the entire conversation. And for the rest of the night, I lay there, holding my knees and hating myself.

Next thing I knew, I was in Delirium.

Self Conversation

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You’re being angsty and edgy again mate.

For some reason, you sound like Togami.

Whatever. Would you prefer me to sound like Kaya? Or Daniel?

Do whatever the fuck you want. You’re my head, after all.

So what are you doing out here?

Like you said, being angsty and edgy.

Why are you being angsty and edgy though?

Why the hell would you care?

I am you. And I’m not sure if you know yourself.

I do. Somewhat.

Then enlighten me.

I can’t finish my IT.

…that’s it?

No. Of course not, otherwise I wouldn’t be breaking down, would I?

Fine then. What else is there?

The fact that I can’t finish anything I start.

You finished one thing.

That doesn’t count and you know it.

I see. So we’re discounting anything involving mass destruction?

…yes.

Very well.

My point is, I can barely finish the things that interest me, let alone things that don’t even peak that interest.

And?

It makes me feel bad about myself. Because I want to be able to finish, but I just feel so…unmotivated.

In other words, your depression decides to add a few pounds so that you can’t do shit.

Precisely.

Then again, that could just be you making excuses.

That is another thing. I’m probably just lazy, and I just blame it on the mental illness.

Then get over it. Stop hating yourself. Give yourself proof that you’re not a bad person. Actually work.

Oh, I get it. You can’t. There is something physically weighing you down. You just can’t tell if it’s just mental illness or laziness.

…yeah.

Well you’ve got to get over it. Your future lies in the balance. This shit is year 12, make or break year.

I want to be able to…

…but you don’t think you can?

No.

Why not?

Because I can’t finish anything, even if I set my mind to it. I don’t know what I want to do with my life, fuck, I don’t even know what my morals are!

Ohhhh, I see. It’s not just self hate. It’s guilt.

For some part.

Togami? Ash?

Yup.

I don’t know what you see in them. Togami’s a self absorbed prick and you’ve seen your other suitor. If one can call him that.

Togami appears to believe that I can get better. It’s not a relationship anyway. As for Ash…yeah, I can’t make excuses. He’s a sleaze bag.

So it’s Ash that you’re guilty about, not Togami.

Yeah. Everyone hates him.

Except for you.

I hate him too. Just not enough to stop seeing him.

Are you going to sleep with him again?

No.

Good. Now stick to it. Don’t let him seduce you with Sword Art Online.

Shaddup.

But that’s not it.

Of course it’s not.

Jeezus. It never stops, does it? What is it with being seventeen? Does something change suddenly that lures in hot dudes? Hehee. Cat Madigan 101: How to pick up hot dudes.

Oi.

Okay. Togami I’ll let you off the hook for. Ash, you’re kinda a bad person for. So what about candidate number three?

…he’s insanely intelligent, sweet and not condescending. And probably isn’t at all interested in me in that way.

…he asked you to the fucking movies. On fucking VALENTINES DAY.

…it’s Valentines Day on Saturday?

Argh….yes. And you’ve got a fucking date.

…he’s probably called it off. I’m a nutcase, as he’s now well aware.

Whatever…I know where this is going. ‘Why would he be interested in me? I’m insane, I’m ugly, I’m retarded. He’s going to lose interest in me eventually.’

Of course.

So what? You’re going to let a potential relationship slide out of your grasp?

Look, if he’s not interested in me, he’s not interested in me. And chances are, even if he is, he’ll eventually decide that I’m not worth the trouble.

If that’s the case, then what are you alive for?

Hmm?

You’re insane, ugly and retarded, as you pointed out. You’re lazy, because you’re not finishing the work you need to. And you’ll never be desirable to anyone because of those things. So why are you still alive?

…because I don’t have the guts to kill myself.

Oh, I see. So you’re just a waste of space, taking up everyone’s time and oxygen. You’re disgusting.

I hate myself.

As you should.

But…

What?

…I hate you more.

I hate you, the voice in my head that reminds me how horrible I am. You’re the one thing standing in the way of me living a normal life. You’ve always been there, clinging to me like a chain around my neck. I know what you are…

You are that miserable illness that’s been eating away at me since I was six. You just sit there and whisper things to me and feast on the pain it produces. I hate you far more than I’ll ever hate myself.

So kill me.

I can’t.

Of course you can. All you need is a bullet in the brain to take away the pain. Heh, I should be a poet.

No. I’m going to live.

No you’re not.

I am. I’m going to live so that every day for the rest of my life, I can tell you to go fuck yourself.

Everything you said was true.

No. Everything you said was true. It could happen. But then again, it might not. But I think I’ll stay around and find out.

You’re not going to survive me.

I will. I’m stronger than you. Look at what I survived already.

Give it up. I’m the one you should fear.

Pessimist’s Dilemma

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Today we’re going back to Reality. So shut up and listen.
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“Were there any problems on the way here?” Lolly asked.

I don’t pretend to misunderstand. “Nah, Mum and I didn’t talk much,” I said.

“Fair enough.” I walked into the office and barely stopped myself from flinching when I saw him in the chair.

“Hello.”

I grimaced at him before sitting down. “We’re not doing this again,” I said under my breath.

“What? I promise I’ll be good, every now and then.”

“So how was work?” Lolly questioned.

“It’s okay…” I said. “I’m not eating though.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah…I’ve just been stressing out about stuff the past week. I think that’s what’s been causing it.”

“How’d you figure that?”

“Well, my anxiety’s been acting up more recently, and that’s when I’ve had trouble eating. It’s probably connected.”

“Do you know how that works? Why people with anxiety start having trouble eating?”

“Actually no. How?”

“You know the ‘flight or fight response’?” Lolly questioned. “Well, when that happens, your body prepares itself to do one of those two. Meaning blood usually goes to the areas responsible for carrying out those actions.”

“Okay…so what?”

“When you’re anxious, your body automatically goes into ‘fight or flight mode’,” she explained. “And when that happens, hunger becomes less of a priority, so your body ignores and even repels that sensation, so that more focus goes into the ‘fight and flight response’.”

“I think I understand now,” I said. “It’s kind of like with exercising, how blood goes to the muscles which do the work. That’s also why your fingers are cold after running.”

“You see? It’s simple when you think about it,” Lolly explained. “Now, you’ve been stressing this past week. Why?”

Yayyy, the fun part. Daniel began making kissing sounds. Shush, you. “I’ve just been worried about work,” I told Lolly. “It’s just been me worrying about what’s going to happen if I screw up.”

“What exactly does ‘screw up’ mean?”

She always makes me explain this stuff. I elaborated. “If I don’t hand in stuff on time, it’s going to have more negative repercussions than if I don’t hand in stuff at school. It’s a magazine, deadlines have to be kept. See?”

“I understand. But that’s not going to happen if you think that that’s not going to happen.”

“Yeah, well, my mind doesn’t work that way.”

“Well, that’s one of the practises of CBT. You learn how to avoid thinking in such a way, and stop you from worrying.”

“I know…I want to think that way, but…”

“It doesn’t come easy, I know. Still.”

“…have you heard of the prisoners dilemma?” I asked Lolly.

“…no. What is it?”

“It’s just a philosophical exercise. Say there’s two prisoners. Apple and Banana.”

“Apple and Banana?” Daniel snorted.

“Roll with it,” I told him aloud. “They’ve committed a crime, and they’re both arrested and put into separate cells. There’s no way they can communicate with each other, so rule out that possibility. Anyway, a detective comes in and talks to both of them separately about their options.

“He says, ‘Listen here, even if neither of you confess, we’ve still got enough evidence to put you both away for two years. You’re going to jail no matter what. But we can make a deal. All we want is a confession, it doesn’t matter who from. If you rat out your partner, you’re only going to have to do one year in jail. Of course, that means that they’re going to have to serve fifteen years time. But if you don’t confess, and he does, then it’s you who is going to be stuck in jail for fifteen years, while he’s out after just one. Now, you’re probably thinking, what if we both confess? Well, I can knock some time off both your sentences for confessing, but you’ll still go to jail for confessing.’ Get all that?”

“…a little bit?” Lolly says weakly.

“I’ll draw a diagram,” I said. I took out some pens and made a little table on the whiteboard.

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“Easier now?”

“Yeah. So what’s that got to do with thinking positively?”

“Which solution would be the most optimistic outcome?”

“…that would be the one where you trust each other. You don’t have to live with the guilt of ratting out your partner, and you can spend two years in jail knowing that at least your trust in him wasn’t misplaced. Unless you’ve got no qualms about ratting out your partner.”

“Nah, you’re right. That’s the best situation, when you can trust eachother enough to stay silent. Now, which is the worst outcome?”

“…I’m starting to see what you’re getting at,” Lolly told me. “You’re saying that if you trust your partner, there’s a chance that they’ll rat you out, and you’ll have to be in jail for fifteen years. And that, for you at least, would be the worst outcome.”

“No, it’s the worst outcome period,” I insisted. “It’s fifteen years in a hellhole, and you’ll spend that time knowing that your partner was the one who sent you there.”

“You’re right. So what point are you trying to make?”

“I’ll adjust the graph a little bit.” I took the pens again and rubbed out a few words and added in new phrases.

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“When you look at the diagram, thinking negatively is a much safer option than thinking positively. Though it would be great to believe that everything is going to go right, when you look at the potential outcomes, it’s not the most rational choice,” I clarified. “Preparing yourself in case the bad luck does come about means that there’s fewer consequences.”

“How so? The bad luck has still happened. The same event has happened. How does already anticipating that it’s going to happen make it better?” Lolly questioned.

“Because you have time to prepare yourself,” I told her. “Things are easier to stand when you’re already anticipating them. In the Prisoners Dilemma, if you assume the worst case scenario, you’re at least going to have less negative repercussions than if you chose to believe in the best case scenario.”

“Do you really think that?”

“Yes,” I confirmed.

“Still, I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with thinking that the positive could happen.”

“I never said there was,” I said. “The Prisoner’s Dilemma isn’t about looking at just one side of the spectrum; you can assume that there’s an equal chance of something positive and something negative happening. It’s more about preparing yourself for the negative outcomes, not disregarding the chance of something positive coming about.”

“I’m curious about one thing,” Lolly said suddenly. “In the Prisoners Dilemma, you get the least amount of time if you think negatively and the positive happens. Does that relate to real life for you?”

“Yeah, I think so. I reckon good things are even better when you least expect them.”

“As opposed to expecting good things all the time?”

“Of course.”

“So that’s your outlook then,” Lolly fixed her glasses. “What are you really worried about here?”

“Huh?” This was such a change from the philosophical discussion we were just having that I had to rewind for a moment.

“I mean, what is this ‘bad luck’ that you are preparing yourself for?”

“Well, that I don’t hand in assignments on time.”

“Or are you afraid of what will happen if you don’t hand in assignments on time?”

“…yeah. That.”

“And what will happen?”

“…they’ll yell at me. Or fire me….mainly yelling.”

“What do you associate with yelling then?” Lolly questioned. “Why is it hard for you if someone yells?”

“…I don’t-”

“Because it means they’re angry,” Daniel interjected. “And you automatically think that it means that they’re angry with you.” I stared at him. “It’s true. You’re a people pleaser, Miss Madigan, and when people you care about to some degree are upset, you blame yourself.”

I looked up to see Lolly looking at me expectantly. “Sorry, I just blanked out a bit,” I said.

“Daniel’s there, isn’t he?” she said flatly.

“…yeah.”

“What was he saying?”

“…things considering my situation with yelling.”

“…which is?”

“…when people yell at me, it means they’re angry. Which means I’ve fucked up and made them that way,” I admitted. “It’s…completely stupid and I hate myself for it, but yeah. That’s what it feels like for me.”

Daniel smiled at me, and I was relieved to see no malice in his eyes. “Yeah…I learned that eventually. It’s not stupidity Cat. Personally I think it’s more of a habit you’ve developed.”

Doesn’t stop it from being ridiculous.

Lolly agreed with Daniel. “Cat, you’re only seventeen.”

“…yeah.” I cracked a smile. “Yet I’m meant to have my whole career mapped out by now, according to school.”

She laughed. “School is stupid.”

“Yeah. Little bit.”

“Will you be okay for the next two weeks?” she asked. “I mean, if something happens, you know what to do, right?”

“Yeah, we’ve been over this. Get backup and if that fails, call ART.”

“Also, I have something for you to look at,” Lolly added, handing me a document.

We talked for a bit longer before we all headed out to meet my mother. Daniel was quiet on the way home. He never talked in front of my mother. Finally, as we found the safety of my room, he broke his silence. “You lied.”

“…”

“Work isn’t what is worrying you. It’s him, isn’t it?” I looked at Daniel in silence. “You both agreed that you didn’t want to be in a relationship. Not unless you were sure it would work out.” I nodded once. “This, Cat Madigan, is not a good alternative. Especially for you.”

“Yeah, whereas it was perfectly fine with you.”

“I would’ve never hurt you. And you’re a liar if you say you believe otherwise.”

“I don’t expect anything from this,” I told him. “I’m not in the right place for a relationship, and I already know the negative repercussions of what might happen. I can take the risk.”

“You deserve better,” he said staunchly.

“Do you really believe that?”

“I do.”