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I don't even know her name

January 2018

I knew that the only way I was going to be able to deal with everything going on in my head was to write it down. I opened up my notes app, then typed some nonsense words and a bunch of blank lines, in case anyone shoulder-surfing ever saw a preview of the entry.

Here is the first actual thing I wrote there:

This week has felt similar to some of my doomed crushes from long ago. It's a similar feeling in quite a different situation. Like there's a cute girl and I can't stop thinking about her. I get nervous butterflies in my stomach when I think about her, I'm worried if I'd actually like her if I got to know her, I'm worried what my friends would think of her even if it worked out, and yet clearly she is the most important person in the world to me...

The difference this time is that the cute girl is an aspect of me.

Why would I think I know anything about her? I don't even know her name.

First of all, awww. Second of all, holy heck, I got my pronoun right the first time, by writing about myself in this dissociative, third-person way. It would be months before I did that for real.

Cutscene art of Madeline from the game Celeste

I mentioned the game Celeste before. The game is a whole mood. It's a platformer game that's very difficult but not "punishing". It's designed to inspire you to learn from your mistakes, and press forward, and become a stronger player who is able to overcome the obstacles it throws at you.

It tells the story of a character named Madeline, who climbs a dangerous mountain as a way to either escape or confront her issues. The antagonist of the game is, in a very literal sense, herself. Her character design splits in two. They struggle against each other. There's a climactic battle, and the music for that stage, composed by the game's brilliant composer Lena Raine, is a track called "Confronting Myself".

The game as a whole manages to convey a very positive message about mental health, a message that comes through not just in the cutscenes but in the entire gameplay. I related to it a lot more than I expected, and perhaps that's how I had the moment of clarity that let me write that. I, too, felt myself splitting into two parts and confronting myself.

And there was one thing about myself I could do battle with right then.

I shaved off all of my body hair. I was in the shower for like an hour and a half. I went through multiple blades and clogged an electric razor. The drain became a carpet. And I stepped out feeling lighter.

4. a helpful hint