How to Fight a Dragon With Your Mind

1. Have you ever had to fight a dragon with your mind?

Not everyone who reads this will know what I mean. Some people never catch even a glimpse of a scale, or the shadow of a wing. Those people are welcome, but they can’t really know. They’ve just never fought a dragon.

But you. You know what I mean, right? You know what it’s like.

Dragons have names. Mine is called depression; yours might be called something else. The world is full of dragons. But whatever your dragon’s name, it’s large and loud, and it’s trying to take over your whole life.

This is for you.

2. Never underestimate a dragon.

The very first thing that you absolutely must realize is that a dragon is a wily, dangerous foe. Too many people try to downplay this fact.

Too many people assume that just because you can’t see the dragon, that doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

Those people are wrong, and listening to them can get you killed.

3. This is not how you should do it.

For a long time, I was losing my own fight.

Whenever something bad happened to me — just a normal bad thing in the course of my daily life — my dragon would take it and make it into a weapon, using it to reinforce everything negative that I already believed. Whenever anything good happened, it did exactly the same. Good and bad were meaningless; there was always a way that something could be twisted to help the dragon.

Its poison burned deep. I listened to its whispers and I became convinced that I was a failure, that I was worthless, and that my existence was nothing but a burden. Its lies insinuated themselves into my mind.

Sometimes it would tell me that I was fine, that I only thought I had a problem. That I was attention-seeking, or a hypochondriac. That it would be “selfish” to get help. Other times, it would tell me that I was making it all up, or that if I spoke up, I would be rejected by those around me. But the common thread in everything that it told me was to keep its existence a secret, and to never tell anybody else.

And it worked. For a long time, I never said a word.

4. Nobody else can fight your dragon.

This is something that you need to understand: nobody is going to defeat your dragon for you. No person and no event is going to make it disappear. You can never be good enough, successful enough, rich or pretty or famous enough to beat it.

This is your battle. You didn’t want it, but it picked you, and only you can bring it to an end.

5. But you don’t have to do it all alone.

At PAX East 2014, I attended a panel discussion called “Dealing with Inner Demons: Anxiety and Depression in Gamers”. Just going to the panel was a bit scary, because I didn’t want to reveal to the people around me that I felt a connection to the topic. But I had a gut feeling that I should go — that it might somehow be important — so I found a piece of bravery, and took that step. To my surprise, some other people in the group decided to come along.

When I got to the panel, I was shocked to find that the room, which was fairly large, was packed. I had been picturing a half-empty room full of sad people avoiding eye contact. This room, though, was overflowing with bright, colorful people. People like myself; people with whom I could be friends. And here were these normal, likable people speaking openly about their own struggles against their own dragons. Sharing stories, and tactics, and tips. It was like nothing that I had ever seen before.

It was proof that I had been deceived. That things I had believed without question were just lies to keep me weak.

When I walked out of that room, I had decided to get help.

6. Always remember that you are a warrior.

You are already strong and brave. How do I know that? Because you’re here.

The dragon will try to convince you that you are not a warrior, that you are helpless and weak, but the dragon is lying. Don’t believe. You have been fighting for a long time already, and nobody could do that if they weren’t strong and brave.

You are already a warrior. Now what you need to do is train.

7. This year can be a bad year for the dragon.

In 2014, I started seeing a therapist, and I also got serious about practicing meditation. With the help of these weapons and others, I’m happy to say that I have banished my own dragon.

At least for now.

I’m really enjoying not being depressed. I have more energy, a longer attention span. More time.

Is it permanently gone? I have my doubts. There are some things about my brain that make it a fertile feeding ground for dragons. Just a few months ago, I went through a period of depression. But right now, at the beginning of 2015, I’m not depressed at all, and that feels like a major, positive change in my life.

More importantly, I now know how to fight.

8. Don’t fight hard; fight smart.

You may feel like you’re at the end of your rope, like you’re fighting as hard as you can and still losing. You may feel like you’ve been stuck in the same stalemate for years, going back and forth over the same scorched and blackened ground.

You may feel like your dragon has already won.

What you need is allies. What you need is help. What you need is a qualified professional, who can assess your situation and help you figure out how to fight better. How to win.

We live in a place and time where most of us have access to a wide variety of weapons. It would be foolish not to use them.

Learn how to fight smarter.

9. This is how you fight a dragon with your mind.

Don’t believe the lies. Remember that you’re not alone. Seek help.


Resources

An online therapist finder with lots of useful filters. This is how I found my own therapist.

A list of telephone hotlines for depression and other problems

Reliable sources of mental health information:
mentalhealth.gov
The National Institutes of Mental Health
The Mayo Clinic
Psychology Today