On the Fandom Road: What is Dead May Never Die

TheonSansawall

Answering the question “how’d you get into Game of Thrones?” is a two-part process for me. There’s recounting how I started reading the books and watching the show, which is quite simple: I saw a copy of A Game of Thrones in my university bookstore freshman year and thought, “Well, if this is popular I don’t want to miss out.”

Then there’s explaining how I came to be a fan site-contributing, convention-attending, Ballintoy Harbour-visiting diehard. This takes a bit longer. It’s also an infinitely more personal story to divulge because I can’t honestly discuss my origin as a Game of Thrones fan without also addressing mental illness. The two topics are, for me, inextricably linked. I wouldn’t be a contributor to Watchers on the Wall, a panelist at Con of Thrones or a friend to so many wonderful Game of Thrones nerds if I weren’t also mentally ill. Life’s funny, isn’t it?

ballintoyselfie

My beloved Ballintoy Harbour

When I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire and watching Game of Thrones my freshman year of college, I liked it. I appreciated the moral ambiguity and I thought the subversion of fantasy tropes was clever. Tyrion was my favorite character. However, for a variety of reasons I didn’t reach A Dance With Dragons and season 4 until my senior year by which time my mental health had deteriorated.

Now, this is an article about my love of Game of Thrones, not my brain chemistry. However, to properly illustrate why the events of A Dance With Dragons and season 4 impacted me the way they did, I should elaborate on what I mean by “deteriorated.”

I’d been on medication and in therapy for depression and anxiety since high school but college exacerbated my symptoms hundredfold and none of my old coping mechanisms worked anymore. By senior year I was crying in class and having panic attacks regularly. On one memorably bad afternoon, I arrived at my university’s counseling center in hysterics, holding onto the walls for support (I’d damn near crawled across campus to get there) and told the first counselor who could see me that I was having a nervous breakdown and wanted to be hospitalized.

The counselor told me that “nervous breakdown” isn’t a technical diagnosis but rather an umbrella term for when psychological problems render someone unable to function. I said, “Yeah, okay … that’s me right now” and that I felt like I had my hand pressed to a hot stove every second of every day, with no chance of reprieve until graduation. The counselor was not unsympathetic but explained that I was too lucid to be hospitalized. She wished me luck. “Just keep your hand on that stove,” she told me.

All of this is to explain why Reek’s storyline in A Dance With Dragons and season 4 struck a chord with me. It’s an unusual plotline to find comforting, I’ll admit, but sometimes it’s vindicating to see elements of your own experience reflected in someone else, even if it’s disturbing. Suffering hadn’t made Theon Greyjoy compassionate like Daenerys or witty like Tyrion. It had made him pathetic. I could relate. But it hadn’t killed him. And if Reek could scrape through, so could I.

Months later, I graduated college (somehow or other) and returned to my parents’ home burned out in most respects but full of Game of Thrones fervor and excited to funnel that energy into features for The Mary Sue. Then The Mary Sue announced that it would no longer be covering Game of Thrones after the events of season 5.

I thought, “Well, that’s awful timing” and looked up Game of Thrones fan sites that I could contribute to instead. I found Watchers on the Wall and the rest is history.

Looking back over the four years since I sent Sue that fortuitous e-mail, I realize it’s impossible to overstate how much Game of Thrones has impacted my life. It turned fandom into a communal experience for me. Through Watchers on the Wall, Con of Thrones and the Burlington Bar I’ve met and befriended so many people who are just as moved by Game of Thrones as I am.

That sense of connection proved a literal lifesaver as – wouldn’t you know it – my depression and anxiety did not go away after college. In some respects they got worse as it was not until postgraduate life that I experienced serious suicidal ideations and started scratching the skin off my forearms with my fingernails. I like to think that if I hadn’t had Game of Thrones I would have found something else to fixate on but, the way things happened, it was Game of Thrones and its fandom that I clung to, to get by.

There are far worse coping mechanisms.

In talking with other mega-fans I realized that I was not the only one drawn to Game of Thrones for deeply personal reasons. I remember chatting with the regular Burlington Bar crew about favorite characters and scenes. I told them I relate to Theon Greyjoy and, instead of getting a raised eyebrow or a “who’s that, again?” I got an “ohhhhh c’mere,” and a hug.

Looking forward, I admit the prospect of facing life after Game of Thrones is a little scary. It’s provided a framework and a support system for so long, I know its absence will be sorely felt. At the same time, though, confronting the end makes me realize just how far I’ve come and how grateful I am to Game of Thrones and its fandom for what they’ve given me.

I’m in such a better place than I was when Game of Thrones first entered my life. I haven’t self-harmed or thought about killing myself in nearly a year (there’s no way to word that that doesn’t sound a little funny). I’m working towards getting my massage therapy license (so my undergraduate education really can go fuck itself). I have people I care about who care about me. I’m finally starting to live a life I want to live and I largely have Game of Thrones and its fandom to thank for getting me this far. So, cheers, guys.

Don’t die so far from the sea.

43 responses

Jump to (and Always Support) the Bottom

    1. Nice article, when down always have something to look forward too, find & make things you can look forward too, sometimes the little things are best a tv show like thrones, music. other shows, places to go etc, then in those darkest hours there is always something to keep you going, that rainbow beyond the hill is always there, keep fighting,
      Theons character is great, he is one of the best actors, to be forced to be a hero when inside your lost is something i think most people can relate too in various degrees,
      There will be more thrones in the future,

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    2. Thank you for sharing Petra … I also suffer from anxiety and depression, and GOT, books and show, have been my rock since 2010!

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    3. Hi Petra,
      What a great article and thanks for speaking out on mental health. The more we talk about it, the more we break down the stigma, but I know it takes courage to reveal such personal pain. Now I am even happier that you got to meet Alfie and he kissed your hand.

      I admit I do worry about myself after it ends. I’ve loved shows before, but never to this level. I’m comforted by knowing this fandom will continue to discuss even after the show is over!

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    4. Oh my goodness Petra. I just read the contents of your article after just posting a knee-jerk response to the title. I’d like to compose a reply if you’ll read it. It may take a while to find the right words – it’s not something I talk about much – but suffice it to say that you probably already know that sensitive, intelligent people are more prone to experiencing what you’ve described. I’ve been through what I euphemistically call “a rough patch” but as you know it’s much, much more than that. I’ve been to the precipice – it’s still there and always will be.

      I’m shocked that a “counselor” wished you luck and told you: “Just keep your hand on that stove.” That’s horrible! That counselor should’ve helped you back away from the f*cking stove!

      To be continued…

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    5. Yeah I kinda think your college counselor was a hack, personally. I’m tremendously glad you made it through college and found your way to our doorstep by a twist of fate and TV. Love you lots <3

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    6. I was not expecting to read such profundity here on a brilliant Easter morning in the middle of preparing my Easter dinner while listening to the St. John Passion and counting down the hours until showtime tonight. Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal revelation. It puts things into a proper perspective.

      I wish you well and hope you’ll continue to thrive and beat this illness.

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    7. I’m sorry to hear what you went through, Petra. I think many people have been through depressing times. I was never so deeply affected that I had to have medication or counselling but all the same I’ve had times (albeit a long time ago) when I felt very low. When I was younger I used to often let other people affect what I said but now I stick to my guns (which is one reason I’m going to stick by liking the show even if there are naysayers about). I was quite surprised to learn recently that a lady I know in my age bracket (I recently entered a new decade and think circa GRRM’s age) had read four and a half of the ASOIAF books (I think she found all the new POVs there too convoluted) but she had liked the books up till then though she only watched one episode of season one of the show and decided it wasn’t for her. That’s the first time I’ve come across someone in real life that has read the books (as opposed to people on the internet) and I’ve know this lady a few years.

      I wrote something last week about being put off fandoms and I hope I didn’t come across like a whingebag. I do think WotW is a nice site but I have come across some toxic fan sites (not necessarily to do with ASOIAF/GoT). I was wondering about getting involved with the Netflix show The Witcher that is supposed to be airing later this year but I read some really nasty comments about the ethnicity of some of the actors/actresses on that show so I will be very wary of joining any fandom in that instance.

      With GoT, as they say “all good things come to an end”. The show made me want to read the books – that hadn’t happened since I saw a dramatisation of East of Eden on the TV in the 1980s (which was actually more faithful to the book than the James Dean film). Only five more weeks (or is it four?) of GoT. Well, I’ll just have to make the best of them.

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    8. This fellow lifelong struggler with depression sees you and hears you, Petra. Beginning with when I first read Tolkien at age 14, fantasy literature has been my escape, first from a toxic family life and then from the recurring bouts of wanting to die that came after. More recently, ASoIaF/GoT has given me an “intentional family” late in life.

      Theon’s arc speaks deeply to me as it does to you. What a gift of a character he is: one whose dark side is darker than most of ours, who yet inspires our compassion, our powerful wish to see him succeed. Of all the characters most likely to perish over the next month, I suspect his death will gut me the most.

      May our paths cross in shared alternate realities again and again!

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    9. All I can say is that I’m happy you’ve found your way here so we can enjoy your writing. You battle a terrible situation that life dealt you but the reality on this side of the screen is that you have contributed to someone else’s (many someone else’s) good day with your articles.

      I must say that “too lucid to be hospitalized/ keep your hand to the stove” bit was disturbing. That counselor either saw something in you that made her think you’re much stronger than you give yourself credit for and you can pull through with no medical help OR she was a big ass incompetent. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh but it was a big risk to turn away someone who asks for help like that. Not everyone can keep that hand on the stove without burning herself/himself into a heap of ashes.

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    10. Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story, Petra. And cheers to you too for how far you’ve come and the strength you have already displayed in order to get where you are! 🙏🙌🙌 Also, I have to echo Sue’s sentiments regarding your college counselor.

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    11. My first year at college was reflected in watching the film version of Temple Grandin. I could not handle living with a roommate and scared him into moving out with my volatile behavior. I had uncontrollable shaking fits and hit my head against the bedpost repeatedly. I did not find a box contraption to feel safe like she did. Instead, I ended up dropping out and didn’t go back for nearly four years. The counselor there, to what extent you can call her that, was not remotely helpful. The school administration was convinced I was a dangerous psychopath based on what I told her and tried to blame me for some string of vandalism events I had absolutely nothing to do with.

      If only I could say there was some secret to how I got past that and became a productive, stable adult. There really isn’t. It just happened eventually. My wife and I still feel quite often like our lives, careers, our house, everything is on the brink of falling apart, but we hold it together. We’ve decided never to have children because we don’t think we can handle it. I guess living within your limitations is something you learn to do. I stick with doing things I know I can do well.

      I wish you good fortune in the wars to come. There are clearly many people in the world who love you and enjoy your company. Even if you found them through Game of Thrones, it isn’t because of Game of Thrones.

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    12. Dear Petra, I was so moved by your text. I do not carry the burden you so bravely do, but I so get it when you talk about finding a community to support you through GOT. I identified myself with Sansa after season five and season six, even seven to some extent, felt so good. She kind of annoys me as of late, but still it was so good see her get up after all that happened to her. The on too.

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    13. Dame of Mercia,

      I should have said the lady I know found the extra point of view characters in “A Dance with Dragons” made the story a bit convoluted – or maybe a bit expansive for her taste.

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    14. A big hug to you Petra. Your post was moving and beautifully written. I am so happy you are here and shared your story with us. In my opinion your post shows you had (hidden?) hope and strength. You found something, realized it helped you, held onto it, honored it, and shared your love of it with others. I personally hope you keep writing, no matter what else you do, because you do have a gift for that. Take care of yourself and keep your hands on the keyboard!

      Now I’m really happy you got to meet Alfie! I liked that bit before but now…..so wonderful!

      I like many of the other posts here too, lots of humanity.

      Ten Bears – When I read your “first post of the thread” I thought the bulls eye comment meant Petra wrote a “spot on,” “right to heart” post and she should take a bow. She did and she can, if she’d like.

      Thanks Sue! Not only for bringing Petra to Watchers but all the other writers too.

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    15. Long time lurker on WotW, (I’m like Cookie Monster but substitute GoT spoilers for cookies… nom nom nom); this is my first time commenting.
      Petra,
      Thank you for sharing your struggles, it’s always so important for those of us with these stories to tell to share them to combat the needless stigma. We’re winning on that stigma front and it’s thanks in no small part to people like you and this article.
      While our stories are different, I do understand all too well your experiences and pain. So again I thank you, both as a fellow person with very similar personal obstacles to overcome and as someone fighting to end the shame and confusion around them.

      Also, I echo the sentiments of others about your college “counselor.” Apparently, you did ultimately make it through that particularly bad time, but that counselor has no business being in that position. Sadly, many people may not make it through, and “tough love” -when it comes to illness of any kind- is absurd and irresponsible.

      All best, and wishing you the strength to have just that.

      P.S.
      Theon has always been a favorite of mine (it frustrates me when so many casually hate on the character) and it has never once dawned on me why – until this article. Great insight and personal reflection!

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    16. Adam: My wife and I still feel quite often like our lives, careers, our house, everything is on the brink of falling apart, but we hold it together.

      I suspect that’s true of many more people than most of us suspect.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

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    17. Petra I felt a connection with you the first time I read one of your posts here. So, ir turns out we have something in common – I also have suffered from depression and anxiety since HS. I wasn’t allowed to get help (my parents being among the ‘we handle it ourselves’ generation) till college I found different coping mechanisms that worked for me. Medication and therapy were life savers. But finding a place that can be part of you, with people who truly care about you, is perhaps the best thing we can do. Its a start, something to hang on to during the more dificult times. and as Im am learning now in my own life, I will need to hang on even when those people and places disappear. You have so much talent, and are such a beautiful person. Bless you and I wish you a long life of joy

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    18. Thank you so, so much for sharing this, Petra. It means so much to read these deeply personal stories—from Sue, Akash, and now you—all of which have resonated with me on some deep level.

      Like you and others who have commented thus far, I’ve also struggled with terrible, sometimes suicidal, depression for much of my life; the women in my family have been particularly hard-hit, and in our case, it seems to be directly correlated with a slew of reproductive-health issues. I’m otherwise “healthy as a horse,” so I often joke-not-joke that all of my health issues can be summed up in one word: “female.”

      But I digress.

      My own road to fandom began when my daughter strongly encouraged me to check out a new show she’d been watching with her roommate. “Just one episode, Mom. Trust me, you’ll love it!” As it turned out, that “one episode” was Baelor. Oof. But she was right; I loved it. I subscribed to HBO, gobbled up the first season, and then inhaled all the books before S2 aired.

      Unlike many others here, I was a latecomer to both the books and Watchers on the Wall. A lifelong SF and fantasy fan (much to my parents’ dismay), I was astounded that I’d never heard of the former. As for the latter… Where to begin?

      Having been a teenage mother, I went back to school in my late 30s, and earned my BA in Geography and GIS at 46. I absolutely loved college, am passionate about the work I did, and excelled all the way—3.92 GPA, more than $11,000 in scholarships, Student of the Year, internship at National Geographic, incredible camaraderie with my classmates (a phenomenal cohort), the whole shebang. I had wonderful visions of post-college life—finally being able to fully use my mind, hopefully working with either a state or federal agency on environmental issues related to unregulated cannabis cultivation (I live in the infamous Emerald Triangle of northern California).

      And then… nothing. While many of my classmates went on to dream jobs, I wound up in a dead-end temporary position with a federal agency and couldn’t get a job interview elsewhere to save my life. After speaking with a number of other older graduates, I’m convinced that the primary factor was, quite simply, ageism. Relocating was not an option; I’m married. So I spiraled into suicidal depression, a place I hadn’t been for years.

      And then one night, while going down the rabbit holes of the Internet, I discovered this site. And it became one of the things that saved me. Here, I found a community much like the one I’d had in college—an incredibly diverse, intelligent, literate group of people drawn together by a common passion. Having intense conversations at all hours with people from across the globe, and hearing about their real-life experiences in between geeking out over GoT and ASoIaF, became one of the most vital and “centering” parts of my life. When a fellow Watcher reached out to me—and it turned out that, not only do we have a phenomenal amount in common, but we live within a day’s drive of each other—we met in person at the Concert Experience. Last year I attended Con (as a first-time cosplayer!), and meeting hundreds of other like-minded weirdos in person, including you, was a life-altering experience.

      Like everyone else, I’m highly anticipating the ending D&D have written. I’m also dreading it. I know this fandom will remain strong for many years, as the Star Trek fandom did for decades. And I know many of us will be back for discussion of the upcoming prequel. But I’ll desperately miss the anticipation, the passionate discussions and disagreements, the routine of checking in with WotW about all things GoT first thing in the morning. It has become an integral part of my life.

      Keep writing. Keep fighting. Keep sailing.

      See you at Con.

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    19. Although I’ve been reading WOTW for many years I don’t think I’ve ever left a comment before, but this post was so inspiring I felt an urge to.

      Thank you, Petra. For the many MANY articles over the years which I’ve always found well written and insightful (as well as flipping entertaining), but for sharing your personal story today.

      Very best wishes for your massage therapy and all you do in the future.

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    20. Only when those who are struggling are willing to speak out can we stop the stigma around mental health. Thank you and to all the others who posted on their own challenges. As the father of a teenage boy who is also struggling, these testimonials are very powerful and infuse me with hope.

      And if you haven’t seen Sophie Turner’s discussion with Dr. Phil about her struggles with depression, consider it.

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    21. OMG (((Petra))) *tears* I don’t post often, but your post touched me so.
      I wish I could hug you, but (((cyber hugs))) instead.
      My mother suffered from severe paranoid-schizophrenia and it made her and her children’s life h*ll. She was never properly diagnosed until I was already an adult.
      After my father passed I cared for her until her passing 9 years later.
      Another commenter here wished you well in beating your illness. I wish there was a cure. It is a lifetime battle, as you likely already know.

      What a wonderful story of how this fandom has helped you. Makes me proud to be a GoT/ASoIaF fan. There are still two books to come and this fandom is not going away.

      I hope you can continue to hang onto us and find the strength to manage the illness with a competent psychiatrist and effective medications. There was one that did wonders for my mother called Zyprexa. Her illness was cyclical and her meds had to be adjusted with her cycles. Spring and mid-Autumn were her down cycles. I sincerely wish you the best of luck in learning how your illness functions within you and being able to find a medical/medication regimen to help make life easier for you. (((hugs)))

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    22. David A,

      Oh yes; and much of this was in some part due to the reaction of fans. or at the very least, certainly caused what was aready there to become worse. Thank goodness she had and continues to have stronog pople around her; she has gained strength of her own fro them

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    23. Thank you, Petra. As a fellow unwilling member of the anxiety/depression team since I was 16, it is always helpful to know others waging similar battles, while at the same time I wish you had never had to. I’m far more connected emotionally to the books and show than any others I’ve read or watched. After a chronic physical illness that has kept me on leave for a couple of years, I’m soon to go back to work, which will be good for routine but of course ramps anxiety to a 10.

      Alfie has played Theon so believably, I can’t imagine someone doing better.

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    24. David A:

      And if you haven’t seen Sophie Turner’s discussion with Dr. Phil about her struggles with depression, consider it.

      I often get annoyed with Dr.Phil himself, but that was a very honest and vulnerable interview for Sophie to do, and I’m so proud of her for it.

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    25. Thank you, Petra, for sharing. You are amazing, and I am so grateful to be a part of this community. I have several family members struggling with similar illnesses. One, in particular, says that she works out issues in her own life by identifying with and taking inspiration from fictional characters. I always have been anxious and uncomfortable in groups and afraid to speak out due to my introverted nature and strict upbringing. But, in mid-life, I have found so many wonderful people through Watchers who have opened my eyes and my heart and my mind. Right now, I am reeling from losing my father-in-law, mother, and father within the past 14 months. The fandom is keeping me afloat. Love being here and looking forward to Con!

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    26. Petra stay strong it will get better. As you get older things will get better. GOT nerds are the best people on earth. We understand being different and embrace it. Fight the good fight to stay with us.

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    27. Petra- thank you for sharing your story. It’s wonderful to recognize that art truly has the power to save lives; to bring people together and to inspire in us the drive to battle anything life may throw our way.

      I have battled depression for years. I suppose having a junkie father kicked it off. Musik got me though, and at some point I realized that I no longer needed to make his problems my own. Social pressures and failed relationships came and went. Always musik remained, and eventually, as before, I realized I had more power in choosing which friendships and relationships were healthy for me. I was on an island in Thailand back in 2004, when a tsunami destroyed it and killed almost 300,000 people in a matter of hours. That was tough, for so many reasons, but mainly because I had no good rationale for such suffering, and I felt guilty to have survived when so many others died. Again, it was musik, Art, and my appreciation of what beauty exists that somehow helped me make sense of what appeared to me to be a very cruel world. I have always been acutely aware of injustice on human levels. But musik and art had helped me process and transform these injustices. Feeling like a failure forever, until finally producing art of undeniable worth- not because it has value for anyone else, but because I can step back and recognize the value I can place in simply having created it, and feeling like I really applied and pushed myself. Just feeling pride in that creation, and the fact that my daughter (the most important creation) tells me I’m her favorite artist, is enough to compel me to keep creating.
      My daughter and I were in Paris for a few days/ we arrived the day after the Notre Dame fire. All Parisians were in mourning, but we attended a vigil and procession that night- thousands of people walking together, singing. She got to experience a very powerful and profound way people can come together following a tragedy- to help cope, find solace, and dig in and focus on hope despite such terrible realities.
      I still struggle. Just today we spent Easter with some friends in London- and there were a couple very, very high profile guests present. I had great conversations with them/ but I’m kicking myself because I didn’t have the balls to just pull one guy aside- an extremely successful producer for decades- and say hey man, do you mind having a quick listen? I’m kicking myself not because I know it’s not good enough- actually I feel the opposite- but because I didn’t have the confidence to just take that risk. What would have been the worst thing to happen? Yeah- would’ve been kindof lame- he was enjoying a holiday as well- but you never know. He was a remarkably down to earth dude despite his accomplishments. Ah, well. Whatever. First world problems, and very superficial ones at that. He did compliment me on how well I’m raising my daughter- so that’s cool. She impressed him. I suppose that’s much more important accomplishment anyway.
      I didn’t set out to write all this- but I suppose I couldn’t stop. Petra, you have created so many cool and valuable experiences for this community and for yourself- you should feel proud. And it all stemmed from an appreciation of a work of art. I hope that in recognizing the worth, the beauty, in what you have and continue to contribute, that you generate the energy to keep you moving through the chaos life will always be counted on to provide.
      Isn’t the story of Easter all about the resurrection? The sun will come back around. As the days grow longer we leave the darkness of the long winter behind, we dream of spring and the summer ahead, and we carry on, doing the best we can.
      Also. I apologize for anything negative I’ve said about the show! Greyjoy storyline- I loved ballintoy harbor IRL, and I truly loved theons/reeks and all the other Greyjoy storylines in the books. 🙂

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    28. (second try to post this as sth seemed to be wrong with my first try)

      i don’t even know where to start. i’m moved by your article, Petra, and i’m moved by all the loving reactions. and by the way in which so many people whose articles or comments i enjoy become sort of visible to me as persons.

      from the few scenes from ep 2 i watched on youtube today, i learned that any knight can make another person a knight. i hope many of the people commenting in this one thread still feel the swords of the other commenters on their shoulders. because all of you did right this: you made each other knights in the ongoing fight for your very own and only lives. and hell, did i read examples of bravery in this fight, a bravery i was not capable of most of the time in my fight.

      i bring the whole spectrum of shit-happens. a fucked up family history, depression, anxiety, complexes, soft drug issues – and a lack of willpower that needs to be paralleled. if i didn’t know better or wanted to be hard against myself i’d say that my greatest achievement is fucking up a suicide attempt 26 years ago.

      i am so thankful to have grown up without weapons in the house. so i just couldn’t remember on that day if my wife’s beretta was locked or unlocked. i felt sort of really ready to go, and i just didn’t want to hear a “click” – that would have sent me straight to an asylum. instead, i fired a test shot into the air. hell, was that loud! the sound was reliable part of my dreams for years after that, waking me up with physical pain. didn’t make things much easier, but at least – from there on i knew i wanted to keep my life. my very own life, the only one i’d ever have. no matter how shitty it appeared to be. and shit was what my life had in store for me for a long time.

      a working social system and years of therapy helped me finding back into a life i can now really call my own. this, and dogs. and as this thread is also about how relating to a character, be it one of GoT or any other can keep us above waterlevel, here’s my Clegane relation. it’s just a bit upside down…

      i’ve been a dogwalker for the past five years now, and i never want to do anything else. dogs are about 90% of the social contacts i can bear. another 5% is this very community, and the rest are really nice people who really exist.

      some time after i chose to appear here as representant of house Chickenfire, i booked a dog for eleven walks per week. his name was nearly Rory: Roxy. his owner was an old man in a nursing home for per average very rich people. or famous people, like e.g. a star from Billy Wilder’s “one, two, three” became a daily “hello” in my life. goodness, in my own unimportant life!

      being fed old school (dinner remains), Roxy developed pancreas problems. which are a serious thing for a dog of 13 years. it took a while to persuade the owner of changing the food. just, there was limited success in persuading Roxy. he didn’t like the veterinary low fat diet food. in the end, the only thing he wanted to eat was: chicken hearts.

      these are small, but at least low on fat. if you cut away the fat remains they are sold with. and that was what i, representant of house Chickenfire, did then. spend hour after hour in the kitchen cutting as much fat as possible from chicken hearts. then cooking them, hacking them, filling portions into freezing bags… preparing the food for one week took two hours of work, and it was a complete mindfucker of work.

      he has gracefully decided to also accept chicken breast, which is much easier to prepare. still, this year i’ve prepared some 25+ kg of chicken hearts. this can’t be done without thinking of Sandor’s famous “you know where the heart is”, and anytime i still had some 200 or so hearts do de-fat, i spoke to myself “i know where the heart is”. cause repetitive jobs can make a man go full nuts, y’know.

      i said this nearly every time i picked a chicken heart in order to make the two or four cuts that would make it consumable for Ser Roxy. and i don’t even know if i was talking about the hearts of hundreds of fooking chickins or about my own. because, Ser Roxy is 13 and six months now, he’s at a new place where he’s absolutely happy, his former owner is absolutely happy with this and still pays for all the expenses – but if it would be necessary, i’d still be preparing the hearts of more fooking chikins than the NK has zombies in his army. because i fooking love this dog!

      i told you: my relation to my favorite GoT character is somewhat upside down. it got thrown at me long after i felt connected to this vulnerated and vulnerable man of harsh words named Sandor Clegane. still, this relation helped me a lot: i mentioned a fucked up family history in the beginning. it resulted in me quitting the family 100% some 30 years ago. so, i have no experience in being at the side of old people i like and who are looking death in the eye. from that point of view, taking this job was a real challenge for me as a person. and i’m surprised how well i responded. might be because i have always known where the heart is.

      this thread has stolen the internet from the bad guys for a while. i’m so fucking proud of all of you here, and that’s so silly, because i will never meet one of you face to face. but here, you gave the internet a good name. i can feel your swords on my shoulder, and i hope you feel mine.

      may all of your lives be full of hand-kisses by Alfie and full of Roxys!

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    29. death by chickenfire,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. And who knows? You might meet some of us someday! It really is incredible, how much this fandom means to a certain group of us… and all the reasons why.

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    30. Wow Petra, I read that with mixed emotions and massive respect for what you have been through. I would like to express my sincere thanks for your dedication in producing articles for this site and brightening all our lives a little whilst wishing you happiness and succcess with whatever the future holds for you.

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    31. Sorry to come here so late, Petra, but I want to thank you for sharing this intensely personal and difficult story.

      This series, with Sue, Akash and you sharing such personal, often difficult stories
      (and now Patrick contributing a less fraught one) of your ASoIaF/GoT fandom is brave and what makes WoTW so special. No matter who we are, what our circumstances, we’re one family here when it comes to our GoT/ASoIaF fandom here at WoTW.

      Thoughtful, fairly balanced (OK, so everybody’s got their favourites, 😀 but that’s allowed) articles, and such a lovely BTL community: mostly polite and respectful of others’ opinions. OK, things get a bit heated sometimes but don’t descend into typical internet name-calling hate-hell.

      I don’t know how much work the moderators do to keep it that way (probably a lot!) but I’d also like to think we self-moderate quite a bit. We bite once or twice at an obvious troll, chew them up and spit them out and then largely ignore, and they get bored and go where their shit-stirring receives a bigger reaction.

      Also, Petra, can I say how much I liked the video essays you did with Luka and alone. I really enjoyed them. Keep up the good work!

      Oh, and as to Theon. His chapters in ADWD are some of the best GRRM has ever written. I might not like Theon as a character, as a great favourite, but those chapters are just brilliant. They make me feel for Reek/Theon like never before, and they’re perfect thriller chapters, a pressure cooker about to explode.

      The show has taken a different road but I think the important beats are still there. We hated Theon in S2 for what he did; now, in S8, we well up when he and Sansa hug and share an evening meal among the people in Winterfell on the eve of their probable deaths.

      I’m an unashamed Jaime fan, an unashamed Jaime&Brienne shipper, so the season’s highlights so far have been their scenes, but it’s been good to have Theon back as well. For however long it lasts. Not long, I’m afraid. 🙁

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    32. Thanks for sharing, Petra! I am glad I have read your moving essay and, although I’m afraid it’s to late for you to read my post, I must tell you how much I relate to your pain and love for GOT.
      Depression and anxiety have been my white walkers since my childhood, I think, but I went to psychotherapy only when I understood I needed it, when I was in my twenties. I come from a suffocating family, who are great at love-hate relationships and have their own medical history. I have never loved myself and, therefore, it’s very hard to find people to love me back. I have worked very hard to get the job of my dreams: to get paid for reading and writing, but nowadays the institute I work at seems to pick only projects which are disliked by me and the co-workers I’m friends with.
      When I found out that spring-summer 2019 would be a hectic period of time at work, it sounded like a bad joke – that was supposed to be my GOT time! I’m trying very hard to keep up, but unfortunately I can’t stay on this amazing site as much as I want. Watchers on the Wall has been my oxygen tank for several years and it makes me feel that I am not alone. I don’t have GOT fans around me, except for my therapist – and that’s how I know I have found the right therapist 🙂
      Be well, Petra, and always have good winds for smooth sailing! Be well, fellow fans, I’m happy that GOT has brought us in the same place.

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