THAT SAID… the concept of sussing out the tropes in advance and mentally taking a swig whenever a doozy comes up?
Is incredibly useful as a mental health technique, especially around issues of trauma and health, such as after a miscarriage, after a diagnosis, divorce, etc.
For example, once upon a time I was pregnant and miscarried. It was hard, it was awful, it was something that happens all the goddamn time to people trying to have a baby, and I was pretty fucking devastated.
My husband was great, said all the right things. So were my family. And friends who’d been through it were very good as well.
One friend was… not. She came over and started talking and by the time I bluntly told her I was too tired and needed to go lie down, she’d basically brought up all the tropes, starting with, “You can always have another” and ending with, “Well, at least it was early so it didn’t hurt too bad.”
And the way I got through this? I made a mental drinking game while she was talking. “You can always have another?” *swallow* “This is god’s way of taking care of a problem,” *gulp* “It’s probably better this way, there was probably something wrong.” *fucking drinking the bottle*
And then that last one… and I just said, “Actually it was the most excruciating thing I’ve ever been through, I need to go lie down.”
Don’t think too badly of her–she was young and has since learned how to be a very good support to people going through that process. But for me, the only way to get through being in social situations immediately after the miscarriage was to armor myself with that list of terrible things I knew people would say, ticking off the number like a goddamn game of find the license plate.
When I’m in public and talking to random strangers who make small talk with me, I have another drinking game.
“How’s the cancer treatment going” (seriously, multiple people have pulled this shit on me in one flavor or another. I don’t have cancer.) (do a shot)
“How are you feeling today?” (Yeah, I know that’s a normal question around here, but ffs, I’m bald, fat, using a motorized cart, and getting exhausted even though I’m sitting down, please don’t ask me that question…. *swig*)
“Nice wheels!” (It’s a goddamn grocery store scooter and it’s going to die any second because it’s 5:30 pm and you’re standing in the way of the avocados. *sip*)
“Oh, my *relative* has *unrelated medical condition*, I know what you’re going through!” (Smile and swallow another gulp.)
You can even play this with your own brain when you’re having intrusive thoughts, as a way of defusing them.
The point is to reframe the stimulus so that it doesn’t have power over you. It’s training your brain not to trip and fall down the emotional pit when you’re not ready for it. You do it in your head, and it gives you a moment to come up with a more diplomatic response than “What the fuck is wrong with you” when you don’t feel like getting into it with someone.