My therapist came up with a way for me to better deal with my negative, self-critical thoughts. I have many of them. You’re such a loser. You suck. That was incredibly stupid. These came at me multiple times a day.
She shared that for a start, I’m to realise that these thoughts all come from my inner critic, and they are not necessarily true. My inner critic can insult and taunt me all she wants, but she has no power over me once I realise that whatever she lobbies at me are just thoughts. And thoughts do not equal reality.
We started off by naming my inner critic. I decided to name her Katrina. I was also asked to draw how I thought she looked like. So, with my limited drawing skills, I scrawled out a tall, skinny lady with a long sharp nose, who was perpetually tight-lipped and frowning.
It can sometimes be a pretty fun way to deal with my negative thoughts. For example, if I had thoughts like you dumbass, you’re a failure, and so on, I would snap back, out loud, “Shut up, Katrina!”
I also started drawing her into comic strips. I’d feature her as a clumsy, stupid villain, while my protective side, named Harriet, was the kickass heroine.
Coming up with a name and character for my kinder, more self-compassionate side was my idea. My therapist didn’t seem to object to it.
I kept drawing the comic strips, practicing talking back to Katrina, giving Harriet a louder voice, and over time, I felt the balance within me shift. I was feeling just a little bit more confident, and a ray of sunshine was peeking through my perpetual dark clouds.
One night, I was drawing a scene of Harriet blasting Katrina into space, feeling empowered and a little gleeful.
“That’s not what I look like”. An unnaturally high-pitched, childlike voice spoke in a sing-song manner, right beside my left ear, the cold breath tickling my ear lobes. I could almost feel the lips brush by my ear, the voice was that close. I froze. I didn’t dare to turn, to look to my left. My eyes glued to the front.
“Don’t you wanna see how I look like?” The voice spoke again, this time a coy whisper in my right ear.
I wanted to draw on, to ignore it, but my fingers wouldn’t move. I steeled myself, bracing for any sudden movements from the girl with the voice.
It lightly hopped forward, a flash of white and red, and I looked down, refusing to look at it.
“I think I’m pretty. Don’t you think?” The childish, piping voice went on.
I stared down resolutely, cold beads of sweat forming on my forehead and on the palms of my hands, which had gone icy cold.
Within a fraction of a second, it swopped up, pale face looming directly in front of mine. “Look at me!” The voice had changed, taking on a hellishly low and broken timbre, which blended into the previous falsetto. The duality of the voice was enough to freeze the blood in my veins. Even staring down, I couldn’t help but make out the pale skin, blood red lips and sharp canine teeth.
Cold hard hands gripped the sides of my head, and forced my gaze up. “Look at me!” It growled again, in that same blood curdling double pitched voice.
For a fraction of a second, I caught sight of it in its full glory, blackened sockets, dark eyes without eye whites, red hair tied in braids on both sides of its face. The teeth glinted in the gory gash of its mouth.
Then the face rapidly warped into that of a little girl’s. Pale skin, big black eyes, sallow cheeks, red lips, with two red circles painted onto the centre of her cheeks. It…she looked human now, but no less terrifying.
She took a step back, and tilted her head. “Why did you draw me so ugly?” She asked, her voice back to the original high-pitched and childish tone.
I looked at her, unable to speak, to form a sentence in my head.
“Why?” She asked again, and her voice hardened.
“You…you were mean. You said terrible things.”
“But I only told the truth. I always tell the truth. You’re a horrible person, so I told you so.”
She sounded like she was stating an innocent truth, but I knew she was toying with me, enjoying every minute of her taunts.
I refused to respond. Then it popped into my head.
“Does Harriet exist too?” I asked.
“Why? So she can swoop in and save you? From me, tiny old me? You little weakling.” She giggled, a tinkering mess of bells that sent chills down my spine.
“She’s gone now, dear one. Harriet was here once, she fancied herself your guardian angel. So I cut her into little pieces, and mixed her up in your food. You didn’t even notice!” She continued to giggle, turning away, bending and covering her mouth
I was losing control. The fear was building up, reaching my limit. I couldn’t keep a straight mind. I was panicking, and about to just curl up into a ball, shut my eyes and give up. But I couldn’t. I knew that would be the end of me. And I wasn’t ready for that.
A surge of anger flashed within me. “You can’t…you can’t scare…” I trailed off, choked on my words when she turned her head to face me, neck stretched past what was humanly possible. She had turned her head a complete 180, and I stared into her eyes, levelled right above her back.
In my blinding fear, I heard myself blurt out, “That’s such a cliché horror move. You don’t scare me”.
The rage seethed in her demonic eyes. Her face changed, morphing back to its monstrous nature, her fangs gnashing uncomfortably close to my eyeball, as she lunged at me, face first, body still twisted the other way.
Something snapped and I think I lost my mind completely. Staring down the completely blacked out eyes of hers, I bellowed, “GET THE FUCK OUT, KATRINA.
The thing seemed startled, and it morphed back to the little girl version of itself. “Get the fuck out,” I repeated evenly, steel in my voice. She just stared at me, unreadable.
“Get the fuck out! Fuck you, Katrina, fuck you, and get out!” I raged, and grabbed the scissors at my table, slashing at her.
I didn’t even realise it when she was gone. I caught a small drop of blood on the floor though. I wonder if I got her, just a little, or if I’d hurt myself without realising it.
The door opened, and my mother stood in the doorway, shock plastered all over her face.
“Darling! Are you okay? What’s happened?” She’d rushed in, then gingerly pried the scissors from my hand. I didn’t tell her what had happened. She had enough to deal with. I just hugged her really close, and began to sob.
I remember making up some unconvincing, cock-and-bull story about being stressed out, and acting out my anger by pretending to slice up my bad thoughts. She seemed to buy it though, and really quickly. I think she just wanted things to be normal, to be okay.
Katrina hangs out with me now, almost every day. But she mostly just sits or squats at the foot of my bed, under the dining table, on the window sill, under the covers, anywhere from which she could look at me, listen to me. She was almost always unspeaking, staring at me with a flat expression on her face. Sometimes, she’d whisper insults into my ear, when I’m least expecting it. But I didn’t really mind it much, not anymore. She’s also been doing it less and less over time.
The only time she truly concerns me, are when I awake in the middle of the night, suffocating, to her perched on my chest, staring down at me with her big dark eyes, pale skin piercing even the darkness of the night.
But I’ll manage.