Avery Alder McDaldno  wrote these words  to a friend who was struggling.

Read.  Savour.  Try them out.  Repeat.

“Writing this for a specific friend, making it generally available because why not?”


1.) Load the following albums onto your phone or ipod or whatever you have:
“The Coroner’s Gambit” by The Mountain Goats
“The Sunset Tree” by The Mountain Goats
“Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn” by Do Make Say Think
“The Knot” by Wye Oak
“Neon Bible” by Arcade Fire
“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire
“The Family Jewels” by Marina & The Diamonds
“Fantasies” by Metric

Whenever you are sitting at your computer and fighting off an unending urge to write hateful messages, or burn bridges, or tweet “fuck everything kill me” over and over again…. stop. Get up. Put on warm clothing. Blow your nose, sip some water, go pee. Grab your music and leave your house. Don’t think about it, just get ready and go. Start walking around. Wear clothing you’ll feel comfortable and safe in. As you walk, put on an album. Play through at least one of these albums, possibly two.

Do this whenever you need to. If that’s once a month, that’s okay. If it’s forty to ninety minutes of walking on a daily basis, that’s okay. Your body will feel energized and your mind will be at rest. Don’t try to make this a productive walk. Just walk and listen and look at leaves along your path occasionally.

2.) Take a long bath. Ideally a really warm one with epsom salts. Ensure dim lighting, and either little noise or soothing music. Take as long a bath as possible. Warn your housemates first if it’s your only bathroom.

3.) Have some boring food always on hand. For me, it’s Ryvita and organic peanut butter. Whenever you feel trembly, and realize you might not have eaten enough, begin eating it. If you think “Oh shit, I probably need to eat a meal asap,” then just start eating Ryvita and peanut butter (or your equivalent) even as you decide what you are going to make yourself to eat. Go to your boring healthful food and start shoving it in your mouth. Don’t doubt, don’t think, don’t plan. Just put boring healthful food in your mouth. Then, as you’re chewing, THEN you can start thinking and planning. But first, eat some bites.

Why am I stressing so much about eating? Because our needs are a pyramid: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maslow%27s_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg We need to eat before we can properly address feeling safe, and we need to address feeling safe before we can improve our relationships, and so forth. Start at the base of the pyramid. Move up it like a checklist.

File:Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.svg

4.) Here’s something I spent $750 of someone else’s money to learn in fancy therapy: your THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, and BEHAVIORS form a triangle. Shift any one of those three points and you get a radically different triangle. People often show up to therapy trying to change their thoughts. Like you can just white-out the bad ideas and write some good ones over top. THOUGHTS is the hardest of those three points to shift. You want to change the shape of the triangle asap? Work on changing your BEHAVIORS and experimenting with how that affects your FEELINGS.

You’ll note that points number 1 – 3 are all just single examples of this idea. I have toxic thoughts. I want to get rid of them. The task isn’t to out-think them. It’s to ignore them and jump to changing my BEHAVIOR. Do that, and you have a radically different triangle.

(Triangle metaphor and pyramid metaphor don’t necessarily interact. They just happen to be the same shape.)

5.) Look at yourself in the mirror. Say the thing you’re scared of aloud. Now that it’s out of your head, now that it’s a bit more tangible, you can probably recognize that it’s less scary than you thought it was. In horror movies, they keep the monster in the shadows because our imaginations are better at scaring us than anything tangible ever could be. Just speak the name of the thing you’re scared of. Aloud. In person. To a mirror.

Then, say the thing you need to hear to expel your fear. Say it to yourself, confidently, sassily, triumphantly. Dorkily. You’ll look and sound like a dork. You’ll be looking into the mirror after having just said “I’m afraid I’ve lost her forever” and now you’ll be grinning and saying, “You’re a fucking magnetic tiger” over and over again.

But it works. Speaking our fears aloud lets us realize that they will be manageable. Hearing courageous things aloud lets us believe they are possible. You will feel like a dork saying these things but it will be helpful.

Thanks Avery for this amazing  menu of things to try in those scared and shaky moments.

  What songs would you add to the play list?   What helps you keep “those feelings of trembling, self-destructive doom at bay?”


Avery was originally from the Kootenays, but now lives in Vancouver creating amazing games and curating an on-line magazine.  Avery describes the power of story and  games and some links if you want to know more:

My name is Avery Alder Mcdaldno, and Buried Without Ceremony is my workshop. It’s also where you’ll find Monsterhearts, Perfect unrevisedRibbon Drive, and The Quiet Year.


I have a few principles that I follow, in my game designs.

My designs are meaningful and thoughtful. 
Even the simplest and smallest among them are designed to provoke meaning.

My designs are simple and shareable.
They are easy to teach and can be played within one or two sessions.

My designs are near and dear to my heart.
You can discern my secret self through them.


I believe a few things pretty seriously:
We are strongly moved by and informed by stories.
Stories unify communities.
Stories reveal who we are.

The beautiful thing is that we don’t owe stories anything, meaning we are free to create them, explore them, deconstruct them and learn from them as we see fit. We are free to draw from them only what we want and need, and to leave them afterward. There is a certain joy to this freedom, which I summarize as a freedom to “bury without ceremony”.


Who are these games for? They’re for dreamers and thinkers, for people wanting to fasten reins to their curiosity and imagination. They’re for those who play passionately, who take stories by the throat. They’re for gamers, actors, pretenders, explorers and the curious.

They’re for all the sketchy punks who would rather reclaim storytelling than let some impersonal man behind some impersonal screen write their media for them.




and a blog with excellent writing and lots of provocative ideas for both games and life:


p.s. Some of these games you can pay for by doing  good deeds!




  1. This is an incredible menu for supporting those in needs and I thoroughly agree with all of these suggestions. Sometimes our environment is the demon in our struggles and can be the most stimulating factor when we are feeling self destructive or scared. Getting outside and having a change of scenery can get those “feel good” hormones flowing and taking a look around allows us to see all of the good things the world has to offer and may produce a more optimistic perspective. I also appreciate the use of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. When I have worked with troubled teens in the past, I have produced a document of an empty pyramid and explained the different levels to the individual I have supported. I then encourage the individual to write in the different things they feel are lacking in each level. This allows reflection and discussion about their challenges that may have gone unsaid in the past and this silence has created emotional pain. Then, I encourage them to fill in the levels with positive examples. For example, in the love/belonging level I would ask them to write about one friend they feel has been there for them or someone they feel they can confide in. This activity aims to promote reflection, recognition, and acknowledgement of negative feelings or experiences but shift focus towards positivity and optimism of the good areas of the individuals life. I am a nursing student and I have a very strong interest in promoting mental health and wellbeing. I would love to use this menu when providing support to individuals that may be struggling. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Thanks Aly for your thoughtful reflection and sharing the way that you have used Maslow’s triangle I also like the H.A.L.T. idea – – to check out if you are Hungry Angry Lonely or Tired and to recognize that all those states make you more vulnerable and that sometimes just getting some protein or a nap can shift things a smidgen. Our body/minds seem so complex sometimes, but knowing that there are some things to try might just give the first baby step towards shifting things.

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