9/03/2014

Depression and Gaming, For Me

I generally try and keep things positive on this blog.  Gaming, be it boardgames, videogames, or roleplaying games, is a refuge for me and focusing on the negative aspects of these hobbies makes them less so.  So generally, when I start to feel depressed, I just get quiet rather than letting that depression color what I'm saying about things I love.

And it's been pretty quiet here.

So maybe I should talk about the depression a bit and my journey in my hobbies, since they sort of parallel each other.

My depression really starts at the end of my preteen years and the start of my teenage ones.  My parents were first separating, then divorcing, during this period.  My dog ran away three separate times, before finally never coming back.  I had to leave all my friends and go to a different school for the second time in my life.  My pet turtle died.  I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and then depression.  And in eighth grade I had a major surgery to correct the fact that my left leg grew faster than my right.

Until that point I wasn't always an enthusiastic athlete, but I was athletic and in excellent shape.  I played sports and dreamed of playing organized, maybe even professional, basketball.  I didn't realize that dream would die with the surgery, and I didn't realize how much it'd hurt.  But I'm not sure I've ever recovered from it.  A little over a year after the first surgery, I had a second for a fractured kneecap.  By the time that had healed, I'd spent almost two full years out of three in casts.  And I'd gained a large portion of the weight I've yet to manage to put back off.

I have been socially awkward since I told my kindergarten class I wanted to be a paleontologist and they all laughed at me.  It got a little worse each year until I found myself a high school freshman eating alone in a dark classroom with older kids hurling trash (including a battery which hit me in the head) at me.  I was suicidal at that point.

It was roleplaying, and writing, that saved me.

I first played videogames at three years old.  My parents bought a NES with Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt.  By the time Mega Man 3 came out, I was trying to come up with my own bosses and levels, and telling the kids at school how to act them out.

My third grade teacher gave us an assignment to write a story.  Mine was "The Futuristic Dinosaur."  The teacher took my writing (and illustrations!) and bound it into cloth and cardboard binding and entered it into a contest.  I don't recall winning anything, but I was more proud of my silly little book than anything.  I still have it.

My only older cousin introduced me to first DnD and then BattleTech shortly thereafter.  Between recording KASS (kickass radio, naturally) tapes, playing Final Fantasy while pulling all-nighters, and playing tag with our friends, we came up with the Stanley's Callers, a BattleTech mercenary team whose colors were purple and gold.  We even had shirts.  And I was writing about the characters we'd come up with.

In sixth grade, I submitted a story I'd written about them to a writing contest.  Again, no victory, but at 12 pages, it was the longest thing I'd ever written.  It had four characters, loosely based on myself, my cousin, my sister, and a character from GI Joe.

And then the writing stopped.  For three years.

But the ideas didn't.  In this period the seeds of some of my oldest characters had their roots.  Kayle, swordsman and defender.  Originally a Saturday morning cartoon style hero complete with transformation sequence.  Legaius, shamanistic speaker-to-wolves.  Originally Legacy, child of heroes, fighting to find his way.  Lancer, high-soaring spearman.  Originally a paladin in service of justice.

They were the ticket to my solution.  I made friends with a couple of other freshmen not long after the battery incident.  Eventually we'd be called "Loners in a Group."  One of them told me about online, play by post roleplaying he was doing.  I took the plunge.

My depression had begun to lift and with it the block to my writing.

By the time I hit college, I was writing a page a day of my own fiction on top of assignments for class.  My depression was at its nadir; I was happy, had a robust group of friends, and I had confidence that I could make my new dream of being a published author work. I played videogames daily, boardgames frequently, and roleplaying games weekly.

Short, intense bouts of depression have come and gone over the last ten years.  But for about the last 10 months, I've been fighting a particularly intense swing.  It got a lot worse when I started having to work more over the summer, not because of the work but because I was pushing myself beyond my physical limits while fighting depression-born anxiety about every facet of my job.

I managed to stick to my writing, and healthy eating/living, goals for the first few months, but over the last six, I've struggled to accomplish anything beyond putting one foot in front of the other. Worse, I didn't even realize what was happening until about three months ago at a concert.  The artist was discussing her own low points and suddenly I was outside myself in a moment of clarity.  I used the brief momentum I had from that to try and get help.  I've been seeing doctors and taking supplements.

My games have never stopped during this time, but keeping notes has been a struggle.  Turning those notes into posts, more so.  I have three WoW sessions waiting to be finished.  But as the darkness is slowly receding, I'm starting to write more.  I'm hoping I'll have something to show for it, soon.

Until then I leave this encouragement.  We all get lost in the dark sometimes, but those of us who build a community out of interacting through games have a light in the dark if we choose to look.