Modern Life Support: Mental Illness and Gaming
I used to write on a tumblr that I called Modern Life Support. I used it to talk about personal development topics and my own personal struggles with depression and anxiety and finding my way through this crazy thing we call life. I hope to be able to bring some of those thoughts over to this blog, and connect them to my experiences in hobby gaming. A good gaming friend, Eric Leath of the Games And Grub blog recently shared some details of some personal struggles he went through at GenCon that resonated with me, and I wanted to share some thoughts regarding mental illness and my encounters with it in my hobby gaming experiences. NOTE: I am in no way a mental health professional. I have zero training. I’ve been through therapy and work with a psychiatrist. All that I share is my personal opinion. But first, I’ll give a little back story as to why I started Modern Life Support, after the jump.
Back in 2006, my father passed away at the age of 67 from heart failure due to complications from previous heart attacks. It was a roller coaster period in my life where we thought he was going to pull through, then had complications, and there was a period of about 24 hours where most of us didn’t really know what was going on, doctors included unfortunately. When he finally passed, it was a massive shock to my system. One I still struggle with today. He was my family’s rock. He was our barometer. We guided our course, for better or worse. And when he died, I was left feeling lost and confused. My one big constant in life was no longer a constant. And I started to question what I could actually rely on as a constant from then on.
This experience led me down a path of personal development. At first it was a desperate search for answers and new constants to lean on. Over time, it evolved into more of an acceptance and an attempt to find new ways of thinking and looking at life. One of the biggest and most important lessons I learned through this period of my life was that hiding from the truth was destructive and detrimental to any chance of improvement I might have. Once I started to open up about my problems, both to professionals and to friends and family, I started to realize that I was not alone, that struggle can almost be considered a constant thing shared by many of us. I wouldn’t say that things started to make sense, and answers were suddenly right there in front of my face, but I definitely was making improvements in coming to terms with the realities of life.
I shared some details about my struggles with depression and anxiety in a previous post, Eric shared some details of his struggles in his recap post, and other people I’ve met through hobby gaming have shared privately with me that they struggle with similar things. Similar struggles against our own brains and against life in general are becoming more and more apparent to me within the hobby gaming community. And, in my unprofessional ignorant opinion, I believe it could be much more condensed or distilled within the gaming community as compared to others.
I think that being around like-minded individuals who share passions and interests that are a little “off the beaten path” gives us a sense of camaraderie and connection. But I think that same camaraderie and connection. especially when amplified by a con, can lead some of us with diagnosed mental illnesses to weakening our mental defenses we have built up or losing site of the triggers that set us off. We’re around “our people” and there are so many opportunities put in front of us to dive headlong into our hobby, a hobby that we may have difficulty diving into as deeply outside of a con. And for some, there could be business, career, or financial involvement which can add even more stress.
Everyone’s struggle is a personal one. What works for me to get through my issues, probably won’t work for someone else. But if we can have the courage to open up about our struggles, and share some of the things we do to work through them, or even specifically ask for help, I think we’re setting ourselves up for even stronger connections and to have a more genuine and enjoyable experience. Now, I know that this is no simple thing to propose. It involves a lot of trust and faith that our openness won’t come back to bite us. But I think the hobby gaming community has the potential to support this. I’ve met some truly amazing people through gaming. Some of the nicest, most genuine, people. And I think those are the kind of people to seek out, to focus on strengthening connections with, in the hopes of getting to a point that we can be open with them about what we’re feeling and going through. And there are a lot of people in this community who will shit all over us for talking about things like this or won’t be as open and understanding about the significance of what we’re sharing. Personally, I don’t care about what those people think, and will not change how I live my life to adapt to them.
I dunno, I think I’ve rambled long enough on this topic and I’m not sure I’ve made any salient points in it or not. I guess I’ll just summarize by saying that I’m not ashamed of who I am, or how my brain works. And I believe that no one else should be ashamed either.