For anyone who has been reading my posts during the past few years, it is easy to say that I am not a well man. Yes, there’s something off about me, and I have embraced it personally. I feel that this community has embraced me as well, giving me a forum to pour out the flotsam and jetsam that are the thoughts in my head, that inevitably all lead back to my passion, video games... and alcohol, and sometimes cannabis... but mostly video games...... and beer.
It is pretty obvious that gaming is a passion of mine. I wouldn’t be writing here if it wasn’t. I’ve written in the past how life has gotten in the way of that passion. School, work, relationships, family, and all the complications that come when one gets older, have a way of chipping away at valuable gaming time. This has been a topic covered by me and others ad nauseum.
I (and others) have also written how gaming has become a coping mechanism for the trials and tribulations that is life in general. Gaming has been one of the ways for me to stay grounded. No matter what is going on in my life, for over 35 years, gaming has been a constant. I make time to play video games, along with exercise, writing, spending time with my family, and doing home improvement projects.
What you may not know is that I also live with anxiety, depression, and now, apparently, OCD. The OCD part is not at all surprising, now that I think of it. I see a therapist, psychiatrist and I’m on meds, to help balance me out. It is essential for me to stay active and engaged with my hobbies and family, as well as being supported by my therapists, or I will quite literally break down. I have to admit; the breakdowns have become much frequently lately. Now, more than ever, finding ways to cope has become even more imperative.
I used to be hesitant to admit to these things. Now, I really don’t give a fuck who knows. Mental health is something that doesn’t get any way near the amount of attention it deserves in society. It is a global epidemic and, in my humble opinion, a lot of problems could be solved if there wasn’t such a stigma associated with mental health.
The more people who come out and admit that they need help, or are getting help, the better the world will be. I used to feel embarrassed that I had anxiety and depression. I would try to tell myself that there was no reason for me to feel down or depressed even when things were going great. I have everything I could ever want, a beautiful home, a family, a well-paying if not highly demanding job. Want more could I want?
Then you come to the realization that none of that matters because how I feel is predicated on the cocktail of chemicals in my brain, which are sometimes slightly off. Look at all the famous people who lived and are living with depression and you have proof that money and power mean nothing when it comes to mental health. Then look at all the famous people, with unlimited resources at their disposal, who fought, and lost their battles against depression. Heroes of mine, like Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Anthony Bourdain, etc... and sometime I ask, this battle is hopeless. What chance do I have?
Depression is an everyday battle, that is real. There is not a day that goes by that is not impacted, in some way, by my mental illness. I need an arsenal of coping mechanisms and a certain amount of structure to get me through the day. Without these coping mechanisms, I will fall into a hole.
Gaming is an essential outlet and coping mechanism for me. It's not a cure, but simply one of many things that I do to get myself out of a funk when I feel like I’m slipping down a hole.
My therapist thinks that gaming is not the best outlet and to this I disagree. She mentions that games are too stimulating and that when I play them at night before bed, it probably disrupts my sleep. One would think that this makes sense, but thanks to the wonders that is modern technology and my Apple Watch, this is simply not true, at least, not in my case. My heart rate actually decreases when I’m gaming. One time, while play Red Dead Redemption 2, my resting heart rate dipped to 35 beats per minute. I know this, because my Apple Watch pinged me to ask if I was dying.
Nope, I wasn’t dying, I was relaxed, riding my horse into a digital sunset, and my resting heart rate, which is already low (thanks to exercise and running) was responding to the serene imagery on my screen.
Perhaps I was playing a game that was simply too relaxing? I tested this theory the following day, playing some more intense online shooters (Destiny and PUBG) and my resting heart rate was between 45 to 55 BPM. So, for me at least, gaming relaxes me, and is a good outlet for my anxiety.
I also need structure to my day to day life as this helps with my anxiety. I like being in control, and having a plan. I’m not spontaneous, which is pretty funny, because my actual job necessities me being really into developing processes, planning, and organization. Nothing brings me more joy than a really nice checklist, spreadsheet, or logical project plan. It makes me feel all warm and gooey inside. Gaming is on my actual daily checklist of tasks, and if I can’t get in a game in, even if it’s just 30 minutes, then I get all out of sorts. Yes, I know, this is obsessive compulsive behavior.
Gaming has helped me with my obsessive compulsiveness. Playing a game is one thing, but finishing the main story, doing every side mission, finding every collectable, and getting to or as close to 100% completion is the goal. I’m naturally attracted to open world games, like GTA, Red Dead, or games that require to level up your character, like Destiny 1 and 2, but any game that has anything unlockable is fair game. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing a fully completed world map, or seeing my character’s power tick up one notch, it helps to scratch my obsessive compulsive itch, which is better, I suppose than washing my hands until they bleed, or checking the locks 100 times, or having a ritualistic approach to turning off the gas stove that involves checking all the nobs, clapping three times, and singing the Mongolian national anthem.
My goal is not to trivialize mental illness, but simply shed some more light on it and share how I cope with it. Gaming is a small, but not unimportant part of my coping process. I hope that me sharing some of my challenges helps some of you out there. Perhaps you’re not familiar of mental illness, or maybe you’re struggling as well. If so, I hope this post resonates with you and hopefully, helps you in some way.