CW: depression, mental illness
I have been told that I overshare about my mental struggles online. I just feel like not talking about them makes them seem like some unspeakable thing that should only be mentioned in whispers, and that doesn’t seem to do much to combat the stigma. Being open about things is a way I can take action to bring mental illness out of the shadows where it can be talked about without shame. That said, if reading about depression is likely to cause you any kind of anxiety or discomfort, I am going to write a second, less personal post that I will link to right here so that you can move on.
Hi. My name is Mia, and I am depressed.
That is to say that I have what the alphabet soup coalition calls MDD, or major depressive disorder, for which I am mightily medicated. Right now, the meds don’t seem to be helping very much, which is distressing on its own because every time I think I’ve found something that is going to work to get me stable and productive in the long term, I eventually have some kind of depressive episode that blows that theory all to heck.
What does this have to do with MMOs? Lots of depressed people play games, you might say. This is true. I just thought I would take a moment to talk about the relationship between gaming and depression for me. Everyone is different, and everyone’s difficulties manifest in different ways, so I am only speaking for my own experience here.
The first phase when I am approaching a depressive episode, but I am not down in the abyss yet, is the escapist phase. This is when I use games to escape my own mental state and my inability to negotiate the world when I am in decline. In its more mild form, this is similar to using games as a vacation from the grind of real life. In its more severe form, it is similar to the way people lose jobs and flunk out of school, using games as a distraction that lets them avoid real life.
The second phase is the part where I can’t and don’t play games at all because I struggle with making even simple decisions like what I will play or what I will do once I am logged in. I am not motivated to do anything really, and I don’t enjoy anything either. At that phase, I open the folder on my desktop where I keep all my games, look at them, and close it. I might look again after a few minutes, the way you re-check a refrigerator that you know is empty, but then I wander off and sleep or stare blankly at the TV or sit with a blank piece of paper and a pen in my hand as if I might draw or write.
I don’t draw or write. I just sit there feeling bad about not being able to think of anything to draw or write. I feel a little guilty about not really even wanting to draw or write.
Sooner or later, it fades and I resume being a somewhat normal person. I used to kid myself that the episode that just ended was really the last one, and I’d just be normal from that point on. It turns out that depression tends to come back, especially if your history with it is very, very long. I’ve had depression since I was in elementary school, so it probably isn’t going to magically go away. The meds minimize the frequency, intensity, and duration of episodes, but they still come around at varying levels a few times a year. I also struggle with a couple of anxiety disorders, but the same medication that keeps me on a more even keel also ameliorates anxiety to some degree. Two birds with one pill. Or three pills, which seems a lot less efficient when I put it that way.
I am currently between phase one and phase two. If you’re the praying type, pray for me. If you’re the playing type, save my place in the queue. I’ll be back.