What a crappy title. But I don't know how else to start it but by being blunt about what I want to talk about. Also, fair warning - this is probably going to be a long post and there may be some intense discussion and topics that make a lot of people uncomfortable. If you're OK with that then read on and please, please chip in with your thoughts and questions.
I have some mental health issues. I have been diagnosed with chronic depression and am currently medicated for it and have had psychological treatment. I have also been diagnosed and suffer from issues with OCD and GAD (those acronyms mean Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder, for those unfamiliar). There is an enormous misunderstanding and stigma attached to issues of mental health, which is why there is often so little discussion of it unless it is directly affecting you or someone very close to you. If not then it's fair that your perception of the mentally ill is 'mentals', 'nutters' or an American equivalent of those seemingly incredibly British terms.
People will often say that they are 'depressed' when they are very sad. Which is fine, but is not the clinical definition of depression. Sometimes someone will describe themselves as having OCD when they are merely clean, or organised. As with damn near everything to do with mental health, there is a spectrum to the severity of these conditions but the examples above are not examples of someone with a mental illness. Depression is largely unrelated to the topics I wanted to discuss (although I'm very open as to my experiences if anybody wants to know more), but it's long been the bedrock of my other issues so it bears mentioning that it is not feeling 'sad'. It is a complete and utter emptiness and disconnection from your emotions, motivations and regular thought patterns. It can be utterly debilitating and sometimes the thought (literally the thought, not the action) of leaving your bed can seem an impossible challenge. When it goes on untreated for over a decade - like it did for me - the damage it does to your thinking patterns and general lifestyle is enormous. It takes a long time to come back from that, but I'm working on it. Anyway, moving on...
OCD is exactly what it's name implies. Obsessive behaviours, done Compulsively in a way that makes your thoughts and life Disordered. It's also horrendously debilitating, and the focus of how some of my issues relate to one of my main passions - gaming.
The reason I'm writing this is because of a largely misguided post in which I asked if other people who had preordered the next Assassin's Creed game wanted to join in their Unite program, which incentivises you to team up with three other people who have preordered the game in order to unlock exclusive content. There's the rub. Exclusivity. By it's nature that means that the entire experience isn't 'complete' without the exclusive. That is literally one of the most triggering things to me. Writing it down and reading it back I of course understand the nonsensical amount of emotion placed in something that is meant to be entertainment. But it's there, and it constantly burrows it's way to the surface of my thoughts, until it can be challenged and put back to rest.
This is particularly true of achievements/trophies and multiplayer levels/unlocks as well. There are times where I have gone for a week without being able to sleep or eat properly because my entire life is taken up with the endless cycling question of how to boost the next goal, how to organise a group of total strangers to achieve what I need to stop the incessant nagging feeling of incompleteness that I currently have, because I've not maxed or 'completed' this game or another. My thoughts race endlessly, checking websites that track achievements and trophies, checking, rechecking and then checking again that I understand what needs doing, then panicking because the thought of getting strangers to help me with these specific tasks is nightmarish. So I think and plan more, and then the anxiety becomes more - so I have to plan more... And so on. It's ridiculous but completely paralysing. And frankly quite terrifying when it really gets it claws in.
I'm not writing this as though I'm past all these issue either, I still struggle with them (and many other besides) daily. It's a long and difficult process to rewire your thinking patterns, but it's something that I'm working on and writing my actual thoughts out tends to help objectify them as what they really are - thoughts. These are coping mechanisms that I've built myself so I don't have to deal with the core issues that made me depressed in the first place.
Ok, what a huge rambling stream of conscious post that was. Hopefully there's enough coherence to latch on to that you can at least get the gist of what it's like to suffer from a mental disorder that can be made worse by a hobby that you genuinely love. Please - as said above - sound off with your thoughts, opinions and if you feel able to, your experiences. I think it's important that the reason we're all here in the first place (we love games!) be examined and seen from all angles and be discussed in an open way.
Thanks for your time duders.