By bassman2112 152 Comments
Mental illness isn't a subject that many are incredibly candid about; nor is it something that many people feel comfortable talking about. I would like to be forthcoming with my own issues. I suffer from clinical depression, and refuse to take any medication to suppress any of the symptoms.
When I was growing up, my free time was split as such at home: 20% sports, 40% Music, 40% gaming. As I grew up in the 90s, and my consoles of choice were the SNES in the early 90s and the N64 as well as PC gaming in the mid-late 90s. The worlds of these games were enthralling and let my imagination run wild with the vivid imagery the artists had created. RPGs, platformers, action and adventure games were my chosen genres for most of that time and it was really easy to lose entire weekends devoted to one single game, playing through it in its entirety more than once. The passion in the industry was exciting and the fact that games were getting so drastically much better from year-to-year made me excited for the prospect of what the future of gaming would hold.
As I grew older, games were always there. In the early 00s I fell further into the PC gaming side of it, joining clans in games like Quake 3, Elite Force, Jedi Knight II/Jedi Knight Academy, etc. The communities were always like-minded people who loved the same things you did, were there for the same reason; but yet all came from completely different backgrounds. There were rich kids, poor kids, smart kids, dumb kids, physically handicapped kids and star athletes. For a young teenager, it gave me such a beautiful vision for what communities of people should act like; but, as I grew older, I discovered that wasn't the case.
This is where gaming started falling to the wayside. Mid-teens to early adulthood - things start getting a little rough all over the place. Family, friends and general social connections started getting very weak and it became difficult to stay motivated for anything. I had lost some of my best friends to car accidents, had been disowned by old friends due to drama caused by lies, witnessed my immediate family fall apart... A lot of extremely negative situations all falling unto themselves. Sadly, being introverted made this very difficult to deal with and I ended up simply bottling up those emotions for years.
Having been hurt when trying to open up to people before, it felt impossible to get any kind of catharsis through conversations. My old friends had all either moved or stopped talking to me, and I didn't trust anyone 'new' enough to open up. My girlfriend at the time was my best friend, but she was not the best to talk to with these things (she happens to be a bit of a thespian and doesn't quite understand sincerity with delicate issues). I tried many different things to feel 'better.' (None of these ways included illicit substances or alcohol. I am strictly against using mind-altering substances due to the deaths of friends and family as well as family history... Etc) Eventually, things that were previously my greatest passions became chores. I never felt like leaving the house to continue doing sports, music was less fun and more demanding and gaming, one of my favorite ways to lose myself, seemed pointless.
I had my PS3 and would continually try to sit down and play through a game like Uncharted or Resistance; but couldn't keep dedicated. My mind would wander, I would find stupid things to complain about ('those textures look weird,' 'come on story, move faster,' 'another puzzle? no..') and then would walk away from them. PC gaming was the same, even the old community stuff felt trite. I found it hard to play online for more than 10 minutes because I'd get frustrated after losing a round or two. It felt I had become fatigued from gaming, though I'd barely been doing it. There was no getting around it, I knew something was wrong.
By the point this really hit me was after 2 years of University. The summer of 2010.
I moved back home so I could spend the following year working, earning money to go to school in the States (I'm Canadian) and not have to take out loans. I was living in the city where all my old friends lived; but none of them would ever want to see me. I was living in the house of a deteriorating family, they eventually fell apart. I still had my girlfriend, but even we broke up. (Though we remain best friends to this day. I consider her my only real friend here) Things were not positive, and to top it off, I grew tired of my job. (Still working for it though, for school)
Things seemed really bad, and I was constantly down in-the-dumps, crying at night, losing all motivation to talk to people or do things - I needed change. I talked very sincerely with some close friends from University as well as my previous girlfriend/best friend. I let little bits out and bore some hidden emotions to some very trusted people. Not a lot of opening up, but more than there had been for all of my life. This prompted me to incite bigger change. I found a psychologist who was recommended to me by my workplace, and had my initial consultation. I let my emotions fly, talked about things I refused to talk about and that had almost become repressed memories. He knew more about me by the end of an hour than most anyone knew about me from a lifetime of friendship.
Through that psychologist, I learned that my depression was textbook and that all the tragedies that had happened in my life became huge burdens to me. It was because of my personal issues that things had become so difficult to enjoy and I was so constantly pained.
The talk with this man opened my eyes and I immediately realized how foolish I had been to avoid things I loved... I decided to try and open up with someone else. I traveled back to the city in which I went to University and spent a whole day hanging out with a friend who I considered someone I wanted to be close with. We both talked about our respective issues, and through that day learned that we were very much the same - losing passions, rough pasts, repressed feelings, depression... We both got a lot of of the time together and agreed that we really needed to do this more often.
That day with the friend was yesterday.
The fact is that depression is likely to be a part of my life for a very long time; but understanding it and being honest with yourself about it is the only way to truly deal with it. It is not weak to talk to people about it, nor should it be scary if you have someone you trust and love. If they care about you, they'll listen - and it's entirely likely that they have hard times too and need someone just as much.
Back to gaming, though.
After that consultation with the psychiatrist (this was about 6 months ago), I noticed that I started seeing the joy in things I did previously. Now I could pick up my instrument and learn a piece of music for fun rather than feel burdened by it again. I could find the motivation to go for a 4 hour bike ride. Most importantly to me, though - I had the state of mind to be able and sit down with a game and enjoy it for the story and atmosphere again.
I could have cried the first time I was able to sit down and enjoy a story like that again. The game that drew me back was Mass Effect. I became totally enraptured with the characters, the fiction and the universe - I kept playing and genuinely wanting to know what would happen next, doing every side quest I could and reading every codex entry between missions. The catharsis of being back in the gaming world made me so happy, and I continue to love playing games - even more-so now! Resistance 2, Uncharted 2, Grand Theft Auto 4, Persona 4, Portal 2 - I've played through all of these in the past few months.
The reason I'm writing this is that I know some people are going through similar things in their lives, and even though I'm a complete stranger to you - I care. I know, I've been there; but it does get better. You just have to make it better for yourself. Find someone to listen to you. Hell, I'll listen to you if you really need to talk. I'm completely willing to try and help.
I'd really like to extend my gratitude to the wonderful community here at Giant Bomb and Whiskey Media. I've been coming here since its inception, as well as the other sites that grew out of it. (Screened, Tested and later got into Comic Vine)
I'd been coming here for years, but was simply not motivated enough to make an account or try to participate in anything because of the hole I'd been stuck in for that whole time. Though that was the case, I loved the Quick Looks and Endurance Runs - I'd spend hours of my day watching them and thoroughly enjoying them. Now that I'm 'well,' it's good to know that a community like this exists and that it is so much like the communities I used to belong to (albeit much bigger, and with more console fanboys than there were then).
I love you guys, and I want you to know that you rock <3