By Skithus 20 Comments
After listening to Danswers I feel really sad I don't have Dan's ability to just dropkick anxiety in the face the way he does. I'm 30 and I lived ~10 years with un-diagnosed depression and anxiety. It severely limits my ability to function as a person.
I've never been able to hold a job longer then a week, I usually get physically ill during interviews, and that's after days of panic attacks leading up to them. I was told i was just "Lazy" and "Not trying hard enough" I didn't have a drivers license until I was 25 because I "Wasn't Motivated" enough. I'd never dated, kissed or even spoken to a girl in any type of relationship pursuing manner in my life, I was told I was just "Shy." Everyone I knew reacted like this, my parents, my teachers, councilors, family, friends, everyone. So I believed it.
I bought into the idea that Gamers are just fat unemployed guys who sit at home in their parents basement because that's what you hear, and because that described my situation fairly accurately. I ended up spending most of my teenage years on the internet, playing video games, messing with computers. I cut class more and more often, skipping halfdays and eventually entire days to stay at home and play Ultima Online, and then Everquest. It got out of control because I'd have a panic attack about something, and leave. And then because I left and I didn't want to get confronted about it I'd just keep not showing up, to avoid the inevitable confrontation. I managed to Graduate HIghschool without any problems however because I was super good at gaming their attendance system, and because I did well on tests.
I got through college by showing up to class, not speaking to anyone, keeping my head down and doing my work. It helped a lot that in college most people have grown up enough to not be needlessly antagonistic to the fat shy kid. I didn't make any friends, I didn't hang out or go to parties or any of that stuff, but I was still under the assumption I was just "Shy." No one had ever said the word Anxiety around me, and depression was a thing middle aged ladies got that turned their worlds black and white. I spent all of my free time in Video-games, especially MMO's. By the end of college WoW had just come out, and I guess that was supplying me enough social interaction that I wasn't 100% miserable all the time. I was rapidly approaching like 600 pounds however.
I got out of College, and applied for a job at EA-Tiburon as tester. I remember the interview being 3 main parts, it was me and about 25 other people at the beginning, and I was in full on panic attack mode at this point, but at the time I figured I was just regular nervous, like regular people get. First part was a written question and answer test. Ok I do well at tests, I relaxed a little. That got rid of like maybe 15 people. Second part the reminder of us were put in a room with a bunch of xboxs and a copy of I think either Madden or whatever the College Football equivalent was. We were told it was an old build that had a number of known bugs, and to see how many we find, and document them. Well I don't know how many I found, But i do know that after that we were removed from the room, and then about 4 of us were placed in another room, and they called us each in one at a time for an actual interview. Well I went into full on panic mode, I was sat down in-front of 3 men who told me their names, I immediately forgot them, I didn't even forget them because they never even made it into my head. I was then tested on my observational skills. I was asked what room number we were in, how many floors the building we were in had, I was asked to close my eyes and tell them what the whiteboard behind them had written on it. And I was asked their names. I basically failed every question. If they had asked me what state I was currently in I don't think i could have told them. Each second I was growing increasingly nauseous and wasn't able to concentrate on what they were saying, let alone what room number I was in. Needless to say I didn't get that job. Or the next job, or the next, or the next.
Eventually my self-esteem was so shot I stopped trying, I didn't even need to be at an interview to get sick, now i felt that way just thinking about one. I moved back home, and my parents didn't ask much of me, I figured I was just a failure and so didn't spend a lot of time dwelling on it, because it hurt. I spent the next 5 years sitting at home, playing video games. That's not a total exaggeration, I think at one point I went over a year without actually leaving my house.
So anyway I'd been a Fan of penny-arcade since highschool, and PAX had happened and it was something I thought would be super cool, videogames, other people with my interests, video games... ummm.... video games! But PAX was all the way in Seattle, and I was all the way on the East-Coast, and flying scared the hell of me, but that was a totally reasonable fear Lots of people hate flying. So I wrote it off and continued to do my thing. Well then PAX-EAST happened. Now it was within driving distance, granted I didn't have a drivers license or a car, but I figured I could take a train or something right? Well I looked into that, and once it became clear that I could not get on a train at point A and arrive in Boston at point B it all fell apart. I got panic attacks thinking about missing a transfer, and being lost, not knowing where I was and being stuck somewhere. So I managed to convince my parents to drive me to boston, which was like 4 hours from where I lived. They payed for a hotel and everything because they were just happy to see me going out, and doing something.
PAX-EAST was a disaster, From the moment I got on line in the morning of the first day I was in full on panic attack mode. I was surrounded by people, people who I should have had everything in common with, people playing stuff on handhelds, people playing spontaneous games of Magic the Gathering on the floor with the free deck we'd been provided. I was having a breakdown, partly because It was a crowd of hundreds of people and strangers trigger my anxiety, and partly because not knowing that at the time, I was watching all the excuses I'd been fed or fed myself over the years start crumbling. There was no excuse for me to feel uncomfortable here, I had pleanty to talk about with these people, we had similar interests, no one was going to start judging me on anything, and yet not only could I NOT say anything to anyone, but I was probably about to throw-up all over some of them.
I spent about 90% of that show, across 3 days, locked in my hotel room. I knew something was seriously wrong at that point. I wasn't at home, I didn't have my computer to go jump on and forget my troubles, or talk to all the people I'd never met but who I considered my friends because I'd been playing WoW with them for like 5 years at that point. No I was stuck in a hotel room with nothing but my thoughts, all the video games were over there in the convention center, surrounded by people. So, i'm freaking out, but i'm calming down, because I'm alone and I'm safe in this hotel room.
And then the people in the room next to me, who'd I seen earlier, two pax attendees a guy and his girlfriend/wife, start having really loud sex. And I begrudge no one their sex having, loud or otherwise, but I'm sitting there, listening to this loud sex, and I'm thinking back to the convention and I'm thinking "Man you know what, there were a lot of girls there, and a lot of them were with dudes, and a lot of those dudes did not look like the 500 pound basement dwelling unemployed gamers that I was, and society likes to portray us as. And so my mood starts shifting from panic to anger, because now I feel like I've just been lied to my whole life, like ok if there are people who are obviously gamers, and they've got jobs and significant others and the prospect of their heart working past the age of 40, what the hell is my problem. Why don't I have any of these things, why am I sitting here freaking out in a hotel room when I could be down at PAX having run, or maybe having loud awesome sex.
So i got back from PAX, and I was kinda motivated now to do stuff, So I start dieting, and exercising and I figure there were an awful lot of girls at PAX, I should try to meet one somehow, not in person no no that would just freak me out, but like you know.. on the internet. So I sign up for a bunch of dating sites, fill out probably the most honest and self-deprecating internet profile that has ever existed. Send out a bunch of things to some girls and then receive zero responses. I kept that up for a few months before the complete lack of responses killed my interest in that. I was still dieting, because I told my parents I wanted to and since they provided me all my food It was basically eat the healthy stuff they were giving me now or starve, and either way would mean weight loss.
That went on for months, and I dropped from somewhere in the low 500's to like 380. I still wouldn't leave the house, and calling people on the phone, interacting with people in person and a host of other things still freaked me out, but I ignored all that and played video-games to forget it, and I was losing a lot of weight so I was almost starting to feel good about something. I got some email from one of those dating sites about something or other, come back and do stuff and it had been long enough that I'd forgotten how bad i'd felt the last time it didn't go well so I jumped back on, found a girl who seemed interesting and sent out a thing. This time however I got a response, I immediately starting having a panic attack but it was mitigated by the internet and the fact my self-esteem had tempered my expectations enough where I already expected failure to be the inevitable outcome, and so I didn't get too worked up over it.
Anyway she played WoW, and guys can be creeps so we decided that a great way to get to know each other without me potentially cyber stalking her via email or something was to chat in game. So we did that, and we got to know each other and my idea being in a relationship was basically "If i say everything bad about myself upfront, it saves us both time." so I start telling her about my life, and she's immediately like "Are you not seeing a Doctor for any of that?" and I'm like "My weight? nah its going down, no need to see a Dr." and she's like "No your Anxiety and Depression." And so she explains to me what Anxiety is and how I should be medicated and no its not normal to not leave your house for years at a time. I'm 25 at this point btw, I've been dealing with the panic attacks and depression since at least 15, maybe earlier, but no one ever said what it was, and I did my best not to dwell on it since it just made me depressed. So anyway I take her advice, because we get along well and I trust her and I go to my parents and I'm like, I need to go see a Dr, I think I had Anxiety and Depression.
Now keep in mind that by this point I had repetitively over the years considered suicide but never went through with it because honestly staying home all day to play videogames might not be fulfilling, but its not exactly a hard or uncomfortable life. I have no doubt that without my parents support i'd be dead right now. So I tell them I need to go see a Dr for depression and they immediately think I'm trying to kill myself because they had no more concept of it then I did. Depression was for middle-aged ladies in black and white commercials and people who killed themselves. But anyway I go to a Dr, and she gleans from what I tell her, (which admittedly was not much because I don't talk to people well) that I've got a ton of things, and she tells me very nonchalantly that I've got depression, and general anxiety and social anxiety and agoraphobia and maybe some other things, here's some meds have a nice day.
Well I was ecstatic, so all the bad shit in my life was basically not my fault, I was talking with this girl who was great, and they just gave me medicine that would fix me. I was on the road to being a normal goddamn person. Well as it turns out the medicine got a great deal of my general anxiety under control, I was able to get a drivers license without the fear that i'd get into a fiery car crash the moment I got behind the wheel. I was able to ask the girl I'd been talking to out on a date, and get on the public transportation needed to get to her.
Flash forward 5 more years. I'm 30 now, things didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped but there were vast improvements. I still can't handle being in a social situation with more then 2 strangers at a time. I managed to get through a few interviews only to have panic attacks during work that caused me to be let go or have to quit. It still takes me hours to work up the nerve to call someone on the phone. I get stressed out leaving the house alone, but I can usually manage to push through it if I don't have to interact with any people once i'm out. I got out maybe every other day now instead of once ever 12 months.
I still play video-games, hell I still play WoW with the same people from 5 years ago. I've met some of them in person now, one of them was the best-man at my wedding, where I married that girl I started dating 5 years ago, we've been married over a year now and she's easily the best thing to ever happen to me.
I think in exchange for lessened anxiety I've gained increased depression because I'm now much more aware of it. Its harder to forget all my problems now that I know about them and now there is another person who I feel like a burden on. I've been to a number of Dr's since, they change up meds once in a while but I can't seem to achieve even a baseline level of functionality as a person. I spend a lot of time considering how much of my issues are depression/anxiety and how much of them are just some subconscious excuse to avoid responsibility, and if its just semantics at that point. I get caught up in self-pity a lot more then I think i used to, I definitely consider suicide a lot more often, because I feel an extreme amount of guilt at marrying that girl, and making my problems her problems also.
I think maybe I used to exist in just a perpetual state of unhappiness, and that I was in it for so long and so consistently that it didn't phase me as much. My wife causes me genuine joy on a nearly daily basis, and so I think when i get depressed it feels much worse then if I was just in that state all the time like i used to be. Wish i had a happier ending, I'm still broken, I'm maybe less broken but 5 years later I've mostly given up on ever not being broken. But this year me and my wife are going to PAX-PRIME, and hopefully with her support, and my meds and what willpower I can muster I'll be able to enjoy it more then I did last time, I'm looking forward to the giant-bomb panel, plus you know... video games.
TLDR: People having sex in a hotel at PAX helped me start down the road to dealing with my anxiety, find someone to spend my life with, and come to accept I may always be broken.