Before I go into this, I want to say that I am in no way shape or form a professional in mental health or counselor. I am just a person who battles depression. I also want to say I am okay, in case someone were to worry about my well-being. This article is very personal and took a lot of courage for me to talk about. This is for those who are afraid to to talk about it.
The numbness felt like a bottomless pit that would pull me in deeper every time I climbed a few feet. I got to the point of pure despair and the only way out seemed to be the permanent solution. Then my father and uncle introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons. After a few sessions, I realized how much this game allowed me to get breathing room. It helped me to start climbing out of the pit. Let me share a few reasons why roleplaying in general has saved my life and helped me battle my ultimate evil.
Once a week, my friends and I get together to play 13th age. I also play another game every other week with the Heavy Metal GM. It is a guaranteed day out of the week for me not to be alone. When I am at the table with friends, they distract me from the pit. They make me smile, laugh, and allow me to feel human. Genuine emotions come out of me when I am with them. I feel alive when I am with friends. As dungeon master of my Tuesday game, nothing makes me happier than seeing them have a good time. I am really thankful for the support they give me, for the fact they that can dedicate four hours to hang out. Thanks guys, if you're reading this.
For me, being alone just doesn't help. Being surrounded by people who care has made a huge difference in my life, my friends really make life worth living.
2) A Break From Reality
Sometimes taking a break from the real world can be helpful. Being a character from a different world is a nice way to escape my own thoughts.
Part of my depression is that I have become an expert in separating myself. What I mean by this is that I have a better understanding of my own emotions and separating myself from them is easier for me. In turn it has helped me get into character, allowing me to understand the thoughts, motives and emotions of the character. I get to be this amazing hero that mostly everyone adores. Most of the characters I play are parts of me put into a different situation than my real one. The character I currently play is Crysx Silverleaf, who has an identity problem. He is struggling to find who he is and who he’s meant to be. I often suffer from the same feeling, and playing it out in game helps me find new ways to approach different situations, process emotions and how to comfort myself within.
Crysx is also terrified of the dark and what lurks within it. He’s scared of the darkness because of his own problems he had growing up; treating the darkness like a villain he had to overcome. It’s like this overwhelming thing I can't put my fingers around and beat with just my hands. The form the darkness takes is the villain. This is like an imagined version of my depression for me. It's a nice break from reality when I can be someone who can actually fight the villain. I really got to thinking about this when the villain knew I was afraid of him so he dominated my mind, making me fight my friends. Depression can do a lot of things to an individual, sometimes it can take you over before you can do anything to prevent it.
It’s beyond enjoyable for me to be somewhere away from my real problems. I’m not sure if it's the artistic side of me, but I can embed myself in my character's shoes so easily. Maybe it's my subconscious telling that escaping reality for a bit is how to keep mental stability in check.
3) Looking Forward
I don't tend to look forward to things. Letting myself down, which happens more than I would like to admit, really drags me down into the pit. I have these aspirations that are seemingly impossible to achieve. This hobby gives me a sense of purpose. Instead of being nagged by the wonder and worry of what I am doing with my life, I get to write these articles and produce a podcast. It’s not the only thing that helps me get through the week, but it has had a large positive impact on my life. I’ve met good people, formed stronger bonds with friends, and found a more positive outlook in life.
I also want to dedicate this section to HLG, for giving me an opportunity to talk about all the cool things I like with other people. I look forward to writing these articles because of the community, excitement I feel when I get one like or a comment on my posts. It makes me happy.
It has been extremely nice to finally have something to look forward to, even when I am pretty deep in the pit. I keep pushing myself because this is a hobby that makes me happy and I don't want to lose hold of it.
Just to stress it: I am not a mental health expert in anyway. I want people to know, who are suffering, that it's ok to reach out and talk to someone. This community has some of the nicest and most honest people I have ever talked to. It takes a lot of courage to talk about your weaknesses; don't let it beat you. You're the hero of the story, so get out there and kick some ass.
With lots of love, stay nerdy.
Benjamin Witunsky, artist, writer and nerd savant. Cofounder of the NerdMantle Podcast available on Soundcloud, Itunes and Google Play Music.
Picture Reference: http://www.artofmtg.com/art/healing-hands/
All blog materials created and developed by the staff here at High Level Games