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Making Life Easier With Mental Illness – How Games Connect

Marti's Miscellany Days in the life of a Christian Furry Gamer

Making Life Easier With Mental Illness – How Games Connect

These will be the last 2 parts of this series from my point of view. Thankfully, we’re picking up a bit from the depressing/heavy posts (because I have been pretty heavy during this past week) and into some more fun posts. I’m still exploring the realm of mental illness, but I’m touching on two topics that have helped me to cope with it more –  games (which sounds strange), and my faith.

This post is going to focus more on the games end of it – something that has played a large role in my life for pretty much my entire life. So yes, you will get to hear why I’m so into games and why they have actually helped with my social anxiety a whole lot.  By the way, thanks Brad for this particular entry – he linked me this forum post, and it made me think of this topic.

I was born in 1985. If you know anything about the gaming industry, you know that 1985 was a pretty significant year in the world of video games. Why? Because that was the year that the original Nintendo Entertainment System was released in the United States. My family had one, and I have probably been playing video games since I was 3 or 4 years old – that means I’ve been playing them for over a quarter of a century!

My whole family was always into games too; my grandma had a Super Nintendo at her house until it broke (probably 2003 or so). We had an original NES, I had a Game Boy when I was a teenager, and my brother still has an XBox 360. I built my current computer (and his!), and the Wii that I own was one of the first released. We weren’t just into video games, either; we played games every single time we had holidays at Grandma’s; I remember playing card games like Uno and Skip Bo, having marathon games of Monopoly, and sitting around the table, listening to my mom and aunt gossip over full board Yahtzee.

Games were a thing to do, and it was something that brought people together. To this day, I love games. I’ve shared this on here before, but I’m a big Blizzard fangirl – World of Warcraft (WoW) is my game of choice, but I also dabble in Diablo and really am digging Hearthstone.

So why does this matter? How does gaming relate to mental illness?

For people like me, games are a safe way for me to socialize. I like hanging out with friends and playing games for a few hours at a time. I have parties at my house twice a year, and we always play games for hours on end.  Games are just a great way for me to feel “safe” in social situations.

Here are the main ways that games (board, card, and video games) help me out with my mental illness.

1. It helps to get my mind off of my anxiety. When I’m sitting there and playing games with my friends, it helps me to concentrate on… guess what… the game that we’re playing. Whether we’re in a video game or playing a board game or card game face to face, my mind is on what we’re doing instead of how I’m feeling. Obviously, I can’t run away from my anxiety, but it provides me with piece for awhile.

2. It gives me something to focus on other than “what the crap am I going to say?” I cannot stand social situations sometimes, because I feel like I don’t know what to say. Small talk freaks the crap out of me, because I just don’t know how to socialize well. I’d rather just avoid you entirely then try to have small talk with you – that’s why I hate running into people at the grocery store. I just don’t know how to do it, and it stresses me out. Obviously, with my closer friends I’m much better at speaking, especially if we’re somewhere safe like someone’s home, but still, it saves me the stress that I sometimes feel when I’m spending time with people. We can talk about the game or what our next moves are instead of me trying to be “cordial.” I’m genuinely friendly, just bad at small talk.

3. Video games allow me to socialize without freaking out. Holy crap, let me tell you how freeing this one is. People really wear me out after awhile. Which is fine, it’s no big deal because I spend a lot of time by myself. There’s a really awesome explanation out there that I use called the spoon theory; you can read the original here, but in general, I only have so many spoons in a week. Every time I get into a social situation, even with only one other person, I lose a spoon. I get to a point where I run out of spoons, and I have to refresh and get the spoons back together again. It’s exhausting. The good thing is, the internet/connecting with people via video games don’t waste my spoons. It causes me very little stress; so it allows me to socialize without getting drained, so I can save my spoons for physically seeing people.

4. Video games have helped me to meet friends that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. This is one of the best things about the internet. I’m terrible at making adult friends (I’m very good at interacting with teenagers because I’m not afraid of them; I’m afraid of my peers). There have been a handful of times that I’ve been able to make friends since college, but most of the time, I don’t interact with other people and I don’t make friends easily. Video games, especially social ones like MMO’s (WoW specifically) have helped me to develop relationships I wouldn’t be able to find otherwise. Some of my closest friends are people that I met through playing video games on a regular basis. The coolest part? I’ve made friends who understand my anxiety problems, because they struggle with them too; it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in the world.

5. Games give me confidence. This is, perhaps, the best thing about games. If I feel like I am good at something, I will come back to it again and again. This is why I did youth ministry for so long; I felt as if I was making a positive difference, and until the incident occurred, it gave me confidence (I was also, obviously, passionate about it as well – now I just feel like crap about it). Games do the same exact thing for me; it takes me a bit to learn games, but once I get the hang of them, they make me feel pretty good and they make me feel like I’m good at something. I need that affirmation, and games help to give me that.

So yeah, all types of games play a pretty big role in helping me to deal with my anxiety. I’m quite grateful to the world of the internet and gaming, because otherwise I may not be living the life that I do, with the friends that I have.  You can expect the next post (about my faith) to be out on Wednesday, and then we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming… whatever that is.

Be Blessed,

Marti