Being Reminded That You Matter

2016 has been a rough year for me. I told myself I wasn’t going to write about it because I don’t want to keep reliving the events, but I feel like things have gotten better and I can talk about it now without it dragging me back down. Also, this blog post won’t make much sense without some background. If you already know the story, skip to the regular text below.

I met a guy in 2010 and things seemed great. 3 years into this relationship and our personalities divided. We started heading down different paths but we were comfortable with each other and didn’t want to give that up, so we kept trying. Despite our efforts, we were both unhappy and it was very apparent. We had started being mean to each other, being neglectful, and even cheating to try and feel something. This, along with some other unresolved stuff from my past, was creating a darkness inside me. I went and saw a doctor for depression and anxiety in Oct 2015, where they said it was very clear I was depressed and anxious, so they put me on some medication. Around February, I felt that it wasn’t working anymore so I went and made and appointment with a psychiatrist, because I really wanted to get to the bottom of this and feel happier.
She diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder Type-2, gave me a few medicines to try, and sent me on my way. I expressed this to my ex and told him that with this diagnosis, we’d have to get some stuff in our life situated. He told me he supported me and loved me, so we tried to continue to make this work. It didn’t. So in March, after a series of frustrating events with work, friends, and our relationship, I had a nervous breakdown and ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks to do intensive therapy. During this time, I felt very scared, but I am a strong person so I mostly held it in. I learned during this time that the one person I thought I could rely on, my ex, was not there for me. While I was in the hospital trying to deal with these confusing and powerful emotions, he was angry at me for being “different” and “weird”.
After I was released, we had a long talk about it and he said that he could have done more and that moving forward, he would be way more supportive of me. That was also not true, because two days after my release, he started telling me that I was a burden, bothersome, and that he didn’t want to see me. A week after my release, I was begging him to stop putting me down and try to understand things from my point of view. But he continued to tell me that he was disappointed, that his life wasn’t where he wanted it to be, and that he couldn’t handle “us” anymore. I couldn’t take it anymore and had another nervous breakdown. My mom, concerned for my wellbeing, moved me out of his apartment in less than a day and then stayed with me for a week to make sure I was stable and okay. During this time, he was telling me that he loved me, that he hated me, that we could work through this and he just needed a break, and that he was ready to quit.
In May, I found out that he had been telling his family about parts of my situation, and getting feedback from them. They were telling him that I was a broken person and a burden on him, holding him back from the greatness that he could become. His mom, a nurse, told him that my cross was not his to carry. I felt that was a little much, considering my situation was a medical problem and she is a medical professional, but I guess that says a lot about who she is. Anyway, he let these thoughts creep into his mind and on Mother’s Day, he called it quits for good. 6 years, gone. I asked if we could try to be amicable about it and he said yes at first, but over the next two weeks he proved incapable of that. Before I knew it, he was already shacking up with some other guy, he had changed his phone number and blocked me from texting and calling him, and changed the locks on his apartment so I couldn’t get in. I e-mailed him to call him out on this, and the only reply that I got was “You are an unhealthy person and I do not want to associate with you anymore. Goodbye.”
To summarize my feelings…In 5 months I was diagnosed with depression, upgraded to Bipolar Disorder, hospitalized for self harm and substance abuse, sent to intensive therapy, put on 5 different medications that had intense side effects, and booted out of a 6 year relationship after being told that I’m a burden and unhealthy. I was not in a good place mentally. From May to July, I was experiencing some very rough effects from the events and medication. I was having horrific dreams where my ex and his family were attacking me and telling me my life didn’t matter. I was having flashbacks to arguments we had where he was telling me that I deserved to hurt, that he was better than me, and that he didn’t love me. On top of this, I was losing the ability to sleep because the medicine I was on was jacking me up. I started having muscle ticks, anxiety, and extremely high levels of rage. The lack of sleep was so bad that my mom started watching me to make sure I could get 2-3 hours of sleep without jolting awake.
During this time, I also started losing a lot of friends and pushing people away. I couldn’t trust anyone, nor were many people making any effort to be around me. I started slipping deeper and deeper into depression and told my mom I was back to the point where I wanted to end everything. She convinced me to call my doctor and be taken off the medicines. This helped tremendously, and I started having some sense of normalcy come back to my life.

It was around this time that one of my old friends reached out to my mom with concern regarding some stuff they saw on my facebook. They worked together to surprise me with a reunion over a holiday weekend, which brought a smile to my face. This is where the point of this blog will start to kick in. I promise. šŸ™‚

The person that reached out to my mom was someone I had grown up with. We met in 5th grade and immediately became best friends. Throughout childhood and adolescence, we saw each other almost every day. Each Tuesday we would go to their parent’s Aikido class and learn martial arts, and then every Friday we would be at one or the other’s house playing video games and having a sleepover. In our Sophomore year of high school, their parents decided to move a few states away, and I was heartbroken. My best friend was leaving me. For the next four years, we barely kept in touch and met up in person twice on vacations to kind of hang out, but I was certain over these years that our friendship was over. I was sad, but I felt that this was part of life and it was just time to move on and find new friends. I spent years trying to find someone that could understand me and tolerate me on their level, but I was continuously disappointed. This, along with a few failed relationships, and I had accepted that I would never find someone like that again in my life. This person and I were separated for 12 years.

Yet, somehow, in my time of need, we were brought back together. A military contract brought my friend back to our hometown and a chance message on facebook reunited us. I had no idea what to expect after 12 years of not seeing each other. But when they walked through the door, my entire family and I felt just like we had before they left. I was certain that things would be awkward and we had grown apart, but I quickly learned that we could easily slide back into the rhythm we had when we were younger. Despite growing up and having our experiences shape us, we still laughed at the same jokes, liked the same things, and understood each other the same way. This reunion happened in about July of this year, and since then we’ve seen each other 6 more times.

A little more history – I’ve been in therapy since May to try and deal with some stuff that happened in my life. I had two of my aunts, an uncle, and my father pass away within 1 year of each other (2006-2009), two bad breakups, and a tiny issue with growing up gay/coming out. The therapist I was seeing from May to July was not doing much for me and I took a break for a while. In October, I started seeing a psychologist who has really been pointing me in the right direction and helping me deal with things in a much more manageable way. A combination of my own willpower, help from the therapist, and the rekindled friendship brought me out of the darkest place I’ve ever been in my entire life.

This past weekend, my friend visited me again and me being a sentimental person, I made a statement regarding how happy I was that we were able to reconnected. They said something about how they had helped me overcome my anxiety and depression and I guess I was embarrassed about that, so I quite harshly shut that down and said I put in a lot of work myself to get over this stuff. It was done in a funny manner, so we laughed and moved on. After they left to go home, I was alone again and I really started thinking about what they said. It was true…they had helped me out of that darkness and I wasn’t accepting that.

What I had needed was for someone to see me, and they did. They knew that I needed someone and they were there. 12 years of distance and what I thought was a forgotten friendship, and they came swooping back in to show me that I mattered and that they love me. There is this scene in the movie Avatar by James Cameron where the characters have to learn the culture of the aliens they’re trying to communicate with, and one thing they struggle with is this bonding the aliens have where they say “I see you”. It doesn’t mean I literally see you with my eyes, but more like “I see through you”, on a spiritual level. They see through all the social constructs, years of built up emotional walls, and stifled pain. They seeĀ exactly who you are, and accept it.

My friend achieved this today after I apologized about shutting down their statement of helping me out of my dark place. They said:

I know that you can’t really hide who you are from me. You can mask your pain and anxieties for a time, but I’ve known who you are for nearly as long as you’ve been that person. I have been, and always will be, your friend.

I had no idea how much I needed to hear this, and when I did, I broke down. I had to go hide in the bathroom at work for a bit because I couldn’t keep my emotions together and as I write this, I’m still crying because of the relief I feel. I had spentĀ years trying to find this understanding and comfort in someone and it was there all along in my friend who I thought was gone forever. And now I have it again…and I’m so happy. I feel like I can finally let go of everything that’s happened to me because I know for certain that someone in the world has my back. I’m going to be okay.

Anyway, this is sappy and stuff but I just want to say thank you. I had no idea how much I was missing but I’m so happy we’re back together and kicking ass. I look forward to many more years of happy memories, fun adventures, and total comfort being who we are. You truly are my best friend and I love you.

-Cody

 

Not Everything Has To Be Perfect

As a note, my site is dedicated to gaming, but a lot of what I talk about can be applied to multiple forms of entertainment, or even life in general. So please, if you are not a gamer, do not feel discouraged. There is something here for everyone (I hope)!

Guy A: Ah man, this game is so cool.

Guy B: Hah! It’s not this game and it doesn’t have this feature, so it sucks!

Guy A: But it has this, and I really enjoy that!

Guy B: Doesn’t matter. Not this game. Sucks. Bad game, bro. Play something good.


Ever had this conversation? I have. It drives me f’in nuts. I fully understand that in some cases, the above conversation is playful ribbing between friends or siblings. However, having been on the receiving end of this conversation one too many times, this idea kind of threw me off for a very long time. I used to play whatever games I wanted to, regardless of their score on some review site or how many copies it sold. I played them because I wanted to, and that was a good enough reason. People started commenting on the things I liked though, telling me I should watch something with “quality value” or play something that “actually took skill”. I started noticing that these comments evolved into things like “Well, you’re not really playing the game if you’re not playing on the manual battle system.” Or “If you haven’t earned the platinum trophy, then you haven’t really beaten the game.” Everything culminated about two years ago when I joined an online community to try and pursue my first platinum trophy. One of the first responses to my introduction thread was “Wow. 120 played games and 0 platinum trophies? What do you even do?”

This sent me over the edge.
With the pressure this statement created, along with the extreme criticism I was seeing games receive, and the constant pressure of the online community to “get good” at the various games I played (League of Legends, Final Fantasy XIV), I snapped. I became obsessive about finding the perfect game, getting the perfect score, and being a perfect player. I feverishly purchased as many games as I could afford, trying each one out to see if it lit some kind of spark in me and achieved this title of “the perfect experience.” I pushed myself to marathon 8-10 hour gaming sessions to grind out some stupid trophy that I had no real desire to earn, and I exhausted myself trying to climb up in the most prestigious guilds or increase my global ranking. All to prove that I was, in fact, a gamer, and that I knew what a quality game was, and that I knew how to play “just like everyone else.” Except, I wasn’t like everyone else. I had become an Elitist.

I was oblivious to this. I was badmouthing my closest friends because they were not on the same level as me. I was getting belligerently upset with my (ex) boyfriend because he could not keep the same pace as me or figure things out in games as quickly as I could. I was getting into heated arguments with people when they questioned my methods or tried to call me out for bad mechanics, because god damn it, I had done my research and no one was going to tell me I wasn’t doing something right! Then this path followed the stereotypical story line that you see in movies. I started pushing people away, losing friends, losing my boyfriend, and eventually I was all alone, angry, sad, and wondering why nothing was making me happy anymore. This elitism feeling crossed over to TV, books, hobbies…I became miserable.

This thought process became so overwhelming that I would develop these crazy habits. I would do things like purchase 3-4 movies at a time without any research, go home, then research them to DEATH. I would spoil the entire plot, read review after review after review to see if it was worth watching, and then before I knew it, I had passed out on my living room floor after 4 hours of research. At the end of the day, I never watched any of the movies. 

I started turning down opportunities to socialize because I was extremely critical of the suggested activities. I did not want to commit to anything that I was not convinced would give me some kind of climactic experience. I also started criticizing people on their behavior based on what role they played in my life. My friends weren’t being friendly enough, my boyfriend wasn’t being boyfriend-y enough…I was a miserable person to be around.

This led to a really dark time where I got really lonely and sad, because no one wanted to be around me. Since I was so overly critical, I could not generate my own happiness because everything I did was not good enough. I could find no enjoyment out of consumable entertainment, food did not taste good, even sleep was difficult because I would get overly frustrated over a bad night’s sleep. I was the walking epitome of perfectionism. The funny part about this is that I continuously pushed the idea of accepting people’s flaws and being a “go with the flow” kind of guy, which made me look like a total hypocrite. Then there was a sad part. I knew what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know how. So I shut down.

I don’t really know what happened to get me out of this mental place, but I had tried to push myself into this new mindset of forcing myself to get into something, even if I didn’t feel like it was worth my time. I wasn’t really sure where to start, so I just chose a game and went with it. The game was Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride. I had purchased this game about a year and a half before I picked it up this time and loaded my save file, which was roughly 2 hours from the final boss. Within minutes, my perfectionism kicked in and I was criticizing it for it’s old school feel, lack of impactful story, and overall just kind of mediocre presentation. But playing this game was all I had to do for the time being, so I kept playing it. As I played, I started realizing the little characteristics about DQ5 that made the game charming. I started appreciating the music, the character design, and the feeling of nostalgia. I was appreciating the game! 

This lead to another game, then another, and I was finally starting to calm down. Taking this new mindset, along with talking to people and seeing them appreciate imperfections, really knocked me down a few notches. I felt some sense of normalcy again. This is when I had a realization – not everything needs to be perfect. Sometimes I feel like we strive to live in this constant state of amazement and overstimulation. But we don’t have to…in fact, I think it’s kind of dangerous. I think when you live in that mindset, you very quickly forget how to value what you are capable of obtaining, as well as what other people can give you. I remember that when I was in that place, I was very internally critical of a family member that got me a game for Christmas one year because “they should know I don’t play 3rd rate shit like this.” How unbelievably horrible of me to think that…especially over something they thought I would like.

Back to my point – not everything needs to be perfect. You can enjoy a game that is not a AAA title. It can be a totally niche rhythm platformer FPS puzzle game in 2D VR and you know what? If that’s your gig, then GO YOU! No seriously – that’s not sarcasm. If you like it, then I whole-heartedly encourage you to enjoy the shit out of that game. I have some advice I’d like to share to anyone who may be suffering from what I went through.

First of all, remove the exposure to the negative thinking. Stop reading forum or social media posts that criticize what you like. You’ll always be upset and probably never be able to claw your way out of this elitism hole. Second, practice mindfulness. Slow down and enjoy the journey of what you’re doing. We remember great times as a kid playing games because games were few and far between (and we didn’t have the money to purchase all the ones we wanted), so we took our time and really savored what we had. Two, three, four playthroughs – whatever you’ve got the patience and time for, go for it! Finally, learn (or remember) who you are and stand firm in that. If you’re not an FPS gamer, stop trying to force yourself to be. If you cannot stand the grind of an MMORPG, delete your characters and go do something you enjoy. Our time on this planet is short, so there is no use in wasting what precious resources we have doing things that we do not like.

Now, if you read this and think “Oh, I’m like Guy B”. Stop. Think about what you are saying and the impact it can have on other people. Besides, why do other people have to think the same way you do? If they like what they like, let them! It adds diversity to your life just by association and you never know what a change in the pattern will lead you to. Life is about owning yourself and empowering others to own themselves as well. Don’t be the guy that shuts everyone down. I speak from experience – it’s not a very happy place.

Thanks for reading!

The Impact of Social Media On Gaming (Pt.1)

I firmly believe that for a while, game development was an art form. However, after gaining popularity and becoming more accessible to the public, I think it has evolved into a cash cow and is losing the artistic value it once had. Additionally, I think the role social media plays in the development process has created this horrific cycle of disappointment that has lowered the quality of gaming in general. That’s not to say that we do not have games today that will hold true through the tests of time. I am coming more from the stance that previously, developers used to haveĀ more time to really knead their games into something beautiful, as opposed to theĀ exhaustive release schedule we have in current times.

Continue reading “The Impact of Social Media On Gaming (Pt.1)”