This Might Alarm You
Alright fam, I want to get real with ya right here and dive as deep as I can (cue Ol’ Dirty Bastard “Baby I Like it Raw”) as I open up to all you readers. I want to talk about depression and emotional health. This seems as good of a time as any to bring up this topic. It’s nearly winter: a season when many people experience loneliness. In addition, the current political climate has many feeling unheard and disconnected. As nerds, as gamers, as people who enjoy geek culture and all the different avenues it gives us, depression is something we don’t talk about enough. Sure, the occasional show like Steven Universe will tackle that from time to time. Perhaps someone like Doctor NerdLove might address relationships and emotional health.
Even when the resources are there for us to take in, we are still not talking about it as a community as openly as we should. Now, I want to start out by saying that we live in a time where it is a lot easier to talk about depression — to understand that it comes in many shapes and forms, and affects everyone differently. That being said, ‘a lot easier’ doesn’t mean easy. For many people it’s difficult to define, let alone discuss…especially when you are the one dealing with it.
This topic is important to me, but full disclosure: I’m freakin’ terrified to write this. I’m scared that by putting everything out there, I may be looked at differently. My family, my friends… the people who mean the most in my life might think I’m broken and may distance themselves from me. Maybe they understand and want to help. I fear that at some point they’ll get fed up and walk away… if I don’t push them away myself. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way, though, which is why I believe keeping the conversation going around this subject is one of the most important things we can do as a community. Discussing depression openly allows people to understand they aren’t alone: that even if you feel like Sasuke walking into the dark abyss alone, he emerged into the light. We can, too.
By sharing my experience, I hope that someone – even if it’s just one person – opens up to seek ways to be more emotionally healthy. However you identify yourself, however, you feel about yourself: if this helps you, this article was worth it.
Who am I to even talk about this? Nobody, really. I don’t have any medical or mental health training. I’m just me, Garrett. My life isn’t perfect, but it’s good. I write for Black Nerd Problems, and I love doing it. I play games, I watch anime, and I read comics. I grew up well – not rich, but rich in emotionally fulfilling connections that I couldn’t do without. I was in sports growing up (and I’m a huge Lakers fan). Besides being an all-round nerd, I consider myself to be a pretty content and optimistic person…before my jerk brain decides to be, well a jerk. In the last few years, there have been times where it felt like the Hulk has reached into my body to vice-grip my heart. A wave of negative emotions follows, spreading through the rest of my body. The feeling is like a weight on me, pulling me deeper into a negative space.
Things That I Said (Are Suddenly Swarming)
Me: “O.K., today I’m going to apply for new jobs and send out auditions!”
My Jerk Brain: “Naw fam. If you ain’t got your dream career by now, it ain’t happenin’.”
“Well, today is the My Hero Academia movie I’ve been looking forward to. That’ll be fun!”
“Hey. I know you’re enjoying the climax right now — just wanted to remind you no one wanted to go with you. Enjoy.”
“Al… alright, but hey, I can go play with my friends online. I always have fun with them.”
“Sure, sure… say! Remember how that one asshole was rude to you? None of your other friends stood up for you – they just agreed with him? How about the friend you want to play with? They respond to everyone else but you. Oh, this one’s asking you to play…but it’s only because they need to get something done. No one REALLY wants to play with you. They just need an extra body to complete their mission.”
“No, that can’t be what it is…can it?”
“Whether it is or it isn’t, or it’s somewhere in-between? This is what you’re going to feel now. Have fun.”
All These Little Things Seem to Matter So Much
That’s me and my jerk brain right there. Fun little back and forth, right? Maybe some of you have had similar internal conversations. Those dialogues might have been about different struggles, but similar feelings. Looking at the problem rationally, even I think some of this is ridiculous. Depression is dangerous for precisely this reason: it’s irrational, which creates a stigma that’s hard to talk about.
Many of us have friends – both on and offline – that mean the world to us. We can go get a beer with one group, then team up with another posse afterwards to play our favorite game. Both can hold a special place in your heart, and to think how they might react to your depression is chilling. These debilitating thoughts can run rampant through your mind: What if they don’t want to invite me out for that beer anymore? What if I get shunned from my clan? I need to fake it, so I don’t cause trouble. I wish he would include me in the conversation. She used to game with me all the time but now she won’t even respond when I message her. Did they really just forget about me when I was invited out!? AM I EVEN LIKED IN MY GROUP!?!?
Thoughts like these don’t just oppose you when you’re trying to connect with friends or be social like my thoughts above. These thoughts cut you off before you can even get going, tearing you down so that you don’t even try. One day you may have a back and forth with these kinds of thoughts, and other days you may be backed into an emotional brick wall why your depression tries to break you. It’s different for everyone.
Even when you are able to express your feelings, they can yo-yo from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other so fast that The Flash would get jealous. Getting everything off your chest can feel great. You believe that you were heard…but when it feels like nothing’s changed, you fall off that cloud and crash into the ground. Worse, you could end up isolating yourself, disconnecting everything good in your life. Is it me? Am I just a terrible person that no one will love? Is it them? Is it both!? So many questions swirl around, making it hard to realize whether or not depression is just tricking you into these doubts.
Take A Moment, Remind Yourself
A lot of times, what we feel isn’t how our friends are looking at us. He asked you to help him BECAUSE he wants to play with you. She’s terrible at responding to anyone, and everyone knows that. Your group really does enjoy playing with you. Despite these truths, you still feel how you do. When thoughts like these swirl around in our heads, they manifest themselves in different behaviors for everyone.
“Being told not to be depressed never fixes depression.”
One way can be something like withdrawing from social situations entirely. Perhaps you’re the life of the party, instead, but with each interaction, you feel fake and broken. Sometimes your mood jumps from one emotional platform to another at breakneck speeds like Sonic with a speed boost. It happens to a lot of us for all these reasons, and more. All too late, we find that the people we think are the happiest and have it all are really suffering the most; the late Robin Williams comes to mind.
Take A Moment and Find Yourself
Whatever you are feeling and whenever you are feeling it, it’s alright. I’m not saying be you should be feeling like crap – most of us don’t want to feel depressed – but never let anyone tell you your feelings are invalid. Being told not to be depressed never fixes depression. Ignoring it or pushing it aside is no solution, either. Acknowledging the emotional dissonance within you is the first step. It’s one step of many, but often the hardest to take. A step that you might two-step with over and over and over again…but forward progress is worth the struggle.
What can you do, then? Well, that’s different for everyone. Don’t be afraid to find what you need. There are a lot of different options — including seeking professional help. The stigma about seeing a therapist is smaller than it’s ever been, and they are educated to help you figure things out. There is no shame in consulting a mental health professional, and it has helped many people find the emotional support they need to deal with their feelings.
Discovering what gives you emotional health in your life is also important. Sometimes you just need to turn on your PS4 and shoot some aliens with your friends all across the country. Or maybe you can’t wait to pick up that next issue to see how Miles Morales is going to rescue his friends. Or just slap on your headphones and listen to your favorite anime opening song on repeat as the world just melts away.
It’s Okay, It’s Okay, It’s Okay
Know that you are not alone, not only are others going through it as well, there’s plenty of current media that deals and tackles issues like this. Steven Universe is probably the best example to acknowledge that people (or gems) from a variety of backgrounds and identities deal with their own issues. Have you lost someone you love? Feel like you don’t have your own sense of self? Does it seem as though everyone around you is so great, while your efforts don’t amount to anything no matter what you do?
All these issues and much more have been tackled in this show. What Steven Universe does so well is help normalize the fact that people are dealing with these concerns. It makes it easier to accept and seek out help, ESPECIALLY because of this ‘kids’ show.’ To me, we need more of this. Thankfully, there are more shows, more games, and more media that address mental health head-on.
Flexibility, Love, and Trust
Writing this was one of the most vulnerable and difficult things I’ve done. I admit, however, that as hard as it was to sit here and open up it’s also somewhat relieving to convey the feeling that someone understands. If you are someone suffering from depression, feeling emotionally unhealthy, or just bummed out, I hope that reading this has been helpful. Many of you have never and will never meet me. Some who are close to me might read this and develop their own preconceptions of my situation. This will be worth it, however, if my experience will give someone the courage to come to terms with themselves. Courage isn’t the absence of fear – it’s trying your best despite your fear.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone, anyone – a friend, a family member, a professional. It’s O.K. to ask for help. If you know or are concerned about someone who might be going through this, don’t be afraid to reach out as well. Often, the most important action someone can take for another is just asking how they are doing. Invite them into your game. Grab that beer. Binge the new season of your favorite Netflix show together. Just being a friend can go a long way. Whatever you decide to do, whatever you need, I wish you the best. You may cycle between feeling great and feeling terrible, but don’t let that discourage you. May we all get our jerk brains to be cool and beat depression.
Love to you all.
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