The word depression carries a negative stigma. The mere mention of the word in association with oneself brings about an onslaught of different consequences.
Admittance of depressed or even being on medication for depression affect the possibility of getting hired by a lot of jobs. While depression is covered under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Americans with Disabilities Act as a disability, the acknowledgment of depression when applying for a job will likely still factor into the hiring process, whether it consciously or subconsciously.
Mentions of depression to friends and family can also be met with an array of different emotions and advice. Even with the best of intentions, conveyance of pity and or advice to simply stop being depressed or anxious tend to only make the sufferer feel worse.
So how exactly did I get over depression? It’s not a simple answer for many reasons, mostly being that though I feel happier than ever, depression certainly still lies dormant in me. The closest thing I have to an answer is unfortunately not going to cure someone else that is struggling with depression, as no one’s depression is the exact same as someone else. Even after experiencing it, that doesn’t mean I know the concrete answer, but I’ll do my best to explain how I improved my situation.
While my experience with depression was far more short term them most – though it felt like a lifetime – and dealt more with anxiety, it has changed my life and the perspective I have on it nonetheless. There were many factors in digging myself out of the abyss of depression, one of which was video games.
I have always loved video games, they are not only a great way to experience things not possible in reality without consequences – like the wanton mayhem caused in the Grand Theft Auto series – but also tell whimsical and immersive stories. I can recall my love for stories beginning at the early ages of infancy, as my mother, father or grandparents would always tell me a story before bedtime.
As simple as most of the stories were, with some being read straight from a hardcover, many of them would revolve around my brother, sister and me being placed in them as main characters. It was this immersive news that drew me into stories in any medium, especially gaming.
Gaming differs from most forms of entertainment for the simple fact of the matter that, while the game is linear for the most part, I have control over the actions. For me, this immersion created a form of escapism unmatched by books, movies or television.
Escapism is very important to me because by nature I’m a somewhat reserved and introverted person. So when I get to live out these other lives in games – be it a 7 foot tall, badass space marine in Master Chief or as bumbling, yet charming pirate in Guybrush Threepwood – the experiences let me feel as if I possess and experience certain attributes and events I usually wouldn’t in real life.
Even games where my attention is focused more on the actual gameplay than the story being told, multiplayer games like Call of Duty, are cathartic. Even the most casual of gamers can attest to the fact that multiplayer games relieve – and cause depending on the person – a lot of stress.
These type of games are also methods to making new friends and enjoying unique experiences with them. Even more so than gaming’s, friendships were quintessential in my fight against depression, whether I was playing games with them or not. Friends aren’t only people to have fun with, they are people to rely on outlets to convey feelings to and ways of getting advice.
On that note, I’d like to talk about the negative effects that gaming had on me during my hardships. As much as I truly adore gaming, just like anything in life, it is best done in moderation because there are a lot of side effects.
Contrary to the fact that it’s possible to make friends online, there’s are a lot of angry people that play video games online. Whether they are trying to be funny or are just mean spirited, the amount of vitriol one can experience online is enough for a lifetime. Sure there is always the mindset that of can’t please everyone and just ignore them, but for me personally, each negative interaction weighed heavily on me, fueling my anxious thoughts.
But it wasn’t just online experiences that negatively impacted my emotions, even playing my favorite single player story driven games all day was bad for me. While alone time is important, sitting in a dark room all day staring at a screen and listening to imaginary characters isn’t healthy, both literally and mentally.
Literally speaking, a lack of fitness and even fresh air wreaked havoc on my depression without me even knowing it. While video games provided a certain stress relief and even pleasant types of dopamine, nothing compares to the endorphins the body releases after a long workout at the gym or going for a hike. Not only do I look better after these activities, I always genuinely felt better and more accomplished. It’s also amazing was a simple dose of sunshine and vitamin can do for a persons mood.
Alongside the mental improvement provided by fitness, going out to the gym provided more opportunities for interactions with other members, and face to face ones at that. While talking to someone online is better than not talking at all – which was always a huge factor when I was feeling down in the dumps – there are a lot of nuances and emotions that can only be experienced and exhibited in person.
Again I want to stress that video games were absolutely vital for improving my emotions and anxiety, but they weren’t the end all be all for me. Maybe they might be for someone else as I said each individual’s struggle with depression is unique, but I am a firm believer that as important as it is, the key to overcoming these struggles lies in multiple different aspects of life.
I will eternally be grateful for the role that video games has played and will continue to play in my life. I hope that my article has helped anyone struggling with depression to know that while we don’t suffer exactly the same, not only is it ok to talk about it, you are not alone in this fight. I’ll be your player two anytime.
Andrew has been in love with video game ever since his brother was forced by their parents to let him watch him and his friends play games like Goldeneye and Super Mario 64.