World of Warcraft and Mental Health

About four or five years ago, I went through something that turned my life, and my head, completely upside down.

It started with, of all things, a migraine.

I was used to them. I got them all the time. I had them for days at a time. I pushed through. I got things done. I ignored the pain, and mostly, that worked. Admittedly, as things progressed, the amount of days I spent enduring migraines lengthened, until I quite possibly had less than a week out of every month where I wasn’t in pain… but it happened so slowly that by that time, I had adjusted. I persevered.

Until one day, my body decided enough was enough.

I had a migraine so severe I was screaming in pain. We rushed to the hospital, where they struggled to help. Eventually, the pain faded, and we went home… where I couldn’t forget what had happened.

The anxiety and fear of both the pain, and not knowing what had happened to me, or why, eventually led to another screaming migraine.

And another.

Finally, I was in such a state of constant vigilance, I couldn’t cope with even my normal migraines. I started having dreams of dying.

I had a dream of walking out into traffic… and I woke up completely numb – I felt nothing about it. I understood, my subconscious was speaking about my desperation. I wasn’t suicidal, but when you’re experiencing trauma coupled with pain, your brain does a funny thing. It grabs onto any idea for relief.

When I was a child, I was hit by a car, and I died. While I was dead, I experienced not light, but darkness. Pure, empty darkness. There was no pain, there was no fear, there was no hate, there was NOTHING… and it was the most beautiful, quiet experience of my life. When they brought me back, I cried for days, because I didn’t want to leave that peace for a life that was nothing but horror.

So of course, when I was again experiencing something I couldn’t cope well with, my brain remembered what it was like to be dead… and suggested, through dreams, that solution.

This is actually quite common in trauma patients. This does NOT mean they are suicidal. It means that their subconscious is reaching for a way out. That doesn’t mean they have any intention of acting on it… it just means they’re nearing the end of their endurance.

Realizing what my dream signified, I knew I needed medical assistance to get my pain under control. I had my mother take me to the hospital, where I TRIED to explain to multiple medical professionals about my pain, and the dream, and what I needed.

THEY decided I was suicidal, and stopped listening to me. They sent me to an inpatient psychiatric facility for a week, where I experienced even more psychological trauma. The only person I met during that week who DID understand was a paramedic who was an Iraki war veteran. He had shrapnel in his head. He lived with pain daily. He understood the difference between wanting to die, and your brain trying to find solutions to situations.

The end result of these experiences was an anxiety disorder, severe depression, and PTSD.

I sat on the couch for two years. I barely spoke. I wasn’t really aware. People spoke to me, and I honestly felt everything they said meant nothing. Their questions were all obvious, and clearly rhetorical. I stared at the world, and felt nothing, thought nothing. I was empty, at the bottom of a deep well. The world was very dark, and I didn’t care. The only time I experienced any emotions, I would be having a panic attack.

Eventually, we realized that the hospital’s solution of drowning me in medication I didn’t need had exacerbated my situation. My doctor took me off every medication she could.

I was unmedicated for a little over a year…. and slowly, I started to live again. I wasn’t my old self, by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t think I’ll ever get that person back. She died – that’s how I look at it.¬†We found out that I have a sensitivity to sugar. I’m not diabetic – it’s a different issue. If I have too much sugar, I get migraines. We also found out I needed glasses, which clearly contributed to my issues. Dehydration and forgetting to eat definitely contribute, but the main cause is sugar. I stopped drinking gatorade, which I had been drinking because of chronic electrolyte deficiencies, and got an app for my phone that reminded me to drink, and to eat. My migraines and my anxiety both cause me to become very scattered and forgetful. I needed those apps.

Because I was home, and unwell, I had a lot of spare time. I read a lot, but even someone for whom reading is a passion can become tired of reading when that’s ALL you do… so I started playing games from Google Play. I played mystery games – games with a story line, where you would have to find objects, and use them to complete tasks to get to the next section of the game.

I bought a LOT of games. It was becoming expensive.

My husband suggested I try creating a character on WoW. When we first met six years ago, I had tried to play, but I had this tiny Vista hybrid laptop. It had a flip around touch screen, and the latency on the thing was so bad, I couldn’t see what had killed me… It was so bad, that I got very frustrated and just decided that I wasn’t a gamer. I didn’t blame my tech… I blamed myself. After all… I’d played console games with friends. I knew I was bad at games. Shoot – I died during RPG’s.

However, he convinced me to give it another go. I had a newer computer, and he’d played on it. It wasn’t awful, so he thought I would be able to play. He was right, for the most part.

Because I have a lot of social anxiety, I didn’t run any dungeons. I just quested. Despite that, I leveled a toon to 100 in under four months. For a new player, that’s pretty good. He bought me Legion as a present, for making it that far.

The thing about Warcraft is that it gives me goals. Small, achievable tasks, for which I gain rewards. Slowly, my mental health improved, because my confidence in my own ability to solve problems grew. I started running dungeons with my husband and his best friend. I joined a guild and ran some content with them.

My new laptop couldn’t handle Legion. I had latency issues. I had lag issues. Loading into dungeons and scenarios took too long, and I frequently dc’d and spent a lot of time catching up to groups… and dying.

We started saving for a computer that could handle Legion. I got The Beast as a Valentine’s Day present this year. I LOVE my Beast.

After I got The Beast, and realized that a large part of my problems WERE in fact technological, I started feeling confident enough to pug dungeons. We moved to a higher population server (we’d been on Moonguard, which is an RP server, and not really our style) which was progression based, because I finally felt ready to move forward. To challenge myself.

I found a WONDERFUL guild. I can’t even begin to express how helpful and understanding they’ve been. I was clear from the start about my issues, and the reason we click so well is that they are a group designed to support people with my health issues.

Because of Warcraft, and a strong support system, I’ve begun to enjoy being challenged. I still get frustrated if I die a lot. I feel like I’ve failed my team. It just pushes me to learn more.

I’m working, right now, to gear a new character, because I want to get into the higher level dungeons, the mythic plusses, and into the Nighthold Raid. I want to run the heroic Guldan battle, and get my Ahead of the Curve achievement.

I want to be ready for when Tomb of Sargeras comes out. I want to be in the front lines. I want to be part of the team of guildies who run mythic challenges for the guild weekly.

A friend dragged me into battle ground scenarios last weekend. It was the first time I’ve done real PVP stuff. I didn’t die as often as I expected. It was chaotic, and confusing… but I learned a lot. I think I’d like to do more, because I know things about my toon I didn’t know before.

 

I have gone from someone who, when I couldn’t log into my bank account, ended up curled in a ball under a coffee table, completely hysterical, to someone who is actively looking to challenge herself. To push. To grow.

World of Warcraft saved me. I am reborn, and I am ready to face the World… and the world.

Thank you, Warcraft, for teaching me that I Can. And thank you, my husband, for insisting I try it. You’re right… it’s cheaper… and a lot more fun.

 

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Family

I have a question for you, valiant readers… it’s a small question with a long answer. For you, what constitutes family? 

Over the many years, I have reevaluated this word many times, and I still am not quite sure how to explain it, but I’m going to try. 

Family is the word I use for the people I love. Not necessarily those I’m related to, but the people without whom I could not be myself. I would be lessened by their loss. That you are perusing this suggests that you probably are a member of mine, or I yours, or both. (I hope it’s both.) 

 
I can see the faces of my family in my mind.
My sister and best friend MB from Boarding School when I was 13.
My sister and best friend KF in High School. We once planned to raise our kids together, commune like.
My almost-best-friends DR and RH, also from High School.
My friends from Delaware, who were with me for the worst part of my life – T and R, RO’N, DP, my sister TB.
My sister and best friend from TX, GMS, and my sister and best friend here in MO, KB, and S and J from the meet-up group, and finally, my student and almost son in St. Louis, M, and my friends in the apartments I live at – B, and TH.
It’s not a long list, but every person on it is part of my family.

We’re not blood relatives. There will never be a family reunion (outside of FB) where we all gather and catch up on what those crazy cousins did last summer. I will never give you a kidney and have it match, but I’ve given you something so much stronger and more valuable. I’ve given you my heart and my trust… and you have given me yours. 

 
No, we’re not blood. My blood and I have an uneasy relationship – for more years than I can count, we’ve often wished each other different, and only recently have begun to simply accept. Friends are the family you choose for yourself, and I know I’ve chosen well, and when I’ve needed you most, you’ve been there… and I hope I’ve been able to return the favor. With all the rough spots my blood and I went through, I owe you my sanity, and I owe you big. You’re the reason I still hope, and still love. You give me courage. 
 
Of course, there is the chance that you are reading this but we share no love. I appreciate the curiosity that motivates you, and I hope someday to change your mind. Or to be courageous enough to let you change mine… but I’m perfectly willing for that time to be as far in the future as it needs to be, to evolve naturally. 
 
Until then, and as always, we are… 
Love unfinished.

So – What constitutes family for you?
 

The Vagaries of Talent

Two weeks ago, when I brought up the problem of my toilet of doom to S., I had a dream that night. The dream involved a metal tube with orange bits on it, and a plumber, who put it into my toilet, and pulled out a wad of hair.

Today, the plumber was finally called, he showed up, he brought a metal tube with orange handles called a “snake.” He put it six feet into my toilet and pulled out… you guessed it… HAIR.

I will never flush my hair away again. I will burn it, bury it, feed it to my manager’s dog… ANYTHING but flush it. I have learned a valuable lesson… dreams really can come true.

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And Your Little DOG, Too

My toilet is broken. Not your ordinary “grab the plunger, apply elbow grease, problem solved” kind of broken, either. I haven’t peed all night. Apparently, the toilet has been broken for TWO YEARS. It’s been lifted, and the ring replaced. It’s been snaked. It’s been plunged to DEATH (I know, because it was MINE). A month ago, it seemed to be working fine… except for one small detail. The damned bowl couldn’t seem to hold water. I’d flush. It would swallow and fill up, but half an hour later, no water in the bowl!
This went on for a while, so I decided to compound the problem by asking someone to please fix it. I told… and listen to the sound of doom and muahaha in my voice here – because the sound effects ARE necessary… the manager. He handed me Rid-Ex. Rid-ex, if you’ve never heard of it, is a biological agent that you put in your toilets when you have a septic tank, which has live bacteria in it that LOVE shit. Really. They eat it. And anything else that might be in your tank. Only one problem. I don’t have a septic tank. I live in an apartment complex in the middle of town, and we have city water and sewer. However, for whatever reason, my sanity failed me and I did what I was told, and dumped the junk into my toilet.
Needless to say, the problem promptly got WORSE. Now, my toilet won’t flush – no matter how much I plunge. It SLOOOOOOWWWWLLLLYYYY sucks the water away, after filling up to nearly overflowing, and the bowl, once empty of water, sits there, the monster in the bathroom. Filled with toilet paper and… you don’t want to know what else. Sometimes, when it’s slowly draining, there are bubbles. Mostly not.
Oh, and when the maintenance guy tried his hand at making my toilet behave like everyone else’s does… when he was finished, it leaked all over my nice clean floor. You know what he did then? He caulked the base. Which DID stop the leaking ONTO my floors, but I suspect it also drove the leak UNDER my floors. Oh well, at least my floor-mats (newly washed… over and over for OCD’s sake) aren’t wet.
Someone… and perhaps this is my exhaustion speaking, because I’ve been up since around noon yesterday, so forgive me if I seem to be over-reacting to a never-ending problem here… but SOMEONE hand me the sledgehammer. I can fix this. I KNOW I can. Pay no attention to the demented grin, nor the yodeling war-cries.

We interrupt this blog for a brief service message……………

OK… the manager just brought me a different kind of plunger. I plunged. And plunged. And plunged. And… you get the picture. At least there’s nothing but water in there now. He’s promised that if the maintenance guy can’t lick it (oooo, can I watch?), he’ll call…. dun dun dun… A Professional. Now why wasn’t that done two years ago? A month ago? A week ago? Last night?

How many angry phone calls must a girl MAKE??? And you know me… I’m English. I’m polite to a fault. Until you piss me off. And then I make my mother look like an angel. And she knows bitchy… WELL.

Although I suspect that today’s promise to call someone who actually knows what they’re doing when it comes to toilets has a lot to do with the fact that I finally told the manager that if he didn’t fix my toilet, I and all my friendly guests would be using his until mine worked again… and I would make sure he wouldn’t like the hours we keep. >:)

Oh, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but… you know those bad tempered overly-territorial dogs the size of dust mops? The ones that wet everywhere but where they should, bark and bite everyone who gets close enough to breathe on, attack cats larger than themselves, hump random legs, and generally make absolute nuisances of themselves whenever possible? I hate those dogs. The manager does too… which is why he owns one. His dog is worse than most – mostly because he treats it poorly and never bothered to get it trained up and properly socialized… and I hate that damned animal enough that I don’t care. The first time I met that monster, I tried to make friends, and it let me know that it hated my guts and would kill me the first chance it got. Matricidal Stewie is a sweetheart by comparison.
Does returning hate for hate make me a bad person?

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I Will Not Interfere.

OK – I know that when you ask me for advice or information, you don’t actually expect that I will give you my honest opinion. You’re hoping that I will give you YOUR opinion. I get that. I really do. But… I can’t help but be honest, and I can’t help but be tactless. It’s a flaw. I admit that.
Right now, I’m doing my damned best NOT to slap you. I’m trying, I really am, not to bring the ice-cold bath of reality drenchingly down upon your head.
Could you PLEASE not make it so hard? Could you please not put me in the position of being the one to apply the breaks? Could you PLEASE use a LITTLE common sense here?
You know, you could speak up. You’re intelligent. I know you are.
And I really do get that you are so lonely, and despise your own company and your own thoughts so much that you’re willing to take any distraction available, but… I have to ask (even though I said I wouldn’t)… where exactly do you think this road is going to end up?
How is doing the exact same thing you’ve always done, in exactly the same way, going to give you what you want NOW, if it’s never given you what you wanted before?

And since I’ve already broken my vow of silence anyway (damn it) if you really want my opinion (which I’m sure you don’t, but you’re getting it anyway) I think that he’s slow, selfish, self-centered, narcissistic, boring, boorish, uneducated, and that he lacks both empathy and intellect. The fact that he doesn’t listen to you any more than he listens to himself DOES NOT BODE WELL.
In other words, it is my professional opinion that he’s got every flaw in the book – in fact, the only thing positive I can say is that he’s got nice hair. And you’re allowing him to rush you into a relationship so fast that you’re going to end up just as trapped and miserable (because you WON’T TALK to him about this crap he’s pulling and will continue to pull with worsening strength) as you were before. This Will End Badly. I mean, seriously, how can you NOT see every red flag imaginable here?

So when I say to you both, “Slow down, son, you’re making me nervous!” what I’m really saying is… “Please, Gods, will someone instill in these people the amazing mental acuity and intelligence and sheer good sense necessary for them to bring this headlong rush into fantasy to a screeching HALT!”

However, you are my friend, and I will support you in your decision (no matter how much I consider it to be folly), but… Oh, I hope I don’t have to pick up the pieces later. Because I really feel that this is going to end up really messy.

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