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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Handfasting on Halloween

So, even though I actually have several pagan friends who got married on Samhain, I’ve always thought it a bit strange… you know, starting a new life with someone, surrounded by the dead? It always seems odd to me. However, I chalked it up to people just liking to thumb their noses at the "acceptable" wedding customs and loving the un-canniness of mysterious and ghostly things. Personally, if I’m getting married on a pagan holy day, it’ll be Beltane or Litha, for the obvious reasons.
Now, having read about this particular wedding, I think that perhaps, it’s quite a beautiful thing. This couple, both in their fifties, have lost many of their relatives and friends, and they decide to marry on Samhain so that the people they love who are on the other side of the veil can be there with them to celebrate! 
Me being a little bit of a hopeless romantic, my throat got a little tight… and now I think that maybe, just maybe, there’s more than just a need to make a statement, or for the creeps.

So…
Bright blessings on your Halloween anniversaries this year… and enjoy the articles that show you’re not alone.

wildhunt.org/blog/2009/11/lets-get-handfasted-on-halloween.html

Courts Inch Us A Step Closer to Legal Religious Entheogens

This article is re-posted from the source mentioned below, in its entirety. It is my personal recommendation that every pagan should check out The Wild Hunt blog, and sign up to receive emails from him, as he’s an excellent source of pagan news, and paganism in the news, the world over. Patty, over at About.com’s Pagan and Wiccan blog (http://paganwiccan.about.com/ and http://paganwiccan.about.com/b/), frequently quotes him, or mentions news that she discovers through him. Those two, together, are the best source of information about the pagan movement within America as well as the world over.

Seriously… subscribe to both.
Bright blessings…
Selqet

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Courts Inch Us A Step Closer to Legal Religious Entheogens

Many religions through the ages have used certain substances to acquire altered states of awareness/consciousness. When used responsibly and under certain controlled circumstances, various entheogenic substances are purported to allow communion with divine beings, travel to different planes of awareness, and the removal of certain ego traits that hinder the building of a tribal group-mind experience. While many tribal/indigenous groups around the world still engage in such practices, the use of such substances for religious purposes long fell out of favor in European-descended nations for a variety of religious, economic, and social reasons. Flash forward to the 1960s, and thanks to “psychedelic” pioneers like Timothy Leary the recreational use of entheogens and related hallucinogenics experienced a huge boom, prompting strict government control over their usage. These controls did contain exemptions for “magical and religious rites”, but only for pre-approved “small” and “clearly determined” groups.

With America’s war on (some) drugs still raging (not to mention a long history of villianizing drug-use), religious groups that want to obtain an exemption for the use of certain entheogens during rituals have faced an uphill battle. In 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that members of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal could legally import the herbs and plants needed to create the entheogenic brew ayahuasca for their rites. Now the syncretic practitioners of Santo Daime, who prepare a similar ayahuasca blend (what they call “Daime tea”) have won a court challenge in Oregon’s federal district court to allow the importation of ingrediants necessary to make the brew. As commenter and expert witness Mark Kleiman points out, under the seemingly more tolerant Obama administration, this could lead to lower hurdles for religious groups to seek legal exemptions to use controlled substances during their rites.

“Now the new leadership at DoJ faces a question. The government can appeal the Oregon ruling and continue to fight the New Mexico case, and do the same with every religious body that comes forward to ask permission to used a controlled-substance sacrament. As a practical matter, that would mean that only well-financed churches had any chance of winning recognition; these are expensive cases, albeit the churches can recover their attorneys’ fees at the end of they win. Or the Attorney General could tell the DEA Administrator to draft, and publish in the Federal Register, a set of procedures and criteria to deal with such cases in the future. (The Supreme Court ruling makes it clear that RFRA provides ample statutory authority for issuing such regulations.) It’s an interesting test of Eric Holder’s skill, and I’ll be interested to see how he handles it.”

Kleiman seem particularly hopeful because Holder recently ordered the DEA to stop unwarranted raids on California’s medical marijuana dispensaries. Making many wonder if the slow decriminalization process for medical and recreational marijuana now under way in individual states will soon have approval (or at least non-interference) from the executive branch.

What does this all mean for modern Pagans? It means that we may soon see a time where individual Pagan faiths and traditions, if they so chose, could apply for an exemption to use a controlled substance (most likely an entheogen) during religious or magical rites. This will no doubt cause some amount of controversy if/when it emerges. While many Pagans have used controlled substances both recreationally and in a ritual context, many Pagan spokespersons since the early days have strived to present modern Pagans as law-abiding folk who absolutely reject illegal means to achieve altered states of consciousness. So expect this to be a big issue within our larger movement as laws become more permissive towards the religious use of controlled substances.

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