Life

The healing power of videogames and animals

dark_souls___bonfire_by_alo81-d66a3fy

This is a story about Loki the Cat and the mental health benefits of videogames and animals. This kind of ties in with my previous post about the Souls series of games and was directly inspired by this reddit post.

I have felt remarkably better the past couple weeks. Of course I’ve still had plenty to fret about and I am by no means ‘content’ (whatever the fuck that means these days) but I have definitely noticed a mellowing out.

It’s because of Dark Souls II but more specifically, it’s about videogame experiences that have the power to make you rethink your own life.

When I first started playing the Souls games it was December 2010 and it was just me and our cat, Loki. He was there with me the whole time I played Demon’s Souls.

Here he is hanging out in the fridge, for some reason.

LOKI FRIDGE“All of this is mine, K asshole?”

He sat with me every single night on the couch, spurring me on with his little cat nods and blinks whenever he saw I was getting stressed. Then when exhaustion took over and I stopped playing, he’d curl up next to me and sleep. Well either that or tear lamp shades to pieces and then wear them as some sort of defiant protest against lighting accessories:

loki lampHail to the king of Lamp

He was my travelling companion in this strange and troubling land. Whenever it got too real I would put down the controller and wrestle with him for a while. He always won.

Two years later and I’m in a new flat, playing Dark Souls and him and me him are there again, couch locked, just hanging like bros. He went missing about a month or so after moving in to the new place. We looked for him every night for a month and a half, in the process finding a pregnant stray cat that had been abandoned which we ended up adopting.

After fruitless searching and a huge poster campaign I get a call one day from the vicar that operated the church near our house. He had found Loki, who was at death’s door on the floor of the church after not eating or drinking for over a month. We got him to the vet and he fought all he could but died 3 days later. Dark Souls would be the last game he would ever witness me play and complete.

There’s a bit more to Loki’s story that I’m not going to go in to in this post as it isn’t relevant, but suffice to say his disappearance and subsequent re-emergence a month and a half later were very, very suspicious. This wasn’t just a simple case of a cat wandering off, there was something more nefarious going on and I still believe to this day that foul play was involved. It was after he died that I realised I was depressed. I know now that I’d been depressed long before that, but his death brought it to the surface and forced me to confront it. But I digress.

Now I’m playing DS2 and Loki is gone, and it feels like I need him there to get me through it. But now we have Shodan (the cat we found who is a carbon copy of Loki in both looks and temperament, only female) and a new puppy who loves it when I rage and hurl the controller across the room so I am not alone.

Every time I down a boss for the first time I think of Loki and those long nights years ago, it makes me sad. But then I look at the faces of our other animals and I’m spurred on again.

When I play these games I’m not myself any more. I’m a traveller in a  foreign land. I’m not a depressed thirty-something with an unsatisfying life, I am a lone warrior with a purpose and a reason to fight. The animals that accompany me on these journeys are not mere pets, they are my familiars, my totems, my friends.

The memories I have of Loki will never go away and even though I get sad when I think about him, I also smile when I remember how he was always by my side when I needed him the most. When I know I can escape to a world where my life can be whatever I want it to be, and that those trusty beasts are ready to come along for the ride, it reminds me that life can be good and that happiness is attainable.

f.

Wisdom GET!

WISDOM

This actually made me stop and go “Wooooooah” because I’ve never looked at it from this perspective before.That happens with more frequency these days, sometimes that’s a good thing sometimes that’s a bad thing.

Today it was a good thing I’d like to tell you about.

Ok so in a nutshell here’s one of my myriad of problems: I compare myself to everyone else and come to the conclusion that everyone (literally everyone I pass or interact with on a day to day basis) is doing better than me and that I am hopelessly lost in this world of confusion and despair. It propagates my apathy because I convince myself that I’ll never get any better, at anything, and will sink into mediocrity and nobody will come to my funeral and blah blah blah.

Right well, on reddit today in a random thread someone else expressed this sentiment albeit in a more diluted and less nihilistic way. The question of the thread was thus:

“What do you know to be unequivocally true and yet you still refuse to accept it?”

A simple question, fairly easy to answer. The answer I saw was something along the lines of:

“That no one cares about what I do as much as I do. I stress so much about how people view me and it I really shouldn’t.”

Now that’s me, although I heap on layers of self loathing and misery on top of that basic notion. However the response to that sentiment completely threw me off guard and somewhere inside the quagmire of my mind a shiny penny dropped into some magic hole that has left a lasting impression on me (I hope). This was the response to that worry:

“The problem is that you are comparing your behind the scenes footage to everyone else’s highlight reel.”

And BOOM! epiphany! I actually cracked a smile at this ridiculously simple and obvious observation. Every time I see someone do something that I think I can never do, every time I see someone succeed at something no matter how trivial, every time I feel bad about myself because the person I’m viewing is clearly above me, I am only getting a slight glimpse into one person’s life. I’m seeing one event that for all I know could be the only decent thing to happen to that person in months. I’m comparing my entire existence with just one of their transient moments in time. This has taken root in my mind and *I hope* it’s something I can use in the future when those familiar feelings start to run through my mind.

Thanks random reddit user. You have given me a useful tool to try and combat these irrational and damaging thoughts I have on a daily basis. I just hope I can make effective use of this tool.

f.

The Unquiet Dark

dark

I wish we didn’t need to sleep. Sleep is a bothersome thing and even though I stay in bed until ~2pm on weekends, I really wish I didn’t.

You see I have a problem with sleeping. If I haven’t had a smoke before bed, I will lie there for hours whilst my mind races. Last night it took me about three hours to drift off. I went to bed at midnight, had to get up at six thirty, grand total of three and a bit hours sleep.

Getting the right amount of sleep is important for depressed people.

Too little sleep and you are ratty and irritated all day, which may sound like no big deal but when you add in the depression and anxiety factor simply being irritated takes on a whole new fucking level. Think of what you are like when you are mildly irritated by something such as a crying child or that bastard on the bus who plays his music so loud you can hear everything coming from his headphones. Now take that mild annoyance, multiply by infinity, and then let it bend you over the table and fuck you in the ass. I am not being over dramatic here, depression is a synergistic illness. Any mental state is made exponentially worse when you already loathe yourself and can’t figure out why.

Conversely, too much sleep and you feel like shit when you wake up both physically and mentally. You have wasted your day yet again in bed, further reinforcement (as if you needed any more) that you are a looooooser.

So, we are presented with a problem. Smoke weed and sleep, or go straight and don’t.

The worst part is that whilst you are alone with your thoughts in the dark, with your chattering, seemingly never ending stream of what ifs coursing through your every neuron, things look uglier. The positive things you have tried to make sense of during the day get tainted by the darkness and take on new aspects, things you never considered before. It’s hard to explain in words but as an example I can read a part of my Buddhism book during my lunch hour and be completely on board with the “be compassionate to all” tenet and actually feel good about myself for wanting to aligned more to positive feelings. However in the unquiet dark, with so much information blasting through my brain at almost the speed of light, things get muddled and corrupted. ‘Compassion? to everyone? fuck no, there are idiots out there who deserve my invective and deserve to be punished – FUCK compassion’

It’s another aspect of depression I hate. It makes you change your mind way too often. I can be full of positivity about how I can better myself one minute and then someone flicks a switch and literally the next minute I have to deride myself for thinking like such a sap.

In a word:

fuuuuuuu

Fuck sleep, lets evolve away from this already, all it does is get in the way of progress! Damn my bed is comfy though…

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Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP

over_the_stars

My brain won’t be quiet.

It started Monday morning and hasn’t stopped since. Constant questioning, constant doubt, constant confusion. Taking possible future paths or ideas and querying them to the nth degree. Extrapolating deluded and diseased fantasies based on nothing but my own self doubt and chagrin. I am worried that I am starting to go insane.

Jobmoneywifehappysadwhat?where?why?when?maybethismaybethatmaybesomethingelseentirely.

I can’t even make out what most of it is saying because it looks like that up there ^^. Just a stream of conciousness without punctuation or regard for the rules of grammar. But the overall theme is very apparent: You suck and you know it.

I cannot stop it, the pills are not stopping it, I feel anxious again.

I do not know what to do.

I want to take a shotgun and blow it all out, not because I want to die – I definitely do not – but just to shut the goddamn thing up and get some peace.

Fuck this shit.