Anticipation Anxiety and Tomb Raider
I've been in hell lately. Near-daily anxiety attacks (or near anxiety attacks) after several months of being free and clear of any symptoms at all. The worst part about these times in my life is that when the cycle starts, I tend to have no clue what started it. I spent several hours on Saturday trying to sort that out, and I finally did.
It's related to the pending completion of the all-woman art & design reprint of Swords & Wizardry in the current gaming environment I'm presently project managing. Every day for the last several weeks, all my social media is filled with women talking about the harassment they get at cons and public events, women getting harassed, talked down to, and insulted by men, men talking about women's experiences like they know better than women, women (as a whole) being graphically and horrifically insulted by men, men (and a few women) defending their right to be racist, homophobic, and gropey at the table, and of course... women leaving the hobby entirely because they've got better things to put their time into than a gaming space that doesn't care about them.
The way my anxiety expresses itself is often through anticipation. When I get to whatever I'm anticipating, it's almost never as bad as it feels it's going to be prior to getting there. In this case, I'm anticipating a whole lot of trolls. I'm hoping it'll be kept at a minimum, but the husband and I have already started talking strategy in the event shit gets bad. I hate that this has to be done. I hate it so very much, but this is the world I live in right now, and this is the hobby I work in. A place where I have to come up with strategies in the event that a project I've worked on for over a year gets hammered on by trolls. It sucks.
I've been oscillating between anger I can't find a way to express other than through hitting random things (I've still got some pain in my right foot after kicking a coffee table about three weeks ago), deep levels of sadness and questioning about why I bother with this hobby anymore, and becoming so wrapped up in my own thoughts and fear that I'm constantly distracted and 'flat'.
I have meds to help out with this, but I'm reluctant to take them because I'm a 40-year-old woman who would really like to get pregnant sometime before I run out of eggs. Here's another place where women run at a disadvantage. If I want to have a child, I absolutely have to learn how to cope with my depression and anxiety without drugs while attempting conception, and all the way up past nursing the baby.
My therapist will be happy I'm finally listening to her and doing the things she told me will help break the cycle, however. The hardest part has been accepting these things are not 100% effective, and don't fix the problem immediately or even fix it after just one application. I have to remember to do these things daily.
Namely, I've been sometimes forcing myself to do the following:
- Exercise. I need to get back into running form, but for the meantime impromptu dance parties have been a good cardio-giver. It helps that I'm a freelancer who works from home, so I can bebop all over the house like no one's watching but the cat... because no one's watching but the cat.
- Put on a Bra. AKA "get dressed". Even though I work from home, I take a shower, brush my teeth, do my hair, and get dressed in something I like. Some days, I trudge through this. Usually,
- Listen to Music. I'm not the sort of person who frequently has music on, but I enjoy listening to it when I do, so I have to actually remind myself to do so. When I do, I find myself humming or singing along with the music no matter what I'm doing, and it lifts my spirits or helps to distract. I'm not branching out into podcasts (I've been enjoying Misdirected Mark's offerings recently).
- Other Avocations. Hence all the baking. Since I started baking about two weeks ago, I've made peanut butter cookies twice, snickerdoodles, banana bread, and chocolate crinkles. I've also started going through the process of looking through some of my old art projects so I can get back to non-gaming-related things.
- Cleaning House. Every day I try to do the minimum of cleaning the kitchen, making the bed, and picking up around the house. Days when the depression hits hard, and I don't want to or have the ingredients to bake, I pick a 'spring cleaning' project like thorough floor cleaning, washing all the windows, etc...
- Video Games. Distraction is the key here. I tried playing Diablo 3 for a while, but the game just kept putting me to sleep. As fun as it is to kill massive amounts of demons, I needed something that engaged more of me, which is how I picked up Tomb Raider. I'm thoroughly enjoying the game, and have more things to say about it below.
It's helping by and large. I have to force myself to do it some days, and other days I'm practically manic and get a huge list of things done before noon. However, I've found if I keep doing it, I have fewer days where I feel absolutely crushed, and can pull myself out of that deep, dark hole I end up in a little bit faster. It's hard to accept that the 'getting better' is incremental because I want an instantaneous cure. That's when I fall back on forcing myself through the motions.
When all else fails, I head back to this PDF, which I have printed out, hanging above my desk: Everything Is Awful and I'm Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up. Sometimes it helps to just read through it, to pinpoint what's going on. Otherwise, my brain is so awash in bad thoughts it's hard to figure out where it's coming from or what I can do to stop them.
Diablo 3 wasn't cutting it for a game, so I picked up one we already had (it came with our XBox One): Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Despite unabashedly loving Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider movies, this hasn't been a franchise of games that I've really gotten into. I don't really have a definitive reason why that's the case... it just is. Some things you pick up and some you don't. I certainly wouldn't have purchased it all on my own, but it seemed like something different to try to get me away from sleep-inducing Diablo 3.
Even though it's not an open-world game, Rise of the Tomb Raider is scratching the same sort of itch for me that Dragon Age: Inquisition did (DA being one of my all-time favorite franchises for many reasons). Sure, the story's a bit on rails as these types of games tend to be, but I was engrossed from the start, and the varying types of gameplay available in the game (jumping, shooting, sneaking, exploring, etc...) definitely keep me from falling asleep.
It's also harder than a lot of the games I've played recently. Finding my way through obstacles sometimes takes several reloads which would normally have me throwing the control down in frustration and walking away. In my present mood, though, anything that keeps me thinking and focusing keeps me going. There's definitely an action-adventure feel to the game from the very start. It can be tough running through a collapsing environment while a helicopter is chasing you with machine guns blazing, but man do I feel in the moment.
Lara, herself, is a wonderfully rich character who's fun to watch, and the graphics are really phenomenal. While I can appreciate the indie games movement, I still want my video games to have that AAA quality. I really wish whoever did the motion capture and character animations for this game did the same for Dragon Age. While I've loved all the DA games, there's always been something a little 'off' about the character animations and avatars that's bugged me. Not so with this game.
The action is adult, the cut scenes are fantastic, there's plenty of swearing and realistic dialog, the voice acting is great, the world is fun to explore, I could go on and on and on... it's turned out to be an unexpectedly fun game to distract myself with.
This is an ongoing battle, and probably will be for some time. I'm thankful I had the presence of mind when this first started some five or six years ago to identify it and seek solutions. I know exactly how awful this sort of anxiety was before I knew what it was and sought ways to heal because I can still remember those days very well. I say I'm going through hell now, but it's nothing compared to the days I just didn't want to wake up.
What are some of your favorite distractions when things get rough?