May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a cause that is near and dear to me. I have lived with depression for over a decade, finding little breaks between my depressed periods. Today I want to discuss what it is like to be in the board gaming hobby with chronic depression and social anxiety. I am not looking for pity, or a pat on the back. I do not see myself as brave for sharing, or for being open about the situation. This has been a part of my life for over half my life, so I try to embrace it as apart of me and be open to help others going through the same situation.
Depression was the cause of me joining the board gaming community. I was in a very bleak place when I first sat down to play Zombicide with my family. I had began to stop talking not just to strangers or acquaintances but also my family and close friends. There was this deep rooted fear that I would say something stupid, or that I would not have good control of my angry outbursts. Rather than continue to worry about those things, I decided to just stop talking to everyone. However, it was the holidays and Zombicide did look really cool on the table. I sat down to play and was very quickly immersed in a social situation. The game ended and I felt so happy. It was something that I shared together with other people, that did not require a lot of small talk, and when I made mistakes in the game it was okay…because others made the same kind of mistakes. I was hooked instantly.
That was about three or four years ago. I actively began to play games with my family, which helped me maintain a close relationship with them. Some days while playing we would chat about life, and have small talk. On days where I was having a bad day, we would focus on the game and game play. It gave me a way to interact without feeling pressured to answer dreaded questions like “how are you?” or “what’s wrong?”. This bond with my family was wonderful, but about two years ago I wanted to become more active in the community. My local game store had play space, but no active game night. I decided to become the coordinator for our local game group.
I created a meet-up account, advertised on The Boardgame Group on Facebook, and went and waited…and waited. The first month it was mostly just me waiting. No one showed up. I felt embarrassed and then like a failure. I felt like I had said something stupid, or done something to make people not want to come. Then all at once, about a month in we had 10 people show up. This developed to a group of about 30 people. At first, once people started coming, it was very difficult for me. I had to interact with a lot of new people, and make small talk, and I try stuff my social anxiety into a corner. There was a surprising amount of conflict in the group. People disagreeing, arguing over games, and not wanting to play with certain other people. I developed some leadership skills and confidence by dealing with all of those situations. As I played games, it also became easier to engage in small talk. I began to look forward to these nights immensely. Until about a year ago when the store changed management and we were kicked out.
Once that happened, I was missing the community I had built. I wanted to interact more with the board gaming community, so I started to do the thing that scared me the most. I put myself out on social media to interact with people all around the world. I became very active on Instagram, but every time before I would post anything I would begin to panic…what if I said something stupid…what if I spelled something wrong..what if people don’t care…what if this causes me to lose followers…I would like to say that I have grown out of this, but I have not entirely. After growing my Instagram and vastly enjoying the community and conversations I started this blog. I still worry daily that my posts will be boring or uninteresting. When I make mistakes, I have anxiety attacks, and tears come that I cannot stop. Some days, it is not pretty. However, despite the difficulties, I still love sharing with you. I love talking about board games and hearing your experiences. It gives me a sense of pride and joy to be able to chat with so many different people about games. My final creep into social media was Twitter. I am still very unsure of Twitter, and I am the most afraid to make a mistake there. Hopefully that will lessen as I get used to it.
Why post this big story rant? My main goal here was to reach out to my fellow gamers, those with depression and those without. It is okay to be someone with depression and participate in gaming activities. Those who have never struggled with depression, please be forgiving to that player who seems to cancel randomly, or may not talk very much at the table. I promise you, they are trying to work through things, and that game day may be the best day of their month. I am so happy to be apart of such an inclusive gaming community. Thank all of you for your support and encouragement!