So, I apparently missed that it’s been Mental Health Awareness Month for 29 days. Observant, I am not, especially when I’m in the middle of a writing push, but at least I didn’t miss it completely.
As most of you know, I’ve got anxiety. This anxiety likely stems from childhood PTSD as well as just my unique brain chemistry. I’ve got a wide range of coping mechanisms that seem to be doing a pretty decent job, but since I’ve stopped self medicating with boozamahol I’ve been a lot less social than I used to be ( but that’s another story). One of my few remaining social outings is a “supposed to be weekly but winds up happening once or twice a month” Pathfinder game that I GM. (For those of you that don’t follow pen & paper RPGs, Pathfinder is a D&D 3.5 variant)
Tragedy struck (in my mind) a few month ago when one of my players (MG) took a job in another town. I was pretty sure that the game would die off, or at least, I’d have to kill a character. Instead, my friends reminded me that we are good nerds of the modern era, so we set up a webcam and MG has been playing remotely for the last couple of months. One brain weasel silenced.
This brings to the other night. The players are doing their best to recover after a near party wipe, establishing new characters and making their way in a new town. All of a sudden, we hear a doorbell through my computer’s speakers. MG looks around, confused. The doorbell rings again. He goes to answer.
The second he leaves the frame, the brain weasels slam into high gear. MG’s door has been rung by a serial killer, and obviously that was the last I was going to see of my departed friend. I shush them, but as time drags on I become more and more convinced my friend is dead.
Of course, a few minutes later he comes back. New neighbor wanted to introduce themselves, wouldn’t take the hint to come back later. I relax.
Out of curiosity, I ask for a show of hands. “How many of you thought MG was a dead man when he walked off camera.”
Two hands go up immediately. The other three players (I have a 5 player group) look at us with expressions ranging from confusion to incredulity. The three of us with our hands raised share an ‘anxiety-five’ and everything goes back to normal.
Now, some of you are probably thinking “Wait, that’s it? End of anecdote?” and yeah, I hate to break it to you, that’s a lot of what anxiety is (at least for me), a crippling amount of buildup to not much. Sorry.
I’m writing this because it’s MHAM (mmmmm ham….) and it’s a good example of the little things I have to deal with every day. It’s not much, in the grand scheme of things, but that’s ok. A friend told me this year that relative severity is not a great measure of personal impact, and I’ve spent the last few months realizing that’s true. Sure, someone might have it worse than you, but that doesn’t mean what you’re feeling doesn’t suck.
So, basically, if that story feels familiar to you, don’t be afraid to talk it out with someone, or look into treatment, or whatever you think will work for you. Just, try not to bottle it up, push it down. That shit can lead to worse problems later, believe me, I know.
And, most importantly, I guess, if that feels familiar, know that it’s not just you. Know that you’re not alone.
And if that story felt strange and foreign to you, but you ket reading, Congratulations! You now know a little bit of what it’s like to live with anxiety. Consider yourself more aware.