It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I started this blog as a way to write about the hobby I love, but it’s also here to serve another purpose: to be a coping mechanism with my stress and anxiety.
I’ve talked about it before, but the TL;DR version of it is that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and games and rpgs are one of my coping mechanisms that help me get out of my head for a bit.
But what happens when the escape I use becomes a bane instead of a boon? That’s what this post is about, and why I took a break from posting and from board games for a little while.
It all started on Feb. 16. I finally was able to start playing DnD (5th Ed.) with my normal game group after we all reorganized our schedules and shifted to a twice monthly thing instead of once a week. I was super excited because DnD really helps with some of the feelings I have towards myself in regards to imposter syndrome and the fact that at times I feel like I’m not good enough (more on this in a later post. It’s one I’ve wanted to write for a very long time but haven’t felt in the right headspace to do it justice).
We are playing and my character and another are faced with a decision to make regarding taking care of the baddies and saving another PC (player character). I’m sitting there thinking about what my character would do, when the character I was with chimed in and, at the time, I felt extremely pressured as a player (not as a character) to do what they said, even if it wasn’t what my character would have done. My heart immediately started racing, I started getting tingly in my arms and the back of my neck, all signs of an impending anxiety episode (maybe not full blown panic attack, but on high alert at every. single. thing that is said and done. It all starts to get analyzed in my brain at superspeed, usually with a negative filter). I failed the check to stabilize the character who needed saved, and on his turn, his character died.
At the end of the session, the player who was urging me to take action made a statement that essentially boiled down to “I hold you responsible for this death”, which totally fits in with the archetype that this player is going for. But, at the time, I couldn’t separate that out. I internalized it, let it fester, and it really bothered me the rest of the weekend, because it felt like that player was holding ME, personally responsible, which is silly because it’s a pretend game but anxiety makes literally 0 sense most of the time.
I was shaken up enough about this that I thought about avoiding the next session (which is this Friday). But writing about it now, and looking back on it, I understand this isn’t a personal thing, it’s a game thing. One that I’ll probably have to deal with in some way, shape, or form. While I have interpersonal anxiety issues, Aldunn (my character) doesn’t (at least I don’t think he does…), so I should use this as an opportunity to roleplay and work through the personal issues I had that night.
BUUUUT anyway, that Sunday I had a few friends over to play a wargame; Liberty or Death (my first 5 x 1 game of the year). None of us had played it before, and only two of us were really familiar with the COIN system, so it was a learning game, and I was in charge of teaching it.
My 13 month old daughter decided, at that point, that she would begin having issues with going down to take a nap. So, as I’m trying to teach/play this new game (for my birthday, I might add), I am also dealing with the frustration/exhaustion of my daughter not sleeping, my wife being the one to have to work with her to get her to sleep, and me trying to juggle the two things.
I felt I didn’t teach the game well. I overlooked some key parts of what my faction should be doing to win the game, which in turn affected another player’s faction and ability to score. I’ve been reassured by one of the players that they had a good time and that I didn’t teach the game any worse than anyone else would have (since we were all new to the system) but the events of that Friday night and the goings on with my daughter really soured the experience, even with all of the players explaining to me they understood what I was going through (they all have children). One of them did make a comment after the fact that sort of confirmed that my misplaying really did have an impact on their score, and to be honest I felt super shitty based upon that. I was frustrated that this fun event had been tainted by my anxiety, and I even commented to one of the players that the next time I play this it will likely be solo.
These experiences really pushed me away from boardgames. I am a huge videogamer too, so it’s not uncommon for me to go through swings where I focus on one or the other in my free time, but this time it felt different. It felt as though because of my anxiety, I didn’t want to repeat that and taint the hobby that I love, so I pushed it away entirely. This is why I didn’t want to write, because I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute, so I didn’t, which I think is probably for the best.
My wife and I played some games last week which were really fun and started to get me to peek out of the hole again, so I’m sure I’ll get back in the habit of posting more regularly, and more importantly playing more regularly, but I wanted to at least talk about these experiences I had and how my anxiety colored them. I’m working on coping mechanisms, including medication and therapy, every day. There are good days, and bad days but I’m thankful I have this hobby, even if it gets ‘tainted from time to time’.
I know some of the people I alluded to do read my posts from time to time, so I do want to say that I am completely over everything, there is no ill will, and my feelings about it in the moment were colored by my anxiety in the moment.
I am thinking my next post will be either a review of a new game I hope to play on Saturday or a session report of one of my 10 x 10 games that I’ve been getting to the table. Do you have a preference? Let me know!