Mental Health: Depression and boardgames, an unlikely friendship
Mental illness. Something that so many people deal with but something that is so scary to talk about. Statistics say that one in four, that’s right, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. That’s huge.
I try to speak up about the issues that I face but often feel like people will think less of me if I am open and honest about my mental health. However this must change, it has to. I want to create a space where anybody can come and talk about how they are feeling with no judgement and I want to talk a little bit about the many ways in which boardgames help me cope with depression and anxiety on a regular basis.
Having dealt with depression and social anxiety for as long as I can remember and often being unable to talk about it, I would like that to change. I’ve built my own little space on the internet which has helped my wellbeing and mental health in so many ways so if I’m able reassure or support even one person, then my work here is done.
Discovering boardgames and the boardgaming community has had such a positive impact on my life.
People often ask me why I play the kind of games that I do, what attracts me to them. One of the most simple answers I can find is that they provide an escape. A few hours away from the ‘real world’, a few hours where I am so immersed in a game that I can’t afford to think about anything else other than what I’m doing in that moment. Planning my next move, working on a strategy, finding solutions to problems, something I often find overwhelming and exhausting in real life. It reassures me that I am able to come up with solutions, and see a way out of problems that I may face.
My brain is constantly in overdrive from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep, consumed by negative thoughts, dread, worry, stress, over analysing every situation that happens throughout the day and pure exhaustion. Heavy games allow me to escape those feelings. A positive, healthy escape.
I had spent many years trying to find an escape and often found myself doing so in unhealthy toxic ways, that actually made the battle with depression much worse. Im sure it can be said for any hobby, but putting myself out there, enjoying something again, feeling motivated and feeling a sense of achievement is something that helped save my life.
Discovering heavy games, and war-games has allowed me to learn and to be challenged which definitely has a massive effect on the way I feel. Not just in the rules of the games themselves but the topics of the games also, I have found myself becoming interested in all sorts of topics I had never really thought about before and being able to expand my knowledge on those topics. Military History, Geography, Farming, all stuff I had never really had an interest in before. (Maybe not farming so much)
Boardgames have also given me the best tool when it comes to building and maintaining healthy relationships and friendships with people. I can be quite a confident person until the anxiety sets in, that’s when the self-doubt, worry and feeling of being inferior or undeserving of positive relationships begins. I spent a bit of time demoing games for Black box games and Esdevium games and the simple question “Would you like to play a game?” has created an easy way for me to start to connect with people. Even if the answer is no, it creates a conversation, an interest. An easy way for me to connect with people without too much pressure or stress which I have found immensely valuable.
I am fortunate enough, that even on my dark days, I have loving friends and family including a lot of people in the boardgame community that help me get through whatever I need to get through. Most of the time, that is just playing a game and knowing that I don’t have to talk about anything I don’t want to talk about. Just being able to connect with someone with little or no pressure.
The boardgame community has given me a new lease of life, a space where I am completely able to be myself on the good days, and the bad days with little to no judgement. A space to talk about the things that make me happy, to provide support and receive support. A place full of like-minded, creative, wonderful people.
Finding a hobby, that I enjoy and that I’m good at has been the best medicine for me.
Of course, there are still difficult days, weeks, months but boardgames make it all a bit more bearable. Boardgames have given me a voice at times when I felt like I didn’t have one or deserve one.
Always know, that if you ever need someone to talk to, someone to just listen, or play a game with you, I’m here. It doesn’t have to be about boardgames, it can be about anything but it’s a good place to start.