Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Truth be Told

Most of my friends know I have dealt with depression almost everyday of my adult life.

For a long time I let it get the best of me, now most days I it does not even cross my mind, it is there though, that random thought of wondering am I OK? I have had all the emotional symptoms, all the signs like sleeping a lot or things I used to like I no longer can stand. Yes I even thought about the topic that puts you into the hospital. Quite honestly, I am sure more people than you think have actually thought about it as well and sadly even more have done the unthinkable and committed suicide.

I always made sure that I added in my thoughts that it was stupid of me to think of it. I knew I would hurt more people than myself.  You know the "Stop feeling sorry for yourself kind of talk," Sometimes though, you just get tired.

It has been about eight years or so since my doctor put me into the hospital over concerns with what I might do. I just felt tired, he had me on this diet and I was totally confused by it. Sodium restriction (which if you try and eliminate it ends you up in a whole heap of trouble) and so I was eating less and less and drinking lots of water and before you know it the dreaded, Electrolyte Imbalance, and you start thinking crazy. I just told him I was tired, I said "I don't know what to do", I was restless, I could not sleep had not slept well for over a year. I was so tired, I was snippy and was hardly talking to anyone but my friends Neal and Dennis.

I was tired, did I mention that? The signs were all there and I was ignoring them. I had been hooked on the game Darkage of Camelot, an MMO. I had pretty much stopped playing it. I spent my days now unemployed and walking the mall everyday. When I was laid off, I got a lot of money, I had unemployment extensions because of the 9/11 extension program because my industry was hit by the aftermath (travel industry) and I was not hurting for money. Yet I was just not seeing that I was depressed, watching TV all day I could tell the time by the shows on tv, it was background noise.

My sister says she noticed it, my friends noticed it but they could not put their fingers on it. I was coming undone and while I unraveled no one could keep me together. Simple things would set me off, it was always while I was alone. Even when I lost 90 pounds in a matter of weeks no one said anything, I just stayed away from people, I cut myself off from the world. I still played my online games, I just had a falling out with my friend Rich over a dumb thing that I said. I felt like he was trying to rip me off or something like that. I do not remember. I was loosing my tabletop gaming friends down in Peotone. I was not seeing my close friends and I was emotionally wasting away.

The funny thing about those electrolyte imbalances and the crazy things you will do, at the hospital I started getting decent meals in me. I went from a wreck into a ball of energy who paced the hallways of the ward I was in, even when everyone was sleeping I was up walking. If I kept walking I would be ok, if I slept I dreamed, and I was seriously thinking my dreams were not dreams. But as I ate better I balanced out, oh the sleeping problems continued but I was not thinking my dreams were real.

Where am I going with this? Well I just needed to get it out there, I keep some things bottled up and this is one of them. There is a stigma that people with depression are scary or that we are contagious or do not mention it because we might fall apart.

I kept it close to my belt when at work, sometimes and yes sometimes talking about it gets me emotional. I grew up not wanting to cry, it was not manly. Oh when I become a drama queen I am in the midst of depression, ask my sister, better yet don't she might have stories to tell.

So what about gaming? Yeah I have stepped back from it in the past, I do not see it as a cause I see it as a release. When I wrote about Jovian Chronicles a few days ago, that was during a point in my life after my mom died that I had some of my most creative periods in my life. Am I creatively burned out now? No I do not need to be depressed to be a brilliant or deep thinker. It just did not hinder me like that. Some of my best roleplaying happened in that period as well, but so did a lot of tension with my group. I dug deep for inspiration.

There are days when I think things suck, work sucks, I am living a horrible life right now and things won't get any better. Then I think about others who are worse off than me, who are really sick or out of a job and I suck it up and give it the stiff upper lip and all that bullshit. It does not take away the hurt and I cry or scream and possibly sing a few songs in the car until I go horse and the laugh about it.

I think the best thing for me right now is that I found a game store I can run D&D twice a week. I am really grateful for that chance. My gaming group has all but dried up and we rarely do anything anymore. I see that I am making people happy, helping people from their everyday woes and putting smiles on their faces at the end of the day. When I got told the other day how much I am helping the youngest kid at my table it made me happy. Really happy... no not happy, proud, happy is the mask I put on everyday. Proud is a difficult thing for me to comprehend. I am my own worse critic, I might feel I am doing the worst job ever only to be told that it is one of the best things I have ever done.

So running D&D on Saturdays has helped me even more, it gets me out of the house and I am getting to flex my creative muscles again. This weekend I was thanked by everyone for running my game, it made me feel awkward to be sure, no offense intended, I should be thanking them for playing in my game. Even with my reputation of being a killer DM. All kidding aside it is an honor for me to run my game, it is nothing special, really it is not. As long my players are happy I am happy, and that is not my mask I am putting on. You want to see the real me? When I am at that table that is me.

Got a question? Do not be afraid to ask.


  1. I think a large part of the problems with depression in our society is the reaction people have to it. There's often a response of, "cheer up, you don't have it so bad compared to so-and-so," and things like that. It is often disregarded as something rational when most of the time depression is completely irrational. It's usually a chemical imbalance that cannot be controlled. When everyone around you starts treating you like you're ridiculous for feeling sad, you feel alone. It just kind of spirals out of control from there.

    I've found for myself, though I do not feel depressed often, when I do the best thing I can do is to just admit to myself that I'm depressed and to be ok with it. It is somewhat freeing to just say, "I'm depressed today," and I'll do my best to avoid stressful or frustrating things. I know it's not always that simple, but it is what I've found works for me. This is also something I've thought about often when it comes to my daughter. When I was growing up, without writing a book on my childhood, I wasn't often allowed to feel sad or mad. I was scolded for having "negative" emotions as if I was being irrational. Part of my goals as a father is I want to make sure my daughter knows it's ok to feel sad or mad sometimes. In fact, it's completely natural to sometimes not be happy. It's when you feel completely trapped in those emotions that it's a concern.

    Thanks for sharing something so personal, Frank. Glad to know we're not slowly driving you mad on Saturdays. Though I'm sure we'll push you a bit in that direction sometimes. Of course, you have the upper hand there... if we start to really drive you nuts, you can always kill the party. We know you're just waiting for the right moment to do so.


About Me

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I am Regional Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region for D&D Adventurers League. Worked for Best Buy as a Project Team Specialist were I did store remodels, support Vendor displays and set merchandising standards for the stores in the Chicago market. He also enjoys playing games (PC, Console, Board Games, RPGs and Miniature Skirmish Games), reading, watching movies and listening to music.