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Living with depression in modern times

On weekends, I usually spend my nights at my computer. This one particular Sunday wasn’t any different. I had plans to read my economics book, but with a holiday coming up, I thought, “Eh, I have more time to read tomorrow.” So more time-wasting activities it was.

I found myself on Tumblr, refreshing the page whenever there was a good amount of new posts. There was one that struck me about a game called Depression Quest. This was in the description:

“Depression Quest is an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. This game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings, and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.”

I played until the end of the game. It felt so real to me and the longer I played, the more emotional I got. I started thinking, “I remember this so well. Has it been two or three years since that? How did I get to a point where I feel okay with everything in my life?”

I’ve known since I was a teenager that my brain chemistry was off. I had anxiety, ADD, and depression, but I always thought I could manage it somehow. I took a year off from school after high school graduation because I knew I wasn’t mentally ready to go to college — but I don’t tell people that. How do you tell people, “I just wasn’t ready”?

After a few weeks into my first semester at Mills, I knew I was getting worse. I went to see a counselor, but I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. I couldn’t open up to her or anyone, really. I felt trapped in a shell. I hadn’t been in a classroom setting in over ten years (I was homeschooled), so this was new territory for me. I wasn’t sure if I was crossing any social boundaries, and as a result I found myself pretending that I liked things I wasn’t sure of, convincing myself that I did. And I didn’t know what I needed to do.

I remember the aimless late night walks around campus and the friends I lost along the way. I didn’t know what was wrong or why I felt sad about everything all the time. There were the days when I could not get out of bed and my room became a mess.

I’m about two years removed from when I had my breakdown, one that lead me to finding a treatment plan that worked for me. I still remember the support of friends, but when you’re trapped in your headspace, you can’t appreciate the things people do for you. There are so many thoughts racing that make you think, “There is no possible way that they are telling me this and not feeling superior than me.” Through support and treatment, I learned that wasn’t the case at all.

I know I’ll never fully get rid of depression or anxiety. I still find it incredibly difficult to be completely open about my struggles. It’s hard to be social when you think that people will want to try to fix you or use you to get meds. I try to be more open for the sake of de-stigmatization, but there’s only so much I can do alone. Loneliness can eat you alive and trap you in a pattern that can lead you to spiral out of control. I’ve tried to live in the loneliness, but I couldn’t and I can’t and I won’t.

What I know now is how to live with depression and what to do when things get tough. I try to keep myself in check whenever I notice any of the symptoms coming back. I still worry about what people might think of me. Slowly, I’m becoming more comfortable with the idea that I am me and that depression is a part of me, but it isn’t who I am.

At the end of Depression Quest, a message appeared on my screen. It told me that Depression Quest, like depression, doesn’t have an ending and that it was important for the game to reflect that. “Instead of a tidy ending, we want to just provide a series of outlooks to take moving forward. After all, that’s all we can really do with depression – just keep moving forward.”

Depression Quest isn’t a light game that could be played like Tetris. It’s an intricate tapestry of scenarios — an informative and educational Choose Your Own Adventure, if you will. It’s life when you’re faced with the reality and decisions. If you can play, please do. It’s not my story of depression, nor is it anyone else’s, but an amalgamation. For someone who has depression, this game can be triggering, so tread carefully.

I don’t think this game will solve all of the stigmatization, but it’s a step in the right direction. More education and less shaming can only lead to a change, and this one is an important one. Depression Quest showed me the strides I made in my daily fight against depression, but I know the stigma still exists — and I’m also not going to let it to dictate how I live.