Mental health has a stigma surrounding it. We all know this. It’s a tough thing to talk about, which makes it a tough thing to deal with. I’ve urged many a friend to open up and spent a good amount of time letting people know that their feelings are valid and that they aren’t their anxiety. Sometimes just being heard makes it a little better, takes the edge off. Sometimes talking about it helps.
I’ve found this advice much easier to follow when I’m on the listening side than the talking side, however.
Two years ago, I had the summer of anxiety. I don’t know why. There wasn’t any “good reason.” For months, most every morning I woke up in a panic. I was exhausted all the time, as my fight or flight was always firing. It was hard to talk to people about anything, especially what was going on. I stopped reading because I couldn’t focus. Every day was a battle to get through.
In hindsight, I realize that it could have been worse. Part of me probably even knew that in the moment and used that as an excuse to not get help/deal with it. If there are others suffering more, I shouldn’t take up those resources, right? Hindsight is also tells me that thought is a bunch of bullshit.
We tend to think of mental health as either good or bad. Too often, it’s not addressed until it goes really down hill. We exercise for our physical health, but what do we do for our mental health? Well, mine started getting better when I started exercising it.
It was during that summer that I really started to put thoughts and work toward Samsarras, by D&D campaign world. It was a pleasant thing to escape into that part of my mind. It wasn’t always possible to focus, but when I could, doing that mental work kept my brain from doing other, less desirable things. Thinking about the different cultures and what they ate or how they approached sexuality was fascinating. It really cemented my love of world building.
So it was, two years ago during the summer of anxiety, that the seeds of Crumbling Keep were born. As my focus improved, I’d do more work on it. I started running more games, as the social aspect of them helped me not dwell in my own little world. The mental gymnastics that it took to herd cats (also known as PCs) was like mental exercise for me. The more I did it, the more I could do it.
Perhaps more so than the work, D&D was giving me a place to express those negative feelings and put those pieces of myself. Samsarras can be a dark place. It was created by demons, yet redeemed by those noble creatures that came after. For myself, dealing with my own demons, it really worked for me. It gave my feelings form. It put them somewhere that I could look at them for what they were.
I still have off days; who doesn’t? There was also a lot of work that wasn’t D&D related. For me, though, it was an important piece of the puzzle. It was my outlet. It still is. Pouring my time into Crumbling Keep isn’t always easy, but it is pretty rewarding. Hanging out with friends and telling stories together does me wonders. I hope it does the same for you.
Do you have stories about mental health and D&D? Feel free to share. It’ll do us all some good.