Let’s Talk: Video Games & Mental Health

This is a little bit of a different Let’s Talk blog post and I’ve been debating about posting this for a while now. This post has been sat in my drafts for months in various different formats, it has been rewritten countless times, and is probably the most personal post I’ve written to date on the blog. On the other hand, though, I’m incredibly proud of myself for writing this post.

The last time I properly sat down and edited this post was about two months ago if not longer. I’ll apologize now if it comes across as a little rambly in places, it’s just how it came together when I originally wrote this version of the post.

I’ve recently seen a handful of articles online about how playing video games can be a bad thing for your physical and mental health. While I do understand and agree with some of the points made in those articles, at the same time I find myself disagreeing with them. Instead of letting myself dwell on the negatives, I started to think about the positives I’ve had myself with video games and my own health over the last few years.

Towards the end of 2018, I was diagnosed with anxiety.

I don’t want to sit here and write about all the little details or specifics of what happened before being diagnosed with anxiety or anything like that as it’s not what I want to do. I do want to try and keep it brief as there are still things I’m not ready to discuss openly yet. The aim of this post is more of a reflection of the positive experiences I’ve had with video games and how they’ve helped me over the past couple of years.

In those first few weeks, I felt like the world around me stopped and I felt incredibly lost. Every day was difficult and challenging. I was trying to understand everything related to my anxiety while trying to get to a point where I could then return to work. There was one thing that helped me feel a little bit ‘normal‘  during this time and this was video games.

I had recently begun playing Final Fantasy XIV Online properly again, I was playing a handful of games on my Nintendo Switch followed by The Sims 4 and the then-new expansion pack, The Sims 4 Get Famous. Playing these games helped me escape reality for a little while and almost forget about everything else that was going on. I was happy when I was gaming. Yes, there were still moments where I would feel anxious, I knew it wasn’t something that was going to magically vanish but it helped me at that time.

The next twelve months had their own challenges and video games continued to be my escape from reality for a little bit.

Then we hit 2020.

While the first couple of months were relatively okay, we then hit March. I think we can almost all say it felt very surreal considering the circumstances. I took some time off of work due to struggling with my mental health and while I didn’t feel as lost or alone as I had done previously due to having built up a good support network, there was still a lot of uncertainty ahead.

I didn’t really know what else to do due to the UK being in lockdown for the first time but, I just knew I needed that escape for a few hours. I pretty much threw myself into playing Animal Crossing New Horizons every day. The game made me happy, it gave me something to focus on with designing my island and trying to get the villagers that I wanted, I would harvest everything I could to save up as many Bells as possible and a number of my friends were playing the game to so it gave me something to talk about. There was just so much I could do to keep myself busy and distracted from the real world. To be honest, I think many of us are grateful for Animal Crossing New Horizons keeping us busy back in March & April.

As the year progressed, I did not only continue to work on my mental health, I kept playing videos game as a way to relax and escape reality however, it also inspired me to write more. Whether it was a blog post, a random word document, or an article about The Sims I just kept writing and playing. I can definitely say that the two together have helped me immensely over the past two years.

I can’t say I’ve experienced many negatives when it comes to video games. The ones that I have had have been more technical issues rather than anything else.

One thing I made sure of was to not necessarily limit how long I play for but more to be mindful of how long I was playing. It helped me not feel burned out by playing too much or by letting myself get easily overwhelmed.

I was and still am a part of a couple of communities on Discord that are full of wonderful people who have helped and supported me along the way, I’ve made new friends on Twitter and through blogging, some of who are my closest friends now. It wasn’t just playing video games on their own that had a positive impact on my own mental health, it was playing games and the bigger picture of video games that had a positive impact.

While this was a bit of a rambly reflection of my journey so far, what worked for me won’t necessarily work for everyone. I’m proud of how far I’ve come in my own journey with my mental health. I still have moments where it is challenging but I’m slowly getting better at dealing with those days. I’m honestly so thankful for all of my friends and all the support I’ve had along the way too.

I want to round off this post by saying, thank you for taking the time to read through it, and secondly, if you ever need someone to talk to my Twitter DM’s are open.

If you are looking for any information or advice about mental health, the UK based charity MIND is a very insightful resource.

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