by: Pete Davison
People are important.
That knowledge didn’t really sink in until two years ago, when I really needed them. And they came through, probably saving my life in the process.
Some context first of all: I have struggled with depression, social anxiety and self-esteem issues for as long as I can remember, though it’s only relatively recently that I’ve come to recognize them for what they really are.
Two years ago, I was in a bad place. My wife and I had separated and I had been left all on my own in an apartment I couldn’t afford to keep renting by myself. I didn’t have a full-time job — I’d quit the teaching profession after suffering at least one nervous breakdown as a result of the stress it involved, and was attempting to pursue my dreams of “making it” in the game journalism business. I’d made in-roads — I was a regular contributor to a now sadly defunct site known as Kombo — but I wasn’t earning enough to support myself.
My entire life as I knew it had collapsed. I didn’t want to accept this at first. I wanted to believe that everything would be all right, that everything would sort itself out. I wanted to believe that one day my wife would come back and we’d be together again. I wanted to believe that suddenly my career would take off without warning and I’d never have to worry about money again.
But I knew that wasn’t the case. I knew that things were capital-B Bad, and I didn’t know what to do about it.
I spent days at a time not leaving my house, alternating between rage at myself for letting my life get into such a state and inconsolable grief. I fantasized about all the things I thought I could do to make myself feel better — yelling at my wife, hurting myself, just disappearing — but didn’t do any of them, mostly due to a lack of courage. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t have the courage to do any of those things.
I wasn’t alone, though, and I was glad of that. I found out who my true friends were during that dark period in my life, and it helped me to understand the true value of having a support network in your life, whether or not they’re physically present.
I had my friend Amy, who took me out to do new things I’d never dared try before — specifically, don’t laugh, Mo’Jive dancing. I had my friends Sam, Tom and Tim who knew what a tough time I was going through and provided me with a safe place to escape to and do nerdy things like play board games. I had my faraway friends on Facebook, Twitter and among the staff of Kombo, all of whom were incredibly supportive at that difficult time. I had my friend “Moonsong Darkrose” on the weird freeform MMO Second Life, who took me “out” in the virtual world regularly and always listened to my problems — usually until five in the morning due to our clashing time zones.
And I had my parents, who offered me a lifeline by letting me come home and live there while I attempted to rebuild my life.
At the time, this was a difficult concept to accept. Returning home after I’d been living independently for somewhere in the region of ten years felt like a “failure” and I wanted to do everything possible to avoid it. I applied for every job I could, tried desperately to move my life in a positive direction, but as time passed it became more and more apparent that I had no other option. I cried bitterly the night I left the city I’d called home for so long.
I lived back home with my parents for the best part of a year, during which time I got a good job in the game journalism industry — writing news for the late GamePro (and yes, I’m aware of the apparent trail of destruction my writing career has left!) — and found someone new to share my life with. Living at home still served as a constant reminder of how I’d “failed” though, and it wasn’t until I managed to leave home again that I felt like I’d finally got my life back on track.
Looking back on it, though, that year I spent at home saved me. As depressed and bitter as I felt all the time I was living in the bedroom I’d grown up in, my parents formed an important part of the support network that ensured the complete collapse of my personal life didn’t destroy me completely. They provided me with a safe place to live and stay while attempting to sort myself out, and what they did was supported by my friends from all over the world, all of whom regularly checked in on me via various means to make sure that I was doing all right.
Without everything everyone in that support network did, I’m not sure I’d be here writing this now. Dark thoughts crossed my mind on regular occasions, but the thought of the people I’d be leaving behind always turned me back. As terrible as I felt, I didn’t feel like I had the right to make so many people sad. I am grateful to them for helping me through the most difficult time I’ve ever been through — a time I didn’t think I’d make it through.
The thing I learned from that whole experience was that you’re never truly alone, however dark you might feel the abyss you’ve fallen into is. As awkward and guilty as it might make you feel to reach out and ask for help from someone — even if you’re just looking for a kind word or reassurance — it pays off to take that step. And if you’re offered help, take it — even if it seems it might make life difficult in the short term. A period of mild inconvenience is better than finding yourself in a situation it’s impossible to come back from.
My life isn’t perfect now — no-one’s is — but it’s better than it’s ever been, and I’m grateful to everyone who helped me get here.
People are important. Don’t suffer in silence.