When I am depressed, I strip out all the extraneous things that I don’t *have* to do on any given day. There are a few things that I force myself to do every day, including my work and writing. I brush my teeth (and floss!) three times a day, and that’s the extent of what I force myself to do every day. I go grocery shopping every few days, and I go to taiji twice a week. Oh, and I do the dishes after I eat instead of letting them pile up for weeks. It’s a little change, but it made me feel much better. If I have energy and am not sick, I might go out to do something else, but that doesn’t happen very often.
I do the laundry when I would be running around outside in underwear otherwise (which would be today), and everything else is done on an absolutely needs to be done basis. I take a shower every few days when I remember it, and even that is a big production. I think it’s difficult for people who have not been depressed to understand how enervating it can be. I’ve heard people talking about someone, describing that person in a way that made it immediately clear to me that the person probably suffered from depression. Then, they would talk about how lazy the person was, and it would make me really uncomfortable.
Let me give you a small example. For taiji, I have to keep my nails short. That’s my preference, anyway, but it’s a good idea, especially when there’s hand-to-hand contact. Cutting one’s nails isn’t a big deal. It takes maybe five minutes, and a few swipes of an emery board after is all you need to do. When I first notice my nails need cutting, I simply think, “Huh. I should cut my nails.” Then I ignore it for a week or two as my nails continue to grow. The next time I pay attention to them, I think, “I really need to cut my nails.” I feel embarrassed and ashamed, but I still don’t do anything about them. Then, because I have shitty nails, they begin cracking and breaking. I also get hangnails which I chew and pick at, and I’ll chew on my nails to rip off the jagged edges. That doesn’t help, of course, but it doesn’t stop my brain from thinking it’s a good solution to the nail-cutting problem.
When it’s all said and done, it takes me about a month before I actually summon up the energy to cut my nails. I know rationally that it’ll only take me five minutes and then I can free up my mental energy for something else. Instead, I delay it and stew about it until I absolutely have no other choice than to cut my nails. Looking from the outside, you could fairly call me lazy for not cutting my nails for a month. It’s not laziness, however, and it’s doesn’t help anything to have someone tell me I’m lazy. Believe me, I tell myself that often enough. I know if I wasn’t depressed, I would get so much more done. It’s not helpful, either, because it just makes me less motivated to do anything.
How does this relate to escapism? I’ll tell you how. When I’m depressed, it’s not only extraneous physical things that get cut out from my agenda. Side note: I have OCD tendencies including doing the same things in the same order at the same time every day. I used to have nonsensical compulsions, but I’ve been able to keep most of them in check. I do prefer a rigid schedule even if it’s only one of my own creation. When I do my taiji regime in the morning, I tend to do the stretches and the postures in the same order. I try to shake it up now and then, but it’s difficult for me not to settle into a rut.
I am the same way when it comes to my media consumption, especially when I’m depressed. One reason I like games such as Dark Souls is because once I’ve played them enough, they become comfort food. I can go through them without too much effort, and it’s soothing. Right now, I’m doing a pyro/miracle run in Dark Souls Remastered, and I’m past Biggie & Small with very little effort. A few days ago, I spent some time farming the rats in the Depths for humanities because I am a Chaos Servant and I want to save Solaire. Hashtag Save Solaire (shout-out to the RKG boys). I wait to do it until after Biggie & Small because I can warp to the Depths bonfire directly, and I have a loop I do to get most of the rats in the area. I put on the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring to boost luck, and I can get 2 to 3 humanities reliable on each loop. One time, I got 5, which was an unexpected bonus.
The other reason I like playing the Souls games now is because I can try things I’ve never done before. Such as, I’ve never done a miracle build in the original game, so why not? I want to join the Warrior of Sunlight covenant because I’ve never done it in this game, which means I need 25 faith unless I help others with the bosses. There are still people who play this game, so maybe I’ll do that. Hm. I can park myself outside Biggie & Small’s boss room and help two people kill them, then I only need 15 faith, which I have. The problem is, I need to stay in the Chaos Servant covenant until I save Solaire. To that end, I should do all the Lost Izalith stuff now, which is what I planned to do next, anyway.
That’s unusual for me because I normally do Seath next. This time, I did the Catacombs so I could get the Rite of Kindling before doing the rest of the second half. I usually would leave the Catacombs and the Tomb of the Giants for last because I hate it the most. Actually, I hate killing Sif the most so I leave that until I’m incredibly OP and can get her with just a few pyromancies. I have yet to see her limp during the fight, and I doubt I could finish the fight if I had to witness that.
I want to play a game called Return of the Obra Dinn. It’s by Lucas Pope, the man who did Papers, Please. The latter is a game about being a customs official at the border of a made-up Eastern European country. The gameplay is mostly you stamping passports and allowing people into the country or not. “Uh, Minna,” I can hear you saying to yourself. “What the hell is fun about that?” Well, nothing, really. It’s not a fun game by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a highly-absorbing, engrossing, and challenging game that really got to me. I teared up at certain points, and I really felt bad when I denied certain people entry into my country. Plus, I had to make decisions about my home life, such as whether I would skimp on food, heating, or medicine for an ailing relative. It was a fucking amazing game, and I eagerly awaited Pope’s followup.
Side note: He requested the names of people so he could put some of them in the game. I submitted my name, and I ran into a Minna while I was playing. That made me smile.
Fast-forward to some months ago when the demo for Obra Dinn came out. It’s a mystery in which you are an insurance investigator and you have to find out what happened to a ship that had gone missing only to return with no crew on board and the sails damaged. You have to go on board and figure out what happened. There’s a mechanic with a watch that I don’t quite remember, but I really liked the game, and I’ve only heard good things about it. I have it sitting in my Steam account just waiting for me to play it. I’ve been wanting to play it for a few weeks, and I haven’t yet. Why?
I can’t. I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to play it, which I hate admitting. I mean, how difficult is it to play a new freaking video game? All I have to do is get it running and play it, damn it! And I’ve played the demo so it’s not even as if it’s entirely new to me. And I really, really, really want to play it! It’s number one of games I currently want to play! So what the fuck is my problem?
I can’t do it when I’m depressed because it takes too much mental energy to concentrate on something new. As I said, one of the comforts of playing Dark Souls games is that I don’t have to think about what I’m doing. Yes, I have to concentrate when I am in combat, but I don’t have to think about where I’m going or how I’m going to get there. For the most part, I know each area, enemy, and boss like the back of my hand, and I can deal with them even when I have low/no energy.
That’s why I’ve been playing Dark Souls and casual games that I’ve played a hundred times before. It’s soothing; it’s repetitive; I don’t have to think about it at all. It’s low effort, and it allows my brain to take a break. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it’s all I can do right now.