I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m an uber Star Wars fan-nerd. I’ve also made no secret of the fact that I struggle with depression quite a bit. More so in the last few months since it’s been getting closer to a year that I’ve been unemployed with only my indie writing gig bringing in any money (read: almost none). I’ve been going through the process of filing for Social Security Disability, which let me tell you can be a stressful, humiliating, and pride-killing process. Family and friends have been encouraging me to do it for a couple of years now, and as my physical condition has gotten progressively worse, especially in the last year, I finally had to admit to myself that it was time. Going over, in detail, all the things that hurt you, are physically wrong with you, can be a painful experience in itself. A lot of times we push things into the background. They become something we live with every day and actually grow used to to the point that you don’t really think about it as much- it’s just how you live. So when you really start to break down just how screwed up your life is and the things you live with every day that most others don’t, it can put a damper on your day pretty quick.
I’m going to be honest with you, faithful reader, I’ve been a lot lower than usual the last couple of months. I mean, I’ve always struggled with depression and even suicidal thoughts, but these past few months have been more difficult than just about any other time I can remember. It’s actually become almost a daily thing at this point. It’s not that I really have it horrible right now. I have family that loves me and are incredibly supportive. I have a great girlfriend, something I honestly never thought would happen for me; and while we don’t get to see each other too often due to her work schedule and me being broke and without gas money (she lives about 30 minutes away) she’s still the most loving and supportive girl a guy like me could ask for. I have great friends/family that have been helping me with this whole writing thing as test readers, editors, and Shawn, who is an extremely talented artist that donates his really increasingly short supply of free time to providing covers for me.
But the depression is there, and it speaks to me. It tells me that I’m a failure as a man, that I never really had a chance, that I’ve been doomed to being a dependent on others my entire life, and that all the pain and physical problems I have now are just going to keep getting worse. That I’ve already peaked in life and done the best I’m going to do (and that wasn’t much of anything at all). That my time as a minister was a waste, my time with school was a waste, and that God may be there but He has better things to do than hold my hand. That the writing is just me wasting my time trying to make myself feel like I have some sort of meaning left in my life, that it’s never going to go anywhere, and that I’ll end up being just some nobody that self published a bunch of crap that no one wanted to read. This is the stuff that I go to war with every day from the moment I get up until the moment, generally around 4AM or so, when I’m exhausted enough that I’m able to sleep. When it gets really bad that’s when those thoughts become thoughts along other, darker paths. That’s when you start to feel like maybe you’d be doing everyone else a favor by just putting an end to it now. Maybe you’d just be putting yourself, and everyone else around you that has to take care of your sorry and very large posterior, out of what will only become steadily increasing misery. That’s when being a writer and having such an active imagination becomes not a good thing, because I can start to see, in very graphic detail, all the ways I could make that happen.
So yeah, not exactly puppies and sunshine.
My saving grace for the past few months has been Star Wars: The Old Republic. For those of you who don’t know, SWTOR is an MMORPG- a video game online that you can play with other people. It’s made by Bioware, my favorite game developer, who is known for doing story-focused games. They made some of my favorite games of all time: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic & Mass Effect 1-3. I’ve never been a huge fan of MMOs, but SWTOR was different in that the storyline for each class is actually really well done, and you can play it solo like a normal video game if you want. I’ve actually made several friends through the game that I play with on a daily basis- something that I’ve never really done to this extent with an MMO before. More importantly, it’s helped me to not think. Whenever the depression starts to speak, when those dark thoughts start to happen, I just jump on the game and play. I get lost in that galaxy far, far away for a few hours and when I’m done, I’m not so down. It has, quite literally, helped to save my life, and probably sanity, on more than a few occasions.
Video games have gotten a bad rap. They’ve become the target of the media and politicians as a scapegoat for all the bad crap that’s been going on- school shootings, bullying, promiscuous sex, you name it. Well, here’s an example of where a game has helped someone. I’m not addicted. I don’t play until I get sick, or starve to death, or whatever. It’s just a release for me. It’s become my “happy place”. We all need something like that in our lives, especially in times like these when so many people are hurting, struggling, stressed out, or yes, depressed and/or suicidal. Maybe you’re there too and need an outlet. If you’re a Star Wars fan maybe you should give SWTOR a try. It’s free to play right now. Go and download it and start her up.
Maybe it’s not a game you’re into. Maybe it’s a book, or a TV show, or a movie, or church, or whatever you need or have found that helps to get you through. Something that you can get lost in and just not think about all the crap for a while. It’s okay, and don’t let anyone else tell you different. You’re not alone. For me it’s this video game where I can be an intelligence agent, or Jedi, or an evil Sith and force choke stupid folk in a fictional universe that I’ve always loved since I was a little kid. Whatever that thing may be for you, I hope you’ve found it, because we all need an escape sometimes.
May the force be with you…now excuse me while I go be a Sith Lord and shoot electricity from my fingertips for a while.
J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, and the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1- all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here.