Hello, dear reader. I feel like I’m stepping “out of character” a bit for this post, as it’s not the usual sort of thing I’d tend to post here. But I feel like I want… maybe even need to get a few things out of my head and onto the page.
Don’t worry, we’ll be back to something directly game-related later today, so if you’re just here for the games, feel free to skip this post and stop by this evening. But for those who are here as much for Pete the writer… no, Pete the person… as you are for MoeGamer the site about games, thank you in advance for indulging me and reading what I have to say.
Today I want to talk a bit about mental health, ambition, career and how, sometimes, it can feel like a struggle just existing in the modern world.
I have depression. I have anxiety. I have Asperger Syndrome. This is, as you can probably imagine, not a great combination of things to have in your head on a daily basis. And right now I’m not doing too well.
For me, depressive episodes feel like being inside an impenetrable bubble. I can see the things that are going on around me, but I feel like I can’t reach them. I can hear people talking around me, but I feel like their voices are muffled and echoey, and that they wouldn’t be able to hear me if I spoke. I feel helpless, cut off, isolated. I want help, but I don’t know how to call out for it; I want help, but I feel I can’t reach out for it.
The most frustrating thing about this is that, more often than not, I don’t know why this happens. There often isn’t a reason — at least, not a clearly defined one beyond “I have depression”. If I take stock of the things floating around inside my head, there’s a whole list of things contributing to this overall feeling, but not one specific one I can say particularly caused the present episode. And that frustration in turn, only makes things worse: it strengthens the bubble and makes it feel like there’s no way out — and worse, no way to prevent it from appearing again should I actually manage to find my way out of it.
It might even be the other way around; the things floating around in my head might only feel like they are problems for me because I’m currently inside the bubble; if I had the freedom to move, to breathe, to step away from them, they might seem more like things I can overcome. But as they’re trapped in here with me, their power over me grows and grows in intensity over time: feeding my depression, feeding my anxiety, feeding my frustration at the whole situation.
As you’ll know if you’ve spent any time talking to me, my creative projects are my lifeline. I am an artistic, creative person; expressing my creativity enriches, nourishes and fulfils me — and exploring other people’s creative works (often those that deal directly or indirectly with the themes and concepts floating around in my head) invigorates and inspires me.
My work on MoeGamer, my work on video, my daily blog posts for Patrons — I live for those. They are the things I look forward to every day; the things that give my life meaning; the things that make me feel like in my own small way, I have value — at the very least to myself, if not to others.
And I’m fortunate that there are wonderful, supportive people out there — people here on WordPress, people on Twitter, people in my private life outside of public social media — who help me understand and know that both my work and I do have value to others as well as to myself; that helps. That helps it feel more worthwhile; more like something that should be continually — always — be part of my life.
I know this. But still, sometimes, the bubble forms, and by the time I recognise it for what it is, it’s too late. I’m already engulfed. And those frustrations and anxieties, as always, are trapped in here with me.
Right now, I’m feeling depressed and anxious about my daily life outside of those things that bring me joy. I’m feeling depressed and anxious about my day job; I’m feeling bored and creatively unfulfilled, and frustrated that my perpetual social anxiety makes me feel like I come across as aloof or unapproachable; no-one goes out of their way to talk to me here, and under most circumstances I’m too scared to try and strike up conversations myself. I’m annoyed at the fact that some of those feelings are my fault, while others are things that I don’t feel like I have control over. In turn, knowing that I feel depressed and anxious about my work makes me further depressed and anxious about the fact that someone might notice, and that, in turn, would have negative consequences.
There’s precedent, you see. I was talking to a friend recently about my career history and, laying it all down on paper, I haven’t had a great track record when it comes to mental health and work. So it’s kind of no surprise that I’m in the position I am now.
I lost my first job as a music teacher in a secondary school because I was made redundant due to the institution’s financial issues; last in, first out. This, in turn, made me feel unvalued and depressed, but fortunately I managed to find a new job in the same field.
I left that second job two years later because the stress of it gave me a nervous breakdown; one day, the behaviour of the children — it was not a nice school — just made me absolutely panic and want to run. Under normal circumstances, I could fight off the flight reflex, but that day, I couldn’t. I ran. I hid. I cried. I didn’t go back.
My next job — a retail job that combined customer service with creativity, and one that I genuinely loved up until the last couple of months — came to an end because of bullying by management. It started with a friend and colleague being bullied out of his position; I stood up for him, and ended up receiving the same treatment. My confidence was shot, and my life was in tatters; around the time this was happening, my home life was also collapsing.
It continued further from here: leaving due to insurmountable stress and anxiety; being made redundant due to the publication I was working on closing; being made redundant again for exactly the same reason; being once again bullied out of a job I adored (and what I’d started thinking of as my first real “career” rather than “job” cut short) because I was the “odd one out”; being bullied out of a job I hated (but which was nonetheless paying the bills) because of the physical symptoms depression was leaving me with…
You can hopefully, at this point, understand why I feel a bit “on edge” when it comes to my daily life. Why, despite the fact I presently have what I can honestly describe as a good job with plenty of enviable perks and benefits and in which I am highly capable and skilled… I feel unhappy. I feel unfulfilled. I feel anxious that someone will notice, and that the rug will once again be pulled out from beneath me.
I’ve never really been an ambitious person, because my lack of self-confidence over the years has meant I’m never quite sure what I’m truly capable of, and consequently I tend to under-value myself as a result. And this, in turn, means that the jobs I have had over the years never really tended to “go” anywhere.
But I do have one ambition: one that feels, right now, like it’s unattainable — but one which, nonetheless, I always want to continue working towards, even if I never get there.
My ambition — my dream — is for the things I love to do to be more than just something I look forward to when the day is nearly done. I dream of them being the reason I get up in the morning.
I look at creators I love and respect who have managed to make a career out of what they do to varying degrees, and I’m inspired… but I’m also envious and anxious.
I look at someone like Octav1us, who has successfully achieved exactly what I want to do — to be able to stop having to live with the anxiety of having anxiety (and depression) at a day job and instead focus exclusively on their creative endeavours and collaborations with artists such as Paul “Mr Biffo” Rose and the Digitiser team — and I’m happy for them… but I also wish that I could do the same.
I look at someone like LGR, who has gone from a scrappy nerd with a camcorder attempting to ape the Angry Video Game Nerd style to a highly professional creator and one of the most beloved and respected retro tech commentators on YouTube, and I see what fruits hard work and commitment can bear… but I also feel like I could never get there.
And it may be controversial to say today, but I also look at someone like ProJared, who, for a long time prior to his fall from grace back in May, created the sort of content I greatly enjoy. I drew inspiration for a lot of my video work in particular from both his more “produced” videos and the Let’s Plays he settled into in his later years — but today, all I see are the terrifying consequences that today’s “cancel culture” can have on someone’s career after an (admittedly pretty major in Jared’s case) indiscretion. And that terrifies me, too, because it shows that even if you do “make it”, it can all be taken away in an instant after something as simple as an ill-advised social media post.
I’m not aware of any particular skeletons in my closet, I might add — the one perhaps fortunate side-effect of a life with low self-esteem is that you tend not to put yourself in too many situations either online or offline that might come back to bite you in the ass later — but today it seems that, regardless of evidence, if the Internet (or more specifically, Twitter) is determined to bring you down, you get brought down.
And so I’m in a position where I’m not sure what to do. I don’t really want to look for a new day job because, rationally speaking, outside-the-bubble Pete knows that his current job is a good one with plenty to be thankful for — and also there’s no guarantee that a new place won’t lead to the same feelings inside-the-bubble Pete is experiencing right now.
The other option is to attempt to go Octav1us’ route and try to become self-sufficient somehow. But I find it difficult and awkward to bring up my Patreon sometimes because I know a lot of people regard it as “e-begging”. I have it set to auto-tweet a link to my Patreon profile a few times a day and also provide links in various places here on MoeGamer, including at the end of every article, but beyond that I’m always a bit self-conscious about actively promoting it.
At the same time, though, I want to grow that Patreon. It’s been hovering around the same point for quite some time now, with Patrons coming and going at roughly the same rate each month. I certainly don’t resent anyone who is no longer able to subscribe, I hasten to add — heaven knows I juggle my own pledges around every so often so I can support a broader range of creators over the long term — but it would be nice to get to a point where more people are coming than going for a while, even if it’s just for a little bit.
I’m not quite sure how to achieve that, though, and that’s a little discouraging. There are a number of people who already believe that my work is worth me getting paid for, and I’m incredibly grateful to all of them, whether they’re current or past Patrons. You’ve helped make MoeGamer and my video projects feel like they have some worth and value to someone besides just me — though as I’ve said on numerous occasions, I’d still be doing them even if no-one was reading it.
I’d just love to attract more of you; as mercenary as it sounds, it’s sometimes hard not to look at, say, the 2,600 people who follow me on Twitter and think “if even half of them pledged $1, that would pay a lot of my bills each month and make me a lot less anxious about life in general because money sucks and is one of my biggest sources of worrying about things on a daily basis”. I feel dirty even typing that. Sorry. But it’s true. If you want to help, here’s my Patreon page.
The one questionable advantage of being inside the bubble, as you can see, is that it at least gives you a bit of peace and quiet and time to reflect on things; even if I’m feeling isolated, disconnected and depressed about life in general right now, at least I’m still functioning well enough to be able to express myself in various ways — be it through personal posts like this or, as you’ll be able to enjoy later today (and more typically here on MoeGamer), more directly gaming-related stuff.
I’m not sure what else I wanted to say, really. This has all been a bit stream-of-consciousness, I’m aware, and there’s no real conclusion to it all… so a particularly big “thank you” if you’ve stuck with it to the very end.
I’m not okay. But just expressing these thoughts and getting them out of my head, onto “paper” and knowing that at least someone out there will read them… that makes the walls of the bubble at least shimmer a little bit. And that, really, was all I hoped to achieve for now.
I’ll be back later with some more cheerful gaming funtimes. For now, though, thank you so much for listening.
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Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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