Dark Days, Bright Days

Guest blogger, Will Hindmarch, is a writer and designer in Chicago. You might know his work from the book design for Memories of the Future, Volume 1 or from RPGs like Always/Never/Now.

There I was, alone outside an unfamiliar hotel-room door, with nowhere to hide. It was too late to flee. I had already knocked.

My newest tabletop RPG design was in my bag, ready to make a first impression. I felt like I had worms in my guts.  I thought I could feel my brain’s insidious chemicals  diluting the meds I take to keep my head above the waves. I took a breath, let it out.

Settle down, you idiot, I thought to myself. Just don’t be a dick.

Someone worked the latch on the door. It swung open.

“Hey, how are you?” Wil Wheaton asked, doorknob in hand. “Come on in.”

I went inside.  But I’d already made my first mistake. It went into my mood like a drop of dye clouding into clear water.

Did you catch it?

When I called myself an idiot, I put a drop of poison into myself. It’s the little things, adding up. It sounds silly, I know. That one word, thought up like sharp banter between trusting friends, might not mean anything — might not seem so bad. I am not my trusting friend. When my brain is in a certain way, I can’t trust that what it tells me is a joke. It might be an accusation, a realization, a warning, because depression lies. Because depression lies, my ability to trust, my own self-esteem, isn’t like a rock in a storm-tossed sea, it’s like a beach, withering and widening with the season.

The words we say to ourselves matter. The language we use when thinking about and talking to ourselves in our heads? It matters. We’re people and we hear ourselves. Talking shit about ourselves puts us down, has an impact on our mood and our abilities as surely as our mood and our abilities has a capacity to make us think and talk differently about ourselves. It’s all happening in the same brain, right?

How would you feel about someone who called you an idiot? How would you feel if they followed you around, questioning your every move, doubting your every tactic and gesture, reminding you, “Yeah, you can say that, but remember that it doesn’t mean anything coming from a loser like you.” That is What It’s Like sometimes.

It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to carry out, to combat as a person, and to counteract as a friend. It makes it hard to be “on,” to put on a show, to present your best self — or to present a good RPG session for your friend.

Fortunately, that day’s game with Wil went pretty okay. The game I was running — Dark — runs well with a GM and a single player and even though I wasn’t at my best, I had handouts ready so I could lean on things I wrote when I was in a better place. It all adds up.

Since I launched the Kickstarter campaign for that game last night, I’ve been hearing some nice things about me and my work through Twitter and G+ and such.  These things contribute to my mood in tangible ways … when I let them. Today’s a pretty good day, it turns out, so I’m letting them.

I shall do something stupid sometime soon, and I am sometimes idiotic, but I’m working on it.

40 thoughts on “Dark Days, Bright Days”

  1. There are very few people I think are more deserving of success than Mr. Hindmarch. Depression lies, but that’s why we have friends — to remind us of the truth when we need it. Even when we don’t want to believe them.

    If you like RPGs at all, or you’re just interested in telling some awesome stories, check out the Project: Dark Kickstarter drive. It’s worth it.

  2. This was an incredibly insightful post for me. Never having been diagnosed as “depressed” – and thinking I don’t really suffer from depression – you really helped me to get closer to understanding someone who actually suffers (is that the proper word?) from depression.

    Thank you for putting this out there! I appreciate it!

  3. I am not bothered much by depression, so I don’t feel I can make any comments on facing it. I will say thanks for being brave enough to talking about it. I may not face it myself, but people that have the guts to stand up and tell the world about what they are going through makes it where people like me can understand it and support people who do.

    I don’t know what to say except it looks like you are already funded. I think Dark is a success.

    Wait, does this mean we will be seeing Dark on TableTop next season?

  4. I can relate to this even though I may not be clinically depressed. I often think down on myself and tell myself I am not good enough. That’s why I have such great support around me. Thanks for the wise words and kind gestures. I will never stop believing because i have you all in my life.

  5. This is something I don’t think I’ve admitted to anyone – not even my wife.

    I’m not diagnosed as suffering from depression, but I do from time to time find myself encountering “dark thoughts.” Nothing so bad that would put my life in danger, but thoughts like “these people don’t really love you” or “why would that person like you? What’s to like about you?”

    The worst thing is that the “dark thoughts” try to lure me into a world of self-pity. It can feel oddly comforting to be alone in the world, thinking that you are the only person you can rely on. I know where that path leads. I’ve been there too many times. It cuts me off from all human contact and sinks me into a mire of self-pity that gets harder and harder to dig out of.

    I wouldn’t call my “darker times” depression since I don’t think they rise (sink?) to that level. Still, this inner voice is one I’ve battled for decades and will likely battle for the rest of my life. I’ve gotten good at pushing it aside, but it only takes one moment for it to catch me off guard and plunge me into days of thinking that nobody cares about me. I know that it is lying, though. It may win the occasional battle here and there, but I’ll keep fighting it for as long as I need to.

  6. Nothing I say to Will is going to stop his depression from messing with his brain. However:

    Will, I would like you to print this off and put it in a card in your wallet.
    Mike Selinker says “Fuck that noise. You’re a motherfucking genius.”

  7. I so needed to read this today, so thank you. I’m a depression/PTSD survivor & need all the camaraderie I can get. Much love.

  8. I tried commenting giving just my name/email/website but it says I was blocked. I hope that’s not on purpose but if it is let me know and I’ll stop commenting here. Anyway, this is what I said:

    I was once in my office debugging some code, and when I found the bug it was something really silly. I was about to do what I normally do when that happens and shout “Argh! I’m an idiot!” at myself. But I stopped myself. The reason I stopped myself was because that day my boss’s 7-year-old daughter was in the office and I didn’t want her to hear it and to learn from me that it’s okay to talk to yourself like that. I then I suddenly thought, if I don’t want _her_ to think it’s okay, why do _I_ think it’s okay?

    We were all 7 once, and we all deserve to be kind to ourselves.

  9. You’re on a good way. Depression is like quicksand, when the mood gets you, every action you take to get free might let you sink in further. When your kickstarter is working out and you listen to the positive voices, you might get to the point where you realize that your last depressive day was long ago and all that’ll be left is a bad day once in a while. I wish you all the best

  10. You should try conservatism. It’s about promoting success, exactly what you’re trying to do. Learn about individualism too. Despite the name, it’s about building strong societies. You’ll find that it opens up an exciting new world (and people) that was always there in front of your eyes. A lot of the things you talk about will go away because you won’t be able to think in that way ever again. (And yes, I know what depression really is.)

    Congrats on your kickstarter project!

  11. Words are powerful, Will. ‘Positivity’ has gotten a bad name and can sound cliched, but as a mental health professional (and a gamer) I know that self confidence is key to leading a happy and fulfilled life. So thanks for digging deep and telling it like it is, that takes confidence in itself.

  12. Great posting Will – I’ve been fighting my nay sayer all my life – I know what you are going through… Keep the faith, bombard yourself with love and positive things – it does help… and well done describing what so many of us deal with!!

  13. Wil Wheaton doesn’t associate with idiots. He surrounds himself with bright, talented people that bring out the best and inspire others. You are one of those people.

  14. I recommend that you read Brene Brown. She has done shame and vulnerability research for over a decade. She has two amazing TED talks and three books. Start with “The Gifts of Imperfection.” She addresses that negative self talk and feelings of unworthiness brilliantly.

  15. When I had my son, I went through the most horrible post partum depression. It felt like I’d fallen off a cliff into a deep dark hole. Nothing I did was right and I was going to screw up my son’s life, said Depression. You’re not smart enough or thin enough or hip enough or knowledgable enough to be a mother, Depression told me.

    Depression lied.

  16. Thank you for sharing this with us, Mr. Hindmarch. Having struggled with depression myself, this really struck a chord with me. I was diagnosed quite a few years ago, and it has been a long road back from that time (I still stumble periodically, as I suppose we all do). I think that you put it in a very wise way when you said “depression lies”. For me, a big step in finding my way out of those dark places was finding a “truth” to help counteract those lies, though I didn’t think of it in those terms until today.
    Perhaps the most significant thing to help me overcome that negative self-perception of myself was my friends. Our friends and loved ones have a way of seeing us in ways that we sometimes can’t see for ourselves.
    Thank you again, for sharing these very insightful words with us. Speaking to others with kindness and compassion is important, but it’s good to be reminded that we should also use that same kindness and compassion in the way we speak to ourselves.
    I also would like to wish you much well-deserved success with Dark, it looks and sounds like an amazing game!

  17. Keep sharing your story. You never can know who of us you may help. Depression is ugly and sneaky and hard to fight, but seeing how it works in others makes it just a little easier to resist. Thanks!

  18. Will,
    If I have learned anything from reading from excerpts from Wil and Jenny Lawson is that what is happing to you is being INFLICTED upon you, not you just being fucked up or a loser. I deal at close range every day with a spouse with massive bouts of depression and since it is not an affliction that I don’t share, I have seeked out others who can articulate this condition that they suffer. By reading these stories, I have gained a little bit of helpful insight and have been able to help my loved one fight through the rough times. The one huge realization that I have been able to come to grips with is that we as human beings have the most fucked up attitudes about mental health issues. In all actuality, most clinical depression (Not the dog died kind which is a normal response, but the “I am going down the road just fine and this shitfull thing has just pounced on me” kind) is generally some type of chemical imbalance that can be often soothed by the right medication. Dude, if you had fucking cancer, no one would give you shit about your chemo. This is no different. The hardest part about it is convincing our self that in all actuality people who suffer from clinical depression are PHYSICALLY sick and need treatment, not bullshit platitudes. Listen to Wil. Depression lies like a motherfucker, tells you that you are not worthy of the BEST CARE YOU CAN FIND! Kick that lying bitch down the road, but do get some help or at least share what you are going through. You are not alone.
    Dave

  19. Sometimes, calling myself “you lazy idiot” actually helps. Because I can cut corners and be lazy if I’m not careful and I know from experience not to do that. That it will cost me in the long run. That doing it thoroughly, well and right the first time is best for me and everybody else. So sometimes muttering under my breath “don’t be lazy, you frelling moron” actually helps. But I’m not clinically depressed and so I don’t know how you feel and maybe a kick in the butt is what I need at that particular time.

  20. As someone who talks professionally to people about their mental health every day, I think awareness is very important. You are very insightful, show they thoughtfulness to not only care about your own well-being, but others by being brave enough to share your thoughts. Bravery comes in many forms, but has one characteristic common to all forms: putting yourself on the line. You have done that here, and very eloquently, I might add. In Canada, your post lines up with #BellLetsTalk day to raise awareness for mental health. Continue to be brave.

  21. Great post.

    As someone who’s been unemployed 11 years due to anxiety disorder and alone, without purpose and no real hope for a good future, I am amazed constantly by how many people don’t know how serious anxiety and depression impact and destroy lives.

    By sharing stories like this, we can remove the ignorance and stigma associated with these diseases and finally get our world to provide the care currently lacking for those who need it, at any level of disorder.

  22. Thanks for the post, you hit the nail right on the head.

    It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one out there with these kinds of problems and thoughts and that they can be overcome.

    Be well.

  23. I want to tell all of you about one of my Internet people, Justin Carmical. Online, he was known as JewWario and for the past five years he made videos about imported video games on a site called You Can Play This. He was hilarious, thoughtful and sincere man. Last week, Justin committed suicide at his home in Colorada. Fans like me were shocked, trying to figure what the hell happened to make such an upbeat and positive guy end his own life. Obviously, something was terribly wrong in Justin’s brain, and I hope that anyone who thinks life is hopeless talks to a friend or calls a suicide prevention hotline. I hope you guys take a second to check out a fund that has been set up to support Justin’s family. Thanks.

    http://www.gofundme.com/6groao

  24. I moved to Chicago about 7 months ago. I suffer from & take meds for depression too. Recently I’ve been having a hard time – have found me belittling myself too. I have been feeling like I no longer know who I am and how I fit in. It’s been rough. Last week I went back to CA to visit friends, and I finally felt like me again. I knew who I was again. Now the challenge is remembering that and holding on to it here. Good luck with your kickstarter and more importantly with remembering the good about you. Thank you for sharing your experience – it helps to know I’m not alone in fighting this lying bitch of a disease.

  25. Take “idiot” and “stupid” out of your vocabulary. They are harmful.
    Try another phrase when you feel uncertain. Like “turkey butt”. That’s what I use when I am doing something less then brilliant. And saying those words out loud can make you giggle. Or try “mutton head”.

    Don’t let words harm you. You are too valuable to the human race.

  26. @MikeS, there are positive expressions one can use in self-talk in that situation. Like “Time to step up now, self” or “Take the reigns now,” or “Gut up” etc. (Hmm, a lot of idiomatic metaphors…)

  27. On topics like this, I turn to that great American philosopher, Billy Joel (what, you don’t like my choice of philosophers?!?):

    You may be right;
    I may be crazy;
    But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for

    I don’t know you at all, and I only know Will as a fan & occasional commenter on this blog, but I can tell right away that there are many definitions of “idiot.” If we’re using the definition that you used in your head, all I have to say is this: where would the world be without all the wonderful idiots?

    (NOTE: I realize I’m probably not helping at all, and I in no way mean to minimize or trivialize the subject – you just never know when a different way of looking at something may help somebody, so I thought I’d share my perspective…) Be well!

  28. I absolutely can relate on what your own mental voice does to you. Thank you so much for this post- it makes a huge difference when you hear, no matter how many times, that someone else has been there, too.

    I believe you’re not an idiot. I believe in you. Don’t give up. <3

  29. Hmm, I thought my Reply to Mike’s post would show up with his post but as that is not the case, and there are multiple Mikes posting, I should clarify I was specifically responding to Mike Selinker’s post. :)

    And I agree with so many others …

  30. Thank you all, truly, for taking the time to read and comment. It means a lot to me. Bright days and bad days — I process the same stimulus wildly differently on different days. It’s helpful to know that I’m not alone and I hope that’s helpful to you, too. Because you’re not alone, either.

    This has been a pretty good week and hearing from you (here and on Twitter) has made it so.

    (I did that on accident, that allusion, but I’m leaving it.)

    Onward.

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