Note: Mercenary Mondays is an ongoing series of posts about the Schlock Mercenary Roleplaying Game and it’s behind the scenes development!
This post will deviate from the general theme of Mercenary Mondays to talk about a topic that is very close to my heart. The advent of some close friends of mine announcing an anthology, and my desire to ensure no one has to suffer alone.
First, please look at this IndieGoGo campaign. Then please read these posts:
From Howard: Schlock Mercenary
From Rob’s brother, Dan Wells: Fearful Symmetry.
From Larry Correia: Monster Hunter Nation
From Sandra Taylor, Howard’s better half: One Cobblestone
Now for my spiel. In the last few years, I’ve become much more open about a struggle I’ve faced for a long time. At age 19 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, type 1. I am also rapid cycling, in addition to the usual effects. At last count, in one year, I had 18 cycles between manic and depressive. I tend to level out on the side of depression if I do level, but it generally only lasts for a few weeks.
When I was 18 and at college, I was away from home for the first extended time in my life. I struggled with loneliness, failure, and emotions I hadn’t had to deal with on my own. High School had always been easy, and I’d never tried, so my average grades weren’t any indication and I knew it. My grandfather had suffered from manic depression, and my parents had brought it up to me in the past, but it’d never really gone anywhere.
So when I was suddenly alone, watching debt mount up due to poor spending habits, watching my GPA suffer and struggling to maintain a positive social life. And I was failing at all of that. So, that spring, I attempted suicide. It was a shock to me the next morning, first that I’d survived, but second that’d I’d hit so low. Before the semester was over, I’d tried three times. Let me try to explain how it feels:
Depression is a complicated mental illness, especially for the sufferer. You’re sad, which is a common emotion. You’re frustrated, again, common. Angry, upset, hurting, and more. All of these emotions are common ones we all struggle with. So you wonder, in the depths of an illness you might not even realize you have, why it’s so hard for you to deal with everything that is so easy for so many other people. I mean, I’m just sad. Other people get sad. You don’t realize how dark and deep it goes. Depression is an anchor that weighs down on your life. It holds you, pinned beneath a sea of emotion you can neither swim out from, or breathe in. And suddenly, as this anchor is weighing you down, the only option you see out is to end your life before you drown here.
Depression isn’t so simple as that metaphor. It’s the saddest you’ve ever felt. I’ve never been so angry as I am when I’m depressed. I rail against my life. I push people out. It’s the worst feeling in the world, and all your failures, and everyone telling you to “snap out of it”, “buck up” and more simply drive you further down. It’s the worst sadness you’ve ever felt. You’re so sad you can’t get out of bed. You don’t eat, because it’s too painful to try to cook. You don’t sleep, you don’t shower, you simply lie there and hate yourself. And invariably, you are forced to power through your regular life, and act like nothing is wrong. But you feel worse, because emotions everyone can handle are causing these problems.
Couple that with manic phases, and it’s worse. When manic, you can do anything. You can accomplish any number of tasks, do them perfectly, change the world, never sleep, and be the greatest person. You start every project you’ve ever wanted to do. But the manic only lasts so long before you crash into depression. Then you’re realizing you can’t do anything. You can’t change the world, you can’t even finish these projects you started. So you spiral deeper and deeper into the black morass that is just eating you up.
Have you ever tried to explain happiness to someone? What terms would you use? It’s a truly impossible task to describe emotions to someone, the best you can use is a close analogy. An imperfect metaphor. And it’s never good enough, like hearing only the refrain of your favorite song on the radio. Sufferers from depression, anxiety, and manic disorders have the same trouble, but it’s a herculean task to share how that affects a person with someone who has never seen the colors of the soul that are darker then black.
There is so much resentment, and anger, for no one truly grasps what you go through. How could they? You’re alone. No one supports you.
After I tried suicide, I felt like a worse failure. Not only was I this bad at life, but I couldn’t even kill myself properly. What an incredible conceit I had! I thought I was worthy of just escaping the pain. I wasn’t. Depression wouldn’t let me go, it’s talons were in my skin, holding me back.
That was eight years ago.
I still go to therapy regularly. My doctors and I are still trying to find a medicinal combination that leaves me as a functional human being, while curbing the worst of the feelings on both ends. I’ve survived multiple suicide attempts, and dangerous liaisons with my self. I’ve become much better at handling my life. I’ve held a job for the longest in my life now. I’ve advanced and done well. I’m working on Schlock Mercenary RPG with Howard, and developing my own game line for publication, becoming that much closer to my dreams.
Every time I wake up, I have to look in a mirror and see myself. I see a person who hates himself so much he tried to kill himself. I see a person who overcame that to become a (hopefully) good person. I see a person who still allows himself to be defined by his depression and anger. I see a person who wants to be so much more, and is always trying to climb that mountain, regardless of how many steps down the slope he slides.
It’s hard to be this person a lot of days. But I’ve slowly come to terms with it, and I can honestly say, I wouldn’t be anyone else (except Captain America) most days.
Now, you might be asking how this relates to the Schlock Mercenary RPG and I could spin you a tenuous line of logic and you could all nod your heads and agree.
I won’t do that.
Games like this, comics like Schlock, novels like Rob’s, and more are all created by people who are human beings. We put love, and time into this craft, because we want to accomplish something. Making players, readers, and fans happy. Pride in craftsmanship. Selfish desire to self-promote. But it gives us something more valuable. A platform.
I only ask that you remember all those who don’t have a platform to vocalize about this. We have the benefit of readership and presence, and these sort of posts are an attempt to bring more awareness to a struggle several million people have. You probably know someone with bipolar disorder, depression, or another mental illness.
Don’t pressure them, but try to understand and support them.
Above all, please ask for help if you need. No one deserves to handle these things alone.
I’m always willing to turn an ear. I know others are too.