It's been a long time, Mr. Bloggypants. Where have I been, you ask? Hiding, recovering, hiding, and then finally recovering some more.
I wanted to recover from my illness and I would make steps. For every two steps forward, I felt as though I was taking one or two backward, so progress felt achingly slow. Recovery is in direct relation to effort, very similar to weight loss and, well, everything else in this world. Medication has had its role, but it is only one tiny facet of a whole picture. There is no magic pill; there is no happy pill. There is only a tool to help even the roller-coaster ride of emotions, so that work can progress. And it needs constant vigilance and fine-tuning in and of itself, because body chemistry is a tricksy thing.
It starts with a desire to change and a self-push, a self-force that is incredibly difficult. The beginning feels like rolling a boulder up a mountain. There is a lot of sweat and tears and even roll-back and definitely pain. But keep pushing and the force required lessens: you get stronger, the boulder seems smaller and smaller each time. You remind yourself constantly how good it felt to inch the boulder a few feet, the exhilaration of being a few steps closer to the summit. The Bad Voice gets quieter; you stop telling yourself how bad you are and start realizing how good this feels. But it's not exactly a rebirth, because you know that if you let go, you'll be where you started, so it also requires constant vigilance and effort (if less effort than when at the base of the mountain). And still, sometimes the boulder does drop a few feet and gets a bit heavier.
Quitting the MMORPG computer game I was involved in -- World of Warcraft -- was an incredible turning point. It was my toxic security blanket, my poisonous safety net. I had a social crowd and a job I created for myself, but it was so much weight added to my boulder. The betrayal of a few who I thought were my friends was the tiny catalyst that ignited the withdrawal. But still I had good friends and my stories... So I hosted a gathering after I stopped and the chatter made me want so much to be a part of the group again.
So I tried. It did not feel right. And though I keep in touch with them via the internet and I still write some stories about the characters I developed and I still care about the friendships, the environment was toxic for me. I let myself use it to avoid, to substitute; it was an easy way to have a life without the effort and fear of judgment and failure. But it was all illusory! And still there was judgment and failure, and yet this was based on unreality with an entire lack of consequences for social behavior. This was the cap on my progress, the lid on my recovery. I was heavily involved with trying to make my group so grand that it was exacting a terrible price from me. And what was the reward? Very little that was concrete. Yes, I have friendships, real friendships developed outside of the internet platform, but at what cost? And could I not maintain these independently of the game?
The answer is, I believe, yes. I do not know if I'll ever be able to play this MMORPG or any of its like again -- but I am aware of the type of addiction now and I will never again take upon myself a leadership role. This is, I think, fundamentally what made the addiction so incredibly toxic for me. Because I was leading a group of people (called a "guild" or a "clan"), I took responsibility for them upon myself. I made it my job to keep them happy. If they were unhappy, I tried to mold or change or compromise something to satisfy them, no matter how unreasonable they were being. I allowed my emotions to be tied up in the group identity; I was too involved. I shed real tears over the social interactions and things-gone-bad. I was frustrated and often felt inadequate.
I am so much happier now. I am involved in social groups and have been making an effort to get together with friends in real life, making more friends in real life. I am not at the peak of the mountain -- not even close, I'd say -- because it's going to be a life-long, eternal struggle for me. There will always be something to strive toward, and I think part of the satisfaction lies in that journey. There are so many things I still want to do for myself, so many things I'm still grasping for, but I like that. I like the wanting, because for so long, I lacked the wanting -- I did not want to go out. I did not want to live real life. It was too hard and too painful. And pain sucks, but healing, that feels good.
It's also amazing what feeling better about yourself can do to the people around you. They see me with new eyes. They ask if I've lost weight (I haven't). They say I look good (nothing physical has changed really). People react more positively to me, seem more interested in what I have to say and in chatting with me. It's not as though I poured out all my troubles when I felt bad, no, but it's like they could sense my pain or maybe my withdrawal.
I think I like my boulder. I think I'll name him Fred. Well, I better get back to pushing Fred up my mountain!