Adventures in Mental Illness: Digital Demons

This episode takes place when I am 15 years old.

It was sometime in the spring. A family from church came to visit on a sunny weekend afternoon. The patriarch had a vintage Les Paul goldtop. That’s not relevant, just awesome. My family lived on a lake, so we went out for an evening boat ride, after which everyone seemed ready to call it a night. Figuring I was in the clear, I fired up Ocarina of Time.

My next in-game objective was in an area full of Redead. For the uninitiated, Redead are mummified corpses that scream to paralyze you, then wrap all four appendages around you to drain your life.

It can appear a wee bit sexual depending on what direction you’re facing when the attack lands.

Anyway.

For whatever reason, instead of leaving, the visitors ended up in my vicinity, where I was slashing up Redeads and slimy things. One dropped a heart! I picked it up.

The guitarist’s wife gasped. “Are you eating his heart?”

I struggled to find words. “No? It’s a power-up.”

A moment later I was assaulted by a Redead, eliciting another gasp. I glanced at the adults and saw my dad, an uncomfortable grin on his face, mouthing “turn it off.”

*

Things felt rough. I had been out of the public school system for a couple of years, first to homeschool and then to attend a Christian school. I didn’t fit in and I missed my friends. I was in an unhealthy long-distance relationship.

On top of that, of course, was the depression.

*

After a Wednesday evening service, the guitarist’s wife approached me.

“Matt, God told me that you’re feeling depressed and it’s because of the video games you play.”

I started crying.

For the first time, my feelings were validated by an adult I trusted — without any prompting from me, no less! Not only that, she had a solution from the mouth of God.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“I’m a prophet,” she said.

*

The divine message came a few weeks after I had finished Ocarina of Time and started playing Diablo heavily. In a way, it made sense — this game was about venturing into Hell to kill demons. The game was named after the devil! There were pentagrams! Of course it was making me depressed.

Into the trash it went. For one glorious moment, I claimed victory over that inner darkness and felt relief wash over me.

*

My friends didn’t understand. One minute I was all about this game, and the next I threw it out and claimed it made me depressed. Most of them were simply confused; a few got mean.

“See? Your friends really do hate you,” whispered the depression.

Just like that, it was back, and my coping mechanism was in a landfill.

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