Adventures in Mental Illness: Indecision

This scene has played out hundreds, possibly thousands, of times throughout my life. Between 2006 and 2013, however, it was especially frequent.

It’s been a long day, and I’m glad to take off my shoes and flop facedown on the bed for ten or fifteen minutes while I wait for my wife to finish making dinner. Today she took one look at my face and made the executive decision to delay food and let me sleep for an hour.

When I drag myself out of bed, I feel… not better, but less noisy. Instead of flooding my consciousness with detailed memories of all my failures, my brain has settled on two or three to play in a loop. After I eat, if I’m lucky, I’ll be focused on a single failure that will drive me to do something creative.

“Failure” is not entirely accurate because it implies that I tried to do something and wasn’t successful. The things that my brain likes to throw in my face are the times when I wanted to try something, but didn’t. Like when I was researching fiction magazines and found one that seemed like a perfect fit for something I’d written. I read their submission guidelines over and over. I revised my story a few times. Then, I never actually submitted it.

Tonight, I will write something.

Tomorrow night, however, I’ll be dwelling on five things while my food digests. I didn’t move out of state to play music with my friends. I defaulted to an easy degree. I didn’t maintain my friendships. I don’t practice my guitar enough. I never figured out how to work with watercolor pencils.

When that happens, I don’t act. I sit on the couch, marathoning old Power Rangers episodes, wishing someone else will tell me what to do because I can’t do it all. It’s too much. I suck. And now I’ve wasted another perfectly good evening.

Thankfully, this hasn’t happened to the same degree since I’ve been on medication. In fact, the experience is barely comparable. Now, when I find myself struggling to figure out what to do with my free time, it feels like I have a ton of opportunities to do cool new things. Guilt doesn’t enter the equation — I might note that my guitar skills are getting rusty, but I’m really excited about the progress I’m making with my drawing. My poor blog has been neglected, but this story idea is so fun to work on! I’ll get around to the other stuff eventually, sure, but I want to ride this wave as long as I can.

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.


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.

Adventures in Mental Illness: Intro

Over at Defeating the Dragons, Samantha Field is wading through How to Win Over Depression by hack writer and Armageddon profiteer Tim LaHaye. Reading along, I can’t help but be reminded of things people have said over the years.

I first suspected I had depression when I was 14. I saw a doctor about it when I was 30. In the intervening years, I was told that I had nothing to be depressed about, that it was teenage mood swings, that I was lazy, and that demons were oppressing me. I’ve grown up hearing “Prozac” as a punchline. Despite the fact that in the last six months, I’ve felt better than I have in my entire life, I still wonder if medicine was the wrong course of action and if I should just suck it up and make myself better.

We’ve come a long way, but there is still a huge stigma around mental illness. I hope that sharing my story has a net positive effect on that.