It happens all the time. I sit down to do one of my favorite activities—video games—all settled in with my favorite drink, my dog curled up next to me on the couch, and an open-ended stretch of time during which I can play until the controller dies.
Yet somehow, after fifteen minutes, I’ve already lost interest.
If you’ve ever completed a questionnaire to see if you’re depressed, you’ve probably run into a question that asks you whether or not the things that normally interest you still seem interesting. This is not a trick question, nor is it a stereotype. It’s very much a tell-tale sign of depression.
I mentioned that I had Breath of the Wild hidden from me by choice, so I wouldn’t be tempted by it. I had been continuing to play it well after completing the main story, so I had to take a break from it. It wasn’t nearly as pressing as school.
School ended, I got the game back, and I continued playing it. I had some unfinished business on a personal level, which I got out of the way immediately. Then I actively took some time off from the game to do other things once my craving had been staved off. I even got back to a different game that I’d been putting off and got really into it.
Now, whenever I turn the game on, I find myself overwhelmed by the options. And nothing jumps out at me as sounding like a lot of fun.
This is where I ask the question: Is this depression, or am I just bored?
One thing to note is that I sometimes cause/put off depression by playing video games before it happens. It sounds counterintuitive, I know. But when I’m not feeling terrible about everything and everything doesn’t suck, then I can play games for hours at a time. I get to forget about everything for a while and just focus on the game.
This is even more effective late in the day when I decide I’ve done enough for the day (even if I haven’t done anything) and tomorrow is another opportunity to get ahead.
It’s only after a lot of this that I begin to notice all the things piling up. And I get mad. I get mad at myself, sure, but more often I redirect that anger into the mess and decide it must be destroyed.
It’s a terrible coping method, for sure, but it’s one that helps keep my house clean some of the time. It’s also a much better place to direct that energy than, say, the dog or the people closest to me.
Back to the issue at hand: I have other things I like to do, and I’ll run through the list. If there’s another game I want to play, I’ll try that for a bit, or maybe a show on Netflix/Hulu I’ve been catching up on. If none of those hold my interest for very long, then it’s possible that I’m not doing so hot.
The next check is one that I’ve heard echoed by YouTuber TomSka, who vlogs very candidly about his life and depression on his second channel. He says that whenever he thinks his mood is going south, it’s time for a little self-care. This is when he takes a shower and gets dressed. Sounds familiar, right? This usually does the trick for me as well, but I take it a step further and do something a little less lazy, like read or write.
Back when I took a lot of time off from video games I found that reading became my number one go-to activity. I could while away the hours and was typically reading a book or two a week. And I felt good about it. If we’re being honest, I felt a little self-righteous about it, too, looking at everyone else like “You don’t read as much as me! I am better than you!” but realizing internally that I was only judging myself.
When I read during these situations, I usually have to make myself read for a certain amount of time. Turn off all distractions, make sure the dogs have gone out and aren’t going to bug me, and then just get lost in a book.
Often, I’ll find that I just want to keep reading. If not, then I know there’s something up, and it’s time to go to bed.
How about you? Do you have any self-care tricks when you can tell you’re about to not be okay? I have a theory that this is especially common for writers because we expect so much of ourselves with writing on top of the obligations of real things like “work.”