Whenever I become interested in something, I dive in pretty quickly. So when I began to follow some indie game developers online, Depression Quest - a game created by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey and Isaac Schankler - popped up on my Twitter TL.
“Depression Quest is an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday
life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. This game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings, and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.”
I struggled with depression for much of my life (if not its entirety). Things worsened rapidly in college where I seemed incapable of making friends, figuring out what I liked – while everyone around me met their BFFs in the second week and knew themselves pretty well. While my depression never kept me in bed, I did sleep a lot (due to boredom and loneliness) and it felt like a dense pressure weighing on my mind. Even as I tried to reach out, I was told that depression was a choice (it’s not), or having my issues completely dismissed by a college counselor (whom I promptly stopped seeing).
While I had never been officially diagnosed, and remained wary of popping any kind of medication - depression was the only word I could find that encapsulated all my thoughts, feelings and general reactions to my environment. Even as a child, I had depressive thoughts and reactions to things, and my mindset gradually worsened with age coupled with awful life experiences.
In no way do I believe that depression is a choice – sometimes it’s a chemical imbalance, other times it’s an accumulation of how you were treated growing up and the messages you received from family, friends, or strangers. Sometimes it’s a combination of all three.
I believe my depression was environmental + genetic : perhaps I was born more susceptible to depression (whether it’s brain chemistry or just how my emotions function) and where I’ve always lived (being treated poorly, not having any real support, etc). Depression, I think, is made harder to bear when you’re surrounded by people who won’t support you because they think you need to snap out of it, or you’re just being pessimistic.
Depression Quest is a really great insight into what it’s like to be living with depression (or at least one kind of it). To me, the narratives seemed to fixate predominantly on thought processes – feeling like you’re a burden to people, feeling like your problem is yours to bear alone, reading into everything and giving yourself a lot of anxiety. When I initially played it, I made sure to click all the options that let me work toward getting my character healthy, happy and whole. In the beginning, I could feel the depression pressing down on my body just from reading the thoughts and feelings, making me desperate to work toward wholeness.
And even with my own history, I still found it intensely insightful while also building my compassion.
Definitely worth checking out.