Anna's Story - The First Time
By Anna Jasinski - DaBR Journalist
There is no better way to describe anxiety than being in a video game. Take, for example, playing Fallout 4. While you are casually exploring the wasteland and collecting junk in an abandoned subway, all of a sudden, a group of ferals is swarming around you, and you panic, circle, and watch as your character falls to the remnants of radiation.
That is the best way I can describe my hate-hate relationship with social anxiety. When I was in grade school, I was severely bullied and singled out by my classmates and had few friends to lean on and an intense home life. Aside from my deteriorating mental health, I developed severe social anxiety to the point where I couldn’t even pick up the phone and going to class was a nightmare of epic proportions. High school was no better, but it was more subtle and mentally challenging than before. I let it control my life, I didn’t want to go out with the friends I had, and going out with my mother on weekend trips was a struggle to the point where I would pretend to be sick all the time, so I didn’t have to go anywhere. I was falling down the rabbit hole of hopelessness, self-doubt, and anxiety with no way of climbing out. Or so it seemed.
One day my mom came home with an Xbox for my birthday. I can still remember holding that controller in my hand for the first time. I remember the feeling of making an account and playing the games my parents bought, which were surprisingly mostly multiplayer games. Games like Halo Reach and Call of Duty made me hesitant, especially playing with others. I remember playing a capture the flag map on Halo Reach and having my first voice chat with teammates. I was shaking like a leaf and probably was for almost the next 10 sessions I played until it clicked that no one cared I was a girl and no one cared that I was a newbie to the game; it was about being part of the team and having fun.
Those with social anxiety or any anxiety know that it rules their life, controls every thought, and clouds it with “what if” statements. Maybe it was the game or maybe it was the community that I was accepted into, but I know that my life changed when I first held that controller. My anxiety vanished in a year, those pesky phone calls are not even a second thought, and going out with friends is something that I look forward to. But the biggest change is the friends I’ve made online in the gaming community that has translated into real-world friendships.
It’s been a few years since that first voice chat, and I am an avid gamer and proud nerd who waits for that next game release—though my bank account could do with missing a few—and goes to Comicon’s and E3 events, and now I am turning my love for video games into a career in game design and animation. One thing is for sure, no matter what anyone says about gamers, I will never regret picking up that controller.