Mel's Story - Harvest Moon Reflection
A Story by Mel Ramsammy
The year is 2018. My Nintendo DS, a relic of the past, is tucked away in the bottom of a drawer, along with a case of at least fifteen games. Out of those games, there is only one to which I owe the survival of my childhood. With three versions for my Gameboy, DS, and Wii consoles, Harvest Moon is more than a childhood memory; it’s a game that relieved me from my struggles with anxiety, an illness I didn’t know the name of back then. Today, as a twenty-year-old woman who survived everything that childhood anxiety became, I can remember the daily routine of a quiet, introverted girl who just couldn’t find her place in the world.
My era of Harvest Moon began when I was 8-years-old. Every morning at breakfast, sitting in the living room with my family, I would flip open my DS against the backdrop of arguing parents, and their scary conversations about money and jobs and divorce. I would look at the clock and count thirty minutes until I would have to get on the bus for school. Thirty minutes of being alone, before I’d be thrown from this loud house, into a playground of loud, laughing kids.
In those thirty minutes, I swapped my life for that of a farmer’s. Farmer Mel had everything under control. Control B and I could plant an onion exactly where I wanted to. Press the A button and I’ve harvested a potato. Now, run to the shipping basket before Don arrives at 5 o’clock, and then, before night falls, ring my bell so that MooMoo and the rest of my cows can settle into the barn for the night. Alas – the end of another productive, satisfying day. Farmer Mel, you’ve done great.
To say I dreaded going to school is an understatement. Back in those early years, it wasn’t so much a problem. Sure, I never felt comfortable around all those kids, but nothing was wrong with me, surely. Life was uncomplicated back then, with my three friends and our games of make-believe. But, by the end of the day, I would ride the bus home with confused thoughts flooding my brain. Are mom and dad okay? Did I look stupid today? Why did Madame look sad? Why does everyone make fun of Stacy? Drained and stressed, I’d grab my DS. Farmer Mel knew all the answers. Farmer Mel could befriend whom she pleased and take care of her little baby. She had a family, a home, and a billion dollars to her name. She wasn’t doing bad at all.
And so, I continued for years. My farm grew, and my anxiety worsened. My group of friends separated, and my parents couldn’t hide the tension from my over-sensitive ears. Eventually, Harvest Moon just wasn’t enough to make me forget the reality I lived in – a reality where I began to believe that I did look stupid, and that something was, in fact, wrong with me.
They say we all need something to cope with the stresses of life. It’s hard to imagine now that an 8-year-old girl can struggle with the stresses I did. If I had to point a finger now, I would say it was the struggle of being a quiet child in a loud world (a revelation due in part to Susan Cain and my therapist). I’ve always been a thinker. I’ve always been sensitive to the world around me. As a young child, I felt different from the kids around me; the kids who enjoyed being the centre of attention, who fought each other for their chance at popularity, and who watched others with more interest than they had for themselves. Perhaps we were all insecure, at that time.
Regardless, I swapped Harvest Moon for a new way of coping – and that was to stop eating. I gave up on Farmer Mel and her put-together life. I gave up on thinking life could be managed by the simple push of a few buttons. Instead, I worked on burying myself, the girl in me who yearned for peace and comfort. Instead, I created the perfect image I wanted to be.
The year is 2018. My life is no less complicated than it was at 8-years-old. I’ve battled an eating disorder and I am now living in the aftermath. Not being able to reverse what’s been done, today I have found the best ways to cope. Surprisingly, these methods are not so different from those of Farmer Mel’s. I’ve realized that my life is within my control, that it has been all along. Instead of choosing whether to harvest my onions or my potatoes first, I choose whether I need some time to rest, or if I need some time with the people I love. Amazingly, I’ve found what that little girl was looking for: the strength and power to be who she wants.
My message for you is this: Harvest Moon was more than just a game. It was, in a way, my salvation. To imagine going through those early days of my anxiety without some means of control, makes me forever grateful for the effect that game had on my life. Today, it’s brought me full-circle. I’ve experienced the different ways to cope, and while some have been harmful, others have saved me.
If gaming saves you, don’t let anyone take it away. I like to think that little, confused me, had some brains to manage a farm instead of crying in lonely despair. You are not hiding behind a screen; You are giving your brain the sanctuary it needs. My hope is that as you play, you realize what helps you and why it helps you. This is where your healing begins.