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Side Quest – #3

– By Aecium


Disclaimers: First and foremost, I am NOT a medical professional and this article should not be construed in any way as medical advice. Second, all experiences are mine and what has worked for me may not work the same for you. In short, your mileage may vary. If you have not read part one of this series, the following will make more sense if you do.

After dealing with my anxiety ineffectively for many years, I finally took the first step toward better mental health, although at the time it felt more like a leap over an impossibly wide chasm. But still, I took that leap. I, rather casually, mentioned to my doctor that when I’m dealing with new situations or new people, or old friends in new situations, or large gatherings of any kind, or even just thinking about those things and an almost endless array of other situations, that I felt anxious and sometimes that anxiety could be extreme. Like wanting to run and hide extreme. Like not being able to make simple decisions because I was paralyzed by the thought of making the wrong decision extreme. And that prior to said situations I would spend a lot of time worrying about all the possible outcomes, good or bad (my anxious brain did not discriminate). And that I would be left exhausted after.

He asked some questions and we had a discussion about the benefits of medication and one-on-one therapy. “Ha!” I thought. “Me, one-on-one with someone I don’t know, laying on a couch spilling my guts about my childhood and what this or that inkblot reminds me of, while this therapist, this stranger, sits smugly scribbling notes on their notepad, all the while silently judging me. I think not!” So we went with the medication only route.

Over the course of several months, not much changed. We changed and fiddled with the medications and doses which led only to small improvements. I wanted more. That’s when my doctor referred me to a psychiatrist for further scrutiny (treatment). I was reluctant about seeing a psychiatrist. I thought, “Great, I’m so messed up that my regular doctor can’t fix me so he’s giving up and offloading me on to a crazy people doctor.” Not to mention this would mean rehashing everything I told my regular doctor to a new doctor. No, not just a new doctor. A stranger. At that point, my regular doctor had literally been my doctor since birth – he delivered me. I was comfortable with him. And now he was telling me to go see someone new. Not what I had been hoping for.

The day came. I – was going – to see – a psychiatrist. It was not a productive day. I was too preoccupied with what I felt for sure was my impending doom. The I best I could figure, one of two things would happen. He was either going to tell me I was completely nuts and should be committed (I pictured him pressing a inconspicuous button and guys in white shirts and pants bearing a straitjacket coming to collect me). Or he would read me the riot act and say I was just whining about what everyone deals with every day and that I just need to suck it up and deal with it, and to stop wasting their time.

To my surprise, however, nothing of the sort happened. Amazingly, I was not the first patient anxious about meeting him. From the way I was greeted to the way he explained his process and treatment options, he put me at ease. Mind you, part of our conversation did include the fact that being there made me want to crawl out of my skin and go hide. He completely understood and assured me this was not uncommon. He assured me I was not the only one struggling with anxiety of this kind. I found that rather comforting.

We had a conversation that was not unlike the one I had with my regular doctor, although longer and more detailed, and we formed a plan. My psychiatrist, like my doctor, explained the benefits and side effects of medication, and just like my doctor, he pointed out that seeing a therapist in combination with medication would be the most effective way to deal with my anxiety. With the way they were pushing a therapist on me I would swear they were getting kickbacks from the therapist union. Like before, I expressed my strong dislike of that course of action and he agreed to table the topic for the time being. When all was said and done, I walked out with a new prescription. And the confidence that all my problems would be solved.

After six months or so of regular visits with my psychiatrist and some more fiddling of my medications, we found the right dose. It was like a someone reached into my head and flipped a switch. Suddenly, my anxiety floodgates were not swinging wide open at the drop of a hat. It was amazing! And yet… And yet, after a short adjustment period, and more conversations with my psychiatrist, I knew it could be better. I saw marked improvement and I wanted more! With that progress I was finally able to tackle the next step – going to see a therapist. This is where the work really began for lasting change.

My first therapy appointment was still rather nerve wracking, even with the improvements from medication. And not at all like the chaise-lounge-laying, rorschach-test-taking, parent-blaming experience that pop culture had lead me to expect. While those methods are not complete Hollywood inventions, they were not what my therapist practiced. He practiced cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on changing thought patterns in order to change behavior. Which is not to say that you come out a brainwashed, ear-to-ear grinning, mindless-shell of your former self. It’s a method of helping you amplify positive thoughts and minimize negative thought patterns. Still, a few things were the same as Hollywood would have you believe: he did have a pad where he jotted notes during the session, and there were a few “How does that make you feel?” questions, but all and all it was more like a conversation than an inquest.

With the help of my therapist, I tackled some of my most stressful problems, like catastrophizing. I gave a full example here in part one of this series, but to summarize, I was afraid to tell my coworkers about a personal project because, in my mind, it could lead to me losing my job, car and home. No really – that’s how I thought it would end. So in therapy we would start with something like “What do you think would happen if you shared one of your personal projects with a coworker?” and I would explain the whole convoluted way it could leave me homeless. Then he would help me work backwards from the worst point and we would discuss the true likelihood of ending up there. For example, I have a strong family safety net so when I got to the part about losing my car or house, he helped me realize I have family that would step in and help. Of course, once we reached that conclusion, I proposed “OK, but what if I have a falling out with my family?” and we talked about the likelihood of that happening. And in the unlikely case we did have a falling out, I still had a safety net of friends I could go to for help. Basically it went on in this manner: I would come up with what was to me a very plausible situation, and my therapist would help me work backward step-by-step and realize that, while possible, my dreaded scenarios were not very likely to come about. And that’s the way it went for a long while during my therapy sessions. Over time, it started to sink in that he was right. No matter how bad of a situation I dreamed up, it was not very plausible. And the strongest proof? None of my scenarios had come true. Ever. Rather damning evidence if I do say so.

 After working with my therapist for a couple of years, and making very good progress, I got to a place where I felt I did not need any more therapy. I felt I had been provided the tools I needed, along with medication, to manage my anxiety. My therapist agreed that I had come a long way from where I started out at our first session. It was time to move on.

Life went on and was better after leaving therapy. For awhile. I went about two years using what I had learned in therapy and medication. However, this eventually devolved and I slipped back into old habits. I also relied on a less than ideal coping mechanism by drinking too much. Thankfully, my wife helped me see that how I was coping was not healthy and that it was time to go back to working with a therapist. At the time, I experienced a whole rush of emotions, most of them revolving around what I saw as my failure of not being able to make it on my own and that I couldn’t tell my choice’s were bad ones. I lost a lot of respect for and confidence in myself.

When I called my previous therapist to schedule an appointment, he informed me he was retiring and could no longer see me. My only choice was to see someone new. I was not happy about it, but I knew that I needed to get support from a professional to get back on, and stay on, track. My old therapist made some recommendations and I picked one that turned out to be perfect for my needs.

 A lot of really great breakthroughs and progress came after starting therapy again. I really clicked with her style. She used CBT, the same as my first therapist, but she figured out ways to explain it to me that really made sense. We were able to not just chip away at my distorted thinking, but actually took out chunks at a time. While I had slipped back into the habit of creating complicated catastrophe scenarios, she helped quickly restore and re-enforce the work that had been done with my first therapist. From there, we dug in one-by-one to find my patterns of distorted thinking and find ways to challenge each of them.

One thing we worked on was my tendency to dread future events. By this point in working with her, I had re-learned enough to (mostly) stop building elaborate scenarios for things to go wrong but I still spent hours dreading it, especially if it was something I didn’t want to do. She helped me work through the numbers to see how much time I spent dreading. Let’s say there was a party I had to go to in 3 months. Initially, I might spend 3 hours a day dreading it. As the event neared, that time would increase and when the event was still 2 weeks away, I was spending 8 hours a day dreading it. The few days before the party I would be almost consumed with dread. Adding everything up, she helped me see that I easily could spend over 400 hours dreading an event that would last only a few hours. This blew my mind! That long? Really? Think of all the things I could have gotten done in that time. Think about all the extra energy I would have if I wasn’t spending it on dreading future events! Just that thought alone was exhausting.

It took a few times of running the “Time Spent Dreading” exercise before I really stopped dreading events so far in advance. What really helped this click for me was realizing that most of the things I worried about were not even in my control. Since I couldn’t do anything to change the situation, I didn’t need to waste my energy on dreading them. Now, when I notice I’m dreading something in the future, I step back and ask myself if there is anything (within reason), that I can do about it? If the answer is no, I challenge my thoughts about it and try to put it to rest. I say try because I still slip sometimes, and my therapist will still on occasion run the numbers with me. But not that often nowadays.

Another distorted thought pattern we challenged had to do with my low self-esteem and low self-confidence. This was heavily driven by my tendency to minimize my successes and maximize my failures. At work, I could do 100 things well but as soon as I did one thing wrong, that’s all I could focus on. Even if I had been praised for the 100 good things, I’d discount that as just lip service. I would convince myself that I was at risk of being fired. Clearly, I could not be trusted to do good work. Situations like this drove me to develop an almost paranoid attention to detail and extreme drive for perfection. Both of which did not serve me in a positive or productive way. It really just drove my stress and anxiety higher and for longer as I waited for someone to discover the problems in my work.

My therapist helped me work through challenging my thoughts of being a complete failure and being fired because of it. She pointed out the 100 things I got right, or the fact that I corrected the one thing I got wrong. She asked if my peers ever made mistakes? “Everyone does,” I said. She asked if I thought my co-workers worried about being fired because of making a few mistakes? “No.” She reminded me that there had been many company layoffs over the years and I was never a part of them.

I’ve gotten rather good at challenging these thoughts on my own now. If something happens that causes me to feel inadequate or like a failure, and I notice that I start to minimize the positives of the situation and just obsess over my mistakes, I step back, take a deep breath, and re-frame my thoughts on the situation.

One time during therapy, after going through an exercise similar to the one above, I had a very disturbing thought and a strong sense of panic. I became very certain that if we challenged and corrected my distorted thinking about obsessing over my mistakes, that I would lose my edge, I would start to slip. I thought if I was not being driven by my extreme anxiety to do better than my best that I would very quickly stop trying and end up not performing well enough to be kept around. I asked my therapist to keep an eye on signs of whether or not I was starting to slip in work ethic and performance. She assured me that was an unlikely outcome. And I can report that to this day the only effect thought challenging has had on my work ethic and performance is that now I can actually enjoy my successes. As for my failures – I now accept that mistakes are inevitable and I understand that I can learn from them.

Getting better at challenging my distorted thinking was not immediate and it still requires a lot of work to maintain. I work at it in the therapist office and I practice outside of it. I’ve found it important to be open and truly vulnerable with my therapist, which is scary and also takes time and practice. Being open and vulnerable can lead to some very intense sessions. For me this is part of the process and helps me let go of the bad and clear a path for a healthier and more resilient mindset.

What has surprised me the most is that with this new set of tools I have been able to stop daily medication for anxiety, something I had previously thought impossible. I have a prescription I can take for acute anxiety attacks, which still happen every now and again, but they are fewer and farther between. I know that anxiety will always be there, I’m not going to stamp it out completely. Anxiety is a natural and often useful emotion and getting rid of it would be bad. Right now, having the acute medication works for me. I understand that in the future it may make sense to go back on daily medication. I’m okay with that, because I don’t want those constant feelings and thoughts of dread, fear, and general anxiety to take hold again. I don’t want them to have a chance to hold me back again. I don’t want to turn down an opportunity because I’m afraid of irrational or illogical thoughts. I don’t want to be controlled by my anxiety to that extreme ever again.

I have come to realize that I don’t ever want to completely stop seeing a therapist. My appointments are farther apart than they used to be. At the moment I meet with her every 6-8 weeks and we might go longer than that at some point. But now I view seeing my therapist as part of good mental health maintenance, like getting a physical or going to the dentist. It’s just a normal part of my over health care regiment.

Looking back, I find it hard to believe that I once let myself be held back from things I wanted to do, but when I was in the thick of it there was no light at the end of the tunnel. I convinced myself that the activities and opportunities I avoided were ones that I did not want. I’m not ashamed of my anxiety or how I dealt with it. I did what I needed to cope and I survived the best way I knew how.

Now, armed with healthier and more appropriate ways to view and interact with the ever-changing world, I can look at situations that previously would have caused me paralyzing anxiety and see them as opportunities that I can chose to pursue or pass up. The difference is now I make the decision for the right reasons, not because of anxiety.

P.S. – If you found this useful at all or you think it might help someone else please share and pass on. There are easy buttons to share just below here.

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Review – Bad North – Rethinking Strategy

I’ve been a fan of strategy games for a very long time. I’m also a graphic designer and have a sweet spot for great art and beautifully crafted experiences. When I first heard about and saw the first concepts for Bad North, I just had to check it out.


Bad North takes place in a Norse inspired universe. Your goal is to explore as many islands as possible; find new allies and powerful artefacts as you defend the land from the vicious attacks of incoming barbarians.

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As straightforward as this sounds, there’s a lot more to Bad North than meets the eye. The seemingly simple and endearingly looking game unpacks its complex tactical mechanics as you progress in the game.

Units/Parties

You start off with two parties composed of a specific number of units. Parties have the ability to move around the islands without many restrictions, but so do enemies. Choosing your path and unit placement around the islands becomes extremely important if you want to mount a successful defense.

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Specializations

Basic units can acquire one of three specializations: Pikemen, Knight and Archer. Each one of these comes with stats and equipment as well as with upgradeable special abilities, adding a layer of unit composition to the game. Upgrades can be bought by defending islands and collecting gold from each of the buildings. If the enemy destroys one of these buildings, you’ll lose the chance to profit from it.

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Specializations are important as you’ll be facing different enemy units that can be weak or strong against some of your specialized units.

Islands: Terrain/Weather/Buildings

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An island’s terrain and surface can be used to your advantage during engagements. But time is of the escence and reacting timely to incoming enemies is important as it will take time for your units to move from point A to point B. There are building structures in every island which you can use to heal the parties that have suffered losses.
But beware, parties are innactive during this process and you can face the situation of falling a few men short during a battle if you decide to heal at the wrong time.

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Weather also plays a role in range and effectiveness of archers. Windy environments, for example, can affect the reach of a shot if your archers are placed in the wrong location.

Items

Items can be found after defending an island and can aid you in battle by calling in reinforcements and boosting your fighting capabilities. Each party can carry one item. Items are also subject to upgrading.

Game over

Bad North is an unforgiving game. Once all of your parties die, your journey starts all over again.
But don’t lose hope just yet! Fleeing the island is an option. You can use the enemie’s boats to evacuate your most battered parties to save them from death. Abandoning the island all together, however, comes at the cost of not receiving any gold.

Additional parties can be found when you aid islands against incoming enemy attacks. But gold is scarce in this hostile word so choose your upgrades wisely.

All in all, my hype for this game was met with more than what I expected. This title by developer Plausible Concept mixes tactics, real-time strategy and tower defense elements into a seamless gaming experience. If you’re into all things strategy games, make sure to grab this title. Bad North is now available on Steam and is purchaseable in all major consoles.

 

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Grizzly Gaming Journal #3 – Post Blizzcon: Looking back

Blizzcon

-By Grizzly

What an amazing experience.

That sums up the entire five days of pre, during and post Blizzcon adventure. As a first time attendee, I was amazed by the caliber of the event. There was no moment where I felt let down by it. I wanted it to keep happening for just a little longer.

Blizzcon is in fact, a celebration. A celebration of gaming, passion, and dedication to something we love. Despite the odds, the rough starts and the moments of doubt, we made it.
For me, it was the validation of my goals and dreams for my future. It was the most genuine pat on the back: “it’s all gonna be alright, little bears”.

It’s surreal to meet people you’ve known for so many years, for the first time and have it seem like it was always that way; just the way things are.

Registration Day

Blizzcon isn’t the first tech and gaming related event I’ve ever been to, but it’s definitely the first one I’ve ever attended in which, despite the number of people, everything ran smoothly.
Although fast, the feeling of getting my badge was one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced. Not only was it the culmination of a long-term goal, but also a testament to hard work and dedication.

On this day, we finally had the chance to meet our dear friend OFY. A long-time supporter of the stream, OFY is a genuinely nice human being. We shared stories, great food, and seats as we watched the WCS Global Finals for StarCraft 2.

So much to do, so much to see

Blizzcon was everything we thought it would be and we saw just how proud the Blizzard crew and community members are of the games they put so much passion into.
We also had time to try out new stuff like new character releases, merch and licensed products that were coming soon(TM).

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The art of Blizzard is everywhere you turn.

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Blizzard is bringing Overwatch to the LEGO Universe. As a long time fan of LEGO, these two sets immediately caught my attention. What do you guys think?

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By far the best community moment apart from the Community Nights was The March of the Murlocs, which paraded the venue spreading the love for Blizzard games in true nerd fashion.

Overwatch Arena

The Overwatch Arena. Once you step into this area, you realize just how important Overwatch is as an esport. China, played some sick games.

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There’s no arena that embraces its lore as much as the Hearthstone arena does. Fans of the game gather around the hearth in this fully equipped tavern-like battlefield to witness epic battles.

WCS Global Finals

Since the World Championship Series became a thing, I might’ve missed some series but I’ve never missed a final.

All throughout our viewing, the hype was on a constant rise as players battled it out on the beautiful StarCraft 2 arena.

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Seeing Maru play and lose so quickly was an obvious upset, but I also think it is a testament to just how hard StarCraft is. As a game itself, but also, as a competitive practice.
The stakes in this tournament were huge and a lot of players crumbled under the pressure. Surprisingly, Maru fell 0 – 3 vs sOs and that was the end of what had been a very successful year for him.

But it was a historical Blizzcon for StarCraft as Serral was crowned the 2018’s WCS Champion after beating Stats in a beautiful 6 game series that represents everything that is beautiful and terrifying about StarCraft. How incredibly unforgiving a loss can be versus the magnitude of a victory.

Friends Galore

After years of watching each other’s streams, we finally had a chance to meet with Poizon and OFY, two long-time viewers and friends of the bears.

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StarCraft Family Photo (The Beasleys are missing, though…)

Seeing friends is always nice and I also had the chance to say hi to another long-timer, DukeNukem.

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Duke has been a long-time friend during my streaming years. Was happy to finally meet him.

I made some new friends as well and finally had a chance to meet face to face with one of the coolest individuals I’ve ever met. Temp0 was as excited to meet me as I was about meeting him, which I felt extremely honored by. We got to chat quite a bit and share the passion for StarCraft and the community.

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Maybe now, I’ll become a grandmaster and be faster.

I have been a long-time Neuro viewer for a few years now and I didn’t expect to just stumble upon him the way I did.
He was an easy person to talk to, friendly and open to say hi, and because of the great spirit he puts into the StarCraft community, I had to ask him to sign my Field Manual, which I brought with me as a sort of yearbook for my new friends to sign. His is by far the best signature I got.

Other honorable mentions are:

Meeting Maynarde.
I was really looking forward to saying hi to Maynarde because of the design work I had done for him. He was a pleasure to work with and I really wanted to express my gratitude for giving me an opportunity.
He was very kind and generous with his time. Unfortunately, I was too anxious to ask for a photo or a signature so, in the end, I just kept the good memories.

Meeting Rotterdam.
It’s awesome to exchange a few words with someone and immediately realize how passionate they are about StarCraft. That was the case when we approached Rotterdam. Over the years, Rotti has become one of my favorite casters. His passion and love for the game come through in his casting. We only exchanged a few words but I was glad I gathered the courage to say “hi”.

I really appreciated everything that Blizzard does to bring people together. Pin and badge collectors were all over the place, displaying their loot and trading with others. It was a scene worthy of any town market I’ve come across in gaming. Blizzard also included their very own trading posts and mystery box stands.

Closing Ceremony

We chose to watch Lindsey Stirling’s presentation and we were not disappointed. At first, we had to watch from the sidelines as all seats were taken, but half into the show we were ushered by a Blizzard crew member (bless that woman), and we were taken along with other people to our new seats.
I wish I would’ve asked the guy who sat next to me for some contact info because he was super friendly and just excited to be there. I did make sure to give him one of our stickers so I hope he’ll reach out one day.

The Aftermath

Last weekend I had the sudden, “wow, this is our first weekend after Blizzcon” moment. There was a bit of nostalgia involved but at the same time, I felt excited for the future. We plan on going back in 2020 in the hopes of seeing more of our friends there.
Coming back from Blizzcon, I feel more motivated than ever to continue working on this dream. The awesome community that has backed us for so many years is to blame for these amazing moments and the amazing experience that we had.

 

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Grizzly Gaming Journal #2 – The road to Blizzcon 2018

-By Grizzly

Not everyone allows his or herself to dream. To visualize something that they really want and commit to achieving it. Put everything they are on the line.
Sometimes, the opportunity just isn’t there. There are other priorities in life. The means are harder to attain than we iniatially thought. Maybe, we were afraid. Afraid of failing and being deeply disappointed by said failure.

The road to Blizzcon 2018 has been full of those moments. Moments in which we doubted if we were doing enough, working enough, streaming enough. “Are we even good enough?”

After almost a year of insanity, working hours that ran way beyond a nine to fiver; powering through hours of ladder, photoshop canvasses, illustrator artboards, classes and excel spreadsheets, I’m so glad the day is so close. I’m so grateful for today and for the adventure that awaits. It’s been a long time coming and every ounce of effort that we’ve put into making this trip happen has been worth it.

Amidst the turmoil of a world that doesn’t stop spinning, an event like Blizzcon happens. People from all around the world gather to celebrate a passion so innate to the human condition. Long time friends who are meeting for the first time and others who’ve waited for months to catch up; to have fun and celebrate another year at Blizzcon.

I’m the kind of person who spends a lot of time thinking about the future. But for the next few days, I’ll do my best to just be present and take it all in.

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The GrizzlyGaming Journal – Entry #1

-By Grizzly

This post was written many moons ago, but I wanted to keep it as raw and at the moment as possible, for which I decided not to edit anything regarding the time at which this was written.


Hi, friends!

I’m writing live from work at the moment and I can’t wait to get home and play some StarCraft (this is my life now…).

I’ve been sneaking in some writing time between classes to work on this blog and make this all the more exciting, rich and worthy of your time.

I have to say that right now, life’s pretty great and I believe that after so many delays, issues and “To Do’s”, I finally feel like the train is back on track and marching as smoothly as ever. Which also means I’ve been able to give the whole GrizzlyGaming endeavour some more love.

Although everything in life is moving forward and towards our goals, I have to admit I’ve had some difficult times as well. Times at which I have doubted myself and the relevance of my own existence. It’s a dark place to walk through and slowly but surely, I’m making my way out of that tunnel.
In a way, the experience was very similar to what I was currently dealing with in StarCraft. Like an endless fight in the dark.

Lately, I’ve been working harder than ever before. Feeling the dream of Blizzcon so close has given me a strength and will that I wish I’d had much earlier in life to pursue this dream. But, better late than never.

Despite the struggle, I’m feeling stronger day by day and the setbacks are becoming more scarce.

Also, I’ve been making some important decisions regarding my life goals and where I want my passion for StarCraft to take me. But, that is a subject for another journal entry.

In the meantime, I wish you all a fantastic day and I take this opportunity to let you guys know that, if you ever need someone to talk to, I’ll do my best to share some of my time with you. Also, there are some amazing people in the GrizzlyGaming community, so feel safe to hop on our Discord and share a bit of yourself with us.

Side Quest – #2

– By Aecium


Crap. It’s my turn. Am I ready? My mind goes blank. Shit, I had made a decision. What was it?

She turns and stares right at me. Tap tap, tap taaaap tap goes the pen on her pad as if she is sending me a secret message. I can only assume the message reads “Hurry up! I’m waiting! Others are waiting!”

My heart races, ringing in my ears like machine gun fire. I frantically search the page again. Are these even words? I can’t focus with everyone staring at me. What do they want from me? This should not be this hard. No one else seemed to have a problem.

“Sir?”

Just pick something already! I search for what I think will have the least amount of questions.

“Ummm….” My voice wavers  “I, um, I’ll have the…” lost it. I look down again and pick the first thing my eyes land on. I blurt out “The Southwest bacon burger.”

“Ok” she says “And how would you like that done?”

Shit!  “Ah… medium.”

“And for your side?”

Damn it. I wanted medium rare. The pounding of my heart mixes with the sounds of the restaurant in my ears making it hard to hear myself think. Focus, just focus! Sides – what are the sides? Where were they listed? There they are. “Um… Fries.”

“Do you want wedges, seasoned, waffle cut, or regular?”

Too many choices. Why so many? Crap what were they? I think there were 3 or was it 4 choices? They’re all potato, just pick one. “Umm.. the 2nd one.”

“The seasoned fries?”

“Yes, those.” Please let that be all!

As she moves on to the next person at our table I slouch down a bit and relax. Well, as much as I can anyway.

That used to be the norm for me. Beyond the discomfort in the moment the anxiety would leave me drained and the stress could linger well after. It’s been a long journey to better mental health and the hardest part for me was taking the first step.

Anxiety is a natural emotion that is part of our fight or flight response. When working normally, anxiety helps you realize that something’s not quite right and that you might be in danger, so it starts to prep you to run or hold your ground. However, for some people, like myself, it fires too often or for things that are not life threatening, and it goes well above the level that is needed. It comes in all shapes and sizes and can be custom fit, at no extra charge, to each person’s fears and vulnerabilities. For me, that meant things like an overwhelming fear of failure (which prevented me from finishing or even starting projects), fears of conflict (I would not speak up or disagree) and an intense discomfort when interacting with people that I didn’t know well (first days at school or interviewing for jobs were never good days).

I’m not completely certain when my anxiety crossed over from helpful alarm system to an overactive panic and dread machine. The best I can pinpoint it, would be in middle school, which for me was 7th and 8th grade. It was a culture shock with a shift from having one teacher and classroom for all your classes, to having a different teacher and room for every subject.
I had to remember where all the classrooms were, where my locker was, the combination for my lock, and which books and folders I needed for the next class. All of that in the time allotted for passing between classes. Also, kids are mean and they seemed to be at their worst in middle school. I know all of my peers were also adjusting to the same stuff. However, during those two years I had extra difficulties. I was once again being teased for my lisp, even though it was far less noticeable than when I was younger, and for being “learning disabled” (I’m dyslexic, which added its own fun issues). It was a lot to deal with and trying to find appropriate ways to cope with it all was hard. And to be honest, I missed the mark. While I did find ways to cope and survive, they were not always the most effective.

To the credit of my parents, I did not become a member of the “wrong crowd,” which seemed to be a common response for kids in the learning disabled category. My parents always encouraged me to do my best, made sure that I received the help I needed both at school and at home, and provided me with what I needed to pursue and excel at the things I was passionate about. Thanks to all of their support I was able to accomplish more than I would have otherwise thought possible.

However, my anxiety problems were not something my parents could help me with. That’s because one of the first things I figured out was how to hide it. The last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself in any way.

I want to make something completely clear at this point. The decision I made to hide and not talk about my anxiety is one of the worst things I could have done. But, I didn’t know any better at the time. Even if I had thought about asking for help, this was the 90’s and there was not much talk about mental health issues. The little talk there was, was heavily stigmatized . I had already been branded learning disabled, I didn’t want to be labeled as crazy, too.

So I kept quiet about the sheer panic I dealt with on a regular basis. I learned to avoid putting myself in situations that would involve making a lot of decisions, interacting with new people or worse, a combination of the two. Something as simple as shopping by myself could cause paralyzing anxiety. So whenever possible I would go with a friend, someone who was willing to ask a store employee for help if we could not find what I needed. Even then, there were plenty of times that I would leave a store without buying what I had gone there for.
I would rather leave than interact with people I didn’t know. I was afraid of being judged as inadequate or incapable. Something as simple as asking for assistance (from someone, who mind you, was being payed to help customers) was too risky. In my mind, if I needed to ask for help it was proof that I was somehow not up to the task, whatever that task happened to be. If I could not find the thing I needed, or worse, did not know exactly what I needed, how could I even consider that I might succeed? I was also positive the employee helping me had better, more important things to do. I was certain that I would be the focus of their next rant in the break room about the idiot customers they had to deal with.

Some of the worst times were when I had to travel for work to install equipment at hospitals and most of that was travel by myself. Those trips were terrifying for me in so many ways. Everything about them caused me anxiety! Getting to the airport on time, getting checked in, going through security and finding my gate were all things that, in my head, could go so wrong in so many ways.

Once I landed at my destination I had to get my rental car and find my hotel. This was before the time of everyone having a smartphone with GPS so getting lost in a strange town was a very real possibility. Then I still needed to find the hospital that I was going to be working at during that trip. I typically saw only three places when I had to travel for work – the airport, my hotel and the hospital. Luckily for me, by that time you could order pizza on the internet, which saved me at least one interaction. The only reason I was able to travel and survive was the mere fact that it was required for my job, and I was more afraid of being fired and unemployed. That was enough motivation to force myself through everything I needed to get done.

Dealing with constant anxiety throughout the trip was not without consequence. Afterward, I was absolutely wore out physically (due to a nearly constant racing heart and what I can best explain as a full body buzzing or the butterflies in your stomach on steroids), mentally (because of the sheer amount of will power exerted to push through it and the extra difficulty of having to problem solve through the “anxiety fog”) and emotionally (fighting fears of failure, self doubt, and why no one else seemed to have this problem). I would seclude myself and have as little interaction with the outside world as possible so I could recover and recharge from it all. If you can imagine how you might feel after a multi-day mountain hiking trip during which you were also studying for and then taking final exams, you will start to have an idea of how it felt.

For me, anxiety was not reserved just for during and after the triggering event. The days, weeks and sometime months leading up to an event could be just as bad and draining.
I would obsess about all the things that could go wrong from the simple to the outrageous. Sometimes the scenarios I came up with were like a Rube Goldberg machine of circumstances.
The things that would have to happen for the end scenario to play out were so remote, so unlikely to happen that to even give them a second thought would seem ill advised. But I would not only give them a second thought but a third, a fourth, a fifth, ad infinitum, so much so that any idle time was spent coming up with and going over such scenarios in my mind. Trying to go to sleep was one of the worst times. Nothing but idle time to think and worry and plan for things that would very likely never come to pass, and honestly, to my recollection, never did.

Here is a very real example of the kind of thinking that plagued me. Say I were to tell my coworkers about a personal project I was working on at home, such as a computer program. This would open me up for criticism. My coworkers might think the project was stupid and, by extension, that I was also. If I wasn’t able to complete the project, which was inevitable, that would be proof for everyone to see.
I was a stupid failure. My manager would find out and, learning that I was a stupid failure, realize that hiring me had been a mistake, one which they would promptly remedy. I would be unemployed which would mean Dealing with interviews, where I would have to explain why I was unemployed. Even if the interviews somehow went well, which I could not see happening, it would all come crashing down when they called my last job for a reference. I wouldn’t be unable to get another job and I would default on my car loan, then my house. In the end, I’d be unemployed, with no car, and homeless, all because I talked to some coworkers about a project I was working on in my spare time that had nothing to do with my job. It was exhausting.

Patterns of thinking like this are a form of distorted thinking, that is, when the thoughts you’re having are not in line with reality or within reason. Having irrational thoughts is not abnormal but it becomes a problem when they take hold and grow into something that prevents you from enjoying, or even doing, activities you normally would have. That is a major point! Take note. When anxiety (or other thoughts and feelings) gets to the point where they prevent you from enjoying or doing activities you normally would, that’s a problem and a sign to get help.

In the second part of this article, I’ll talk about the steps I took to get help for my anxiety and how it helped me tame the fears that fueled it.

P.S. – If you found this useful at all or you think it might help someone else please share and pass on. There are easy buttons to share just below here.

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SideQuest – #1

– By Aecium

My journey to creating Side Quest is a winding one that has given me the chance to face my anxieties and which I can trace back Starcraft.
I actively played Starcraft & Starcraft: Brood War from their release until somewhere around 2004.
The campaign is what hooked me, with a story that spanned the depths of space and three very unique races.

After beating the campaign I played custom maps, free-for-alls, and comp-stomps. The ladder was not a place I felt comfortable in. The few times I did click that button, the games ended fast and painfully; I was not up to the task.

Eventually, my attention turned to other games and to more “adult” goals, including a full time job, a girlfriend who is now my wife, buying a house and so on.
Being a computer geek at heart, games were still a part of my life, just not always as much as they had been.

As 2010 approached, I heard about and felt the hype for Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty. However, I steered clear. I was not ready to get sucked back in just yet.
My resistance to StarCraft 2 held strong until mid 2013 when I stumbled onto to the Twitch app on the Ouya. That weekend, StarCraft 2’s World Championship Series happened to be a featured stream. I watched players like Polt, Scarlett, Jaedong, and MC playing StarCraft 2: Heart Of The Swarm at amazing levels. I was hooked all over again.

Within a week of watching the WCS, I bought Heart Of The Swarm and was pulled back into the the Starcraft universe.
Again, I started with the campaign and was reintroduced to old friends in the continuing saga where the very existence of the universe was again in the balance.

After saving existence as we know it, for the time being, I turned from the safety and comfort of the single player to the ladder. This time, thanks to the advancements in matchmaking and league placement, it was not as scary. I still lost a lot but not as badly or as often.

During a ladder game, my opponent and I got to chatting and became friends in game, and when we were both online we would play games together. At one point, he joined a clan called TripleT. (A clan is just a group of players with similar goals of getting better and willing to help others grow their skills.) After that it did not take too long before I was invited to join TripleT. It was with the help of TripleT that I was able to rise from Bronze league to Gold (StarCraft 2’s leagues are Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, Grandmaster).

More importantly in my journey to Side Quest though, was that TripleT turned out to be associated with a startup StarCraft 2 tournament organizer, the ASL, which had tournaments for all levels of players Bronze to Grandmaster. I played in all 6 seasons of the ASL. After season 1, I began volunteering for the ASL, helping with admining, Twitch moderation, building and maintaining the website, and so on.

Toward what ended up being the winding down of the ASL, they were looking for people to create content for the Twitch channel. I took a chance and pushed past my anxieties and hesitations, I offered up a show based on Archon mode, a new mode of play added in the latest expansion of StarCraft 2: Legacy Of The Void.

I thought Grizzly was the perfect person to co-host the show. I had came across Grizzly earlier by mere happenstance when I responded to a Tweet from her. She was a streamer dedicated to improving in StarCraft 2 while building a fun and entertaining stream with a great community.

So I approached her about the idea and when she agreed, Party Like An Archon was born, a two hour show that I ran production for and starred Grizzly and me playing StarCraft 2 on the ASL channel. Toward the end of 2016, Party Like An Archon was the only live show on the ASL channel. And by that point, Party Like An Archon had changed from just a way to create content for the ASL into friends hanging out, playing games, and having fun.

We wanted to grow Party Like An Archon so we made the leap to Grizzly’s Twitch channel where we quickly expanded the games we played from just StarCraft 2 to a larger set of games including OverWatch, Diablo 3, Portal 2, Heroes Of The Storm, and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. With more games came new challenges. Production wise, there were more scenes, more overlay configurations, more things to go wrong. And they did. Once I streamed the first 20-30 minutes to my local server instead of Twitch, and I have had my fair share of having the wrong scene up or leaving the mics muted.

One of the most surprising things to me was that I survived those mistakes and I had not died of embarrassment. People still watched and Grizzly reassured me that it was alright and continued to join me on stream. At the beginning, my fears and anxieties would have me think and feel like I could not succeed and that I was foolish for trying (but that’s another article), and yet Party Like An Archon was more than halfway through its second year.

I decided I was ready for more! I had streamed on my own channel every now and again, but I never had a set schedule. I would just stream whenever, which tended to be less and less often. I decided full playthroughs of games would have the right balance of variety to keep it interesting. At the time I pitched the idea to Grizzly and Polaris, all I knew was that I would like to do a show doing full playthroughs of games and could commit to doing it once a week for at least two hours. I didn’t even have the name until a few weeks later when I realized what I was looking for was a Side Quest. That is, I wanted something that was not a main day-to-day requirement like my career, and was important enough to put time, effort and resources into it. More importantly, it would be an opportunity to push myself, build new skills and have fun doing it. This project has also given me an opportunity to create a custom font and an animated loading screen.

Looking back on everything that led up to Side Quest, it makes me realize how amazing the gaming community can be. It gave me a space to create and the encouragement to continue in my journey. I started off being afraid of playing ladder in StarCraft: Brood Wars, where all anyone could see is your name, to being comfortable playing and making mistakes in front of people, something I would never have thought I could do and survive.

When Grizzly and I started Party Like An Archon I was not a streamer or a content creator. Now I’m very proud to be able to call myself both. What I realized is that it doesn’t matter what you are or are not. Just start doing whatever it is you want to be. Before you know it you’ll have accomplished more than you would have thought possible. To that end, I’m not a writer, and yet here I am. Please join me as I take the next step in my journey.

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The GrizzlyGaming Journal – Entry #0

-By Grizzly

What drives GrizzlyGaming forward more than anything else, is the great passion and commitment that this rather small but hard-working team puts into gaming and sharing our love for it.


As you know, the past year has been crazy for the bears but despite the turmoil, we’ve been able to regroup and move forward with this journey.

Our goal this year is to attend Blizzcon for the first time. This has the primary objective of having fun but also, of getting closer to the community, the games and the creators that we admire and are passionate about.

Thanks to your help through subs, donations, design commissions and viewership, we are past half way there. This is a huge accomplishment for us which also makes us appreciate every single one of your words of encouragement, your memes and the friendships we’ve built together.

Rest assured that this year, GrizzlyGaming will continue to grow as a community where friendship and gaming are the connective tissue that bonds this crazy dream together.

This blog has been long in the works, but we’re very proud of what we have accomplished. This is the content that you’ll find here:

  • Grizzly Gaming Journal: Once a month, a member of the Grizzly Gaming team will be posting an update on current relevant projects and ramblings.
  • Side Quest: Once a month, Aecium brings us on his journey as a person and as a gamer and gives us an insight into this amazing project and all that came before it.
  • Game Reviews: The Grizzly Gaming team share their thoughts and fe Content
  • Creation Lab: For the content creation section, we’ll be posting short (or long) tutorials or guides related to different aspects of content creation.
  • Design Portfolio: All design projects will be curated and shared in our blog.

 

In the meantime, stay tuned on stream and on this blog for more on our projects and the things that we’ll be sharing with you in the upcoming months leading to November.

 

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