Ingress, Anxiety and My Plans

Sometimes even when I really want to go out to do something, it still totally freaks me out. My anxiety kicks up in all the wrong ways, even when my excitement is trying so hard to override it. Later this morning, I’m going to go “people.” I’m going out to play Ingress with some friends, and some complete strangers, in a place I don’t know.

I’ve mentioned Ingress before (How I Got Out), it’s the augmented reality game by the creators of Pokemon Go that was the precursor. If you have anxiety issues, I still highly recommend it. Besides handling my agoraphobia, it’s helped with self confidence, making local friends and creates reasons to socialize in both small and large groups. Today should be a slightly larger group than I’ve been with through the winter. It is a cross-faction event, which means both my team and the other team will be playing together and competing together.

My friend Pretty Bit who has helped bring me to many events now, especially the larger ones, will be bringing me to “First Saturday” (on a Sunday) in PA. I’m glad she’s my ride, being with her makes me feel a bit more comfortable going into a situation where there will be many people I don’t know. There will be some I do, but meeting new people can go one of two ways for me. I could feel fine with it and seem a social butterfly the entire time, or I could withdraw and meet people one at a time, head down staring at my screen. Either way, I am determined to go, to have a good time, and likely will pass out when I get home.

No matter which way I outwardly handle this, I know it will take a lot out of me emotionally. I’m good with that though, it’s worth it. I want you to take note note of that… whether you have anxiety or know someone that does… I want you to hold onto the thought that sometimes no matter what you see from the outside, our emotional selves are being used and drained – that feeling I best explained in I can’t always be there for you.. We will need to recharge, whether that’s some time isolating, passing out, reading a book. That time to reclaim our emotional selves is important, especially if you are expecting to “people” again soon.

I will let you know how everything went soon. We can find out if I was a butterfly or a wallflower, or if I won anything (there are contests and a raffle). I suppose when you find out will be a pretty good indicator of how long I needed to crash for. Anyhow, this is me, checking in with my weekend, please feel free to let us in on your weekend plans as well and how you are coping with them.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

Bad Days Happen.

Not every day is a good day. When you have mood disorders, no matter what medications your on and what therapy you have participated in, some things are going to break through. For me, it can happen when I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself for something for days, and yet what happens is unexpected.

Yesterday morning, I tried to call the neurologist’s office that I went to five years ago. I couldn’t remember his name, so I asked the receptionist to look it up for me. I was prepared for “He works in a different office,” or “He moved to California.” I thought I was prepared for the disappointment of not being able to see him again. She gave me his name and told me he retired just after I left last time. “Retired” was not something I prepared myself for.

For a lot of people, that small difference of “moved away” versus “retired” wouldn’t mean much. They both mean that he’s unavailable as a doctor currently. For me, I broke into tiny pieces. My voice changed immediately as I tried not to cry and as soon as I hung up the phone, the floodgates opened. I messaged a friend, I messaged a small group of Ingress friends. After being unable to stop crying after almost half an hour, I also texted my mom asking her to call me.

My Ingress friends, the women I left a note for as I could barely see through my tears, are amazing. I mentioned in my Ingress post (How I Got Out) how supportive my team has been. This includes when I’ve lost my shit completely. I hadn’t slept enough, the crying was making the pain in my head worse than it had been in days, and I had no idea how to move forward making an appointment with a neurologist.

Before I got in touch with my mommy (and yes, when I’m crying she’s still “mommy”), Lois* left a message describing the next steps I should take (with Superwoman* and Pretty Bit* agreeing). At the time, I could read the next steps, but I couldn’t actually get the information to stick in my head enough to work with it. When my mom called me back, she and I talked for a few minutes while she was at work. I managed to mostly stop crying, and she gave me almost the same exact information. After being a little prepared for it by Lois, I was much more able to comprehend and internalize the information mom gave me.

Basically, I need to call, make an appointment, ask to be put on the short list (waiting/cancellation list) and be prepared to go in with little notice in hopes that I can be seen sooner than six weeks from now. This seems like such an easy task to read it now, but overtired and emotionally drained from unexpected information and crying for half an hour and giving myself an extremely bad headache, this was an insurmountable task. When I first saw it, I felt like it was impossible, but I owe Lois many thanks because it was her preparing me that made it seem like I could try it later when my mom gave the same advice.

A lot of people don’t understand how something so trivial, like a doctor retiring, when we’re not expecting it can be so devastating. I can’t explain to you why it is, I can only tell you that it’s much more possible than people without mental health issues typically understand. I am lucky in that my support group is vast and includes these Ingress ladies. Pretty Bit kept reminding me to breathe and while at the moment even that seemed impossible, just being reminded is so helpful. Breathing is something we do automatically but the deep breaths that help us calm down are not, they are intentional and controlled.

I got some sleep, got the headache to subside in the afternoon. Milan*, one of the other women in the group I mentioned earlier, checked in and asked how I was doing. I was much better by this point and appreciated her support. While I have not made my necessary phone calls yet, I feel I will be able to today.

It’s okay to have depressive episodes. It’s okay to have bad days that break through your treatment. It’s okay to not be able to handle things sometimes. If this happens, though, please find your support systems. Talk with them, be honest, let them help you. We can sit and do nothing and tell no one and nothing will change, or we can try to ask for help. It is one of the hardest things we do, but it is also one of the most necessary. I will keep you updated about the doctor, and I hope you keep your friends updated on your struggles too.

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~

*Names changed. My life is an open book, but their privacy is important, if they wish it.
**Image is my hand – heartbeat ring from my sister, a reminder that life is ups and downs, green nails because my Ingress team’s color is green. 

How I Got Out

(or Killing agoraphobia before it killed me)

Isolation is a horrible thing. When I’m depressed, I withdraw – as do many others. It is easy to believe when others say “You did this to yourself,” and spiral into self-loathing and loneliness. After my breakdown at 24, more and more things made me afraid – lightning, social interaction. Because of this, I withdrew, and because of my depression, I internalized the negative things people said to me about it.

By 27, I could not leave the house alone. I had to be with someone I trusted. I had long since stopped driving (because traffic was terrifying). I wanted to be around people, I needed to be but couldn’t get there on my own. By 29, doctors, grocery shopping, more doctors were all that got me out of the house – and only because I pushed myself hard to help with the grocery shopping. Still never without my fiance or family.

A year and a half ago, I mentioned my agoraphobia to my friend Josh. He said I should check out a game called Ingress. Some of you may have heard of it, it was the Niantic augmented reality game that came before Pokemon Go. Pokemon got a lot of attention for getting people outside… Ingress, however, got me outside and got me a community. It’s a lot more strategy and community based.

It’s hard to make friends as an adult if you don’t work or go to bars. It’s hard to make local friends when you don’t leave your house. I downloaded Ingress onto my phone to see what it was. It’s like a worldwide game of capture the flag but it’s also so much more. You capture these portals which, in the game are places where “exotic material” (xm) leaks into “our world”, in reality, they’re mostly places of cultural interest: churches, schools, art installations. They’re all over the world. I could see across the street there were a dozen of these portals. My fiance wouldn’t drive me there. If I wanted to capture them, I had to do it myself.

For weeks, I would drool as we drove home, but they were unreachable from the road. I kept saying, “I’m going to get those portals, they’re going to be mine.” Then one day it happened: I got dressed, took my phone and my keys (and every other thing I could possibly need in the next twelve hours even though I was walking across the street) and actually walked out the front door!

Over the next few weeks the local community told me how to contact them online and I joined our  Slack (a chat platform). I started meeting these new people at the college or my fiance would drive me to meet them in nearby towns. We have get-togethers where we play cooperatively either to get better in-game items or to create large fields (linking three points together) that take sometimes dozens of players and LOTS of planning.

I have these friends now that I can’t imagine not having. My community has been so supportive they got me to Brooklyn, New York to play with thousands of others for the day without bringing a family member or my fiance. Each of us has our reasons for playing, competition, strategy, friendship, self confidence, defeating anxiety. After about eight years of agoraphobia, I finally defeated it as an Enlightened Agent of Ingress.

There are many badges (accomplishments) in the game. Even if you don’t want to contact your local community, you can use these badges to help get a sense of achievement. One of my favorites is “Trekker” – it’s for distance walked. Since I didn’t leave the house alone less than two years ago, getting increased levels in it is amazing.

I’m not selling miracle cures. What you get out of it is what you put in, but Ingress is free to download and free to play. Finding your community, leaving the house on your own, learning how to make new friends again… these are priceless. What do I get for telling you? The occasional “I tried Ingress and it really helped!” That’s the best gift, finding out we made a difference. Oh, and selfishly, I hope you choose Enlightened!

~Brutally Honest Eccentric~


**Ingress is free on android and ios. i am not being compensated for this endorsement**