Technically, I do have something game-ish to write about. Quite a few things, actually. There’s some thoughts on my first game with the Retribution infantry, there’s the Mines of Moria table Hark and I are working on, there’s a Gaming Curriculum post for the first time in quite some time. Any and all of these things could have been written, but for once I feel like shivering my way past the prime directive of GAME OVER – this is Von’s blog about games, not Von’s blog about whatever happens to cross his mind on a Wednesday or Sunday morning – and saying a few quick words about something real.
Being me, of course, I can’t come right out and say it, so I’m going to talk about Pink Floyd instead. The Wall is one of my favourite albums and possibly my favourite film. Pompous, relentless and cruel, tragic and cuttingly cynical, it builds up a gifted, fragile central character, shows the slow process by which, as Larkin said, ‘they fuck you up, your mum and dad’, and in the fucking-up of you ensure that you are good for fucking up your friends, your colleagues and your lovers in turn. It pities the poor suffering rock star and savagely undermines him at the same turn; he’s fucked-up and complicit in his own fucking-up, withdrawing behind a metaphorical Wall built out of every bad thing that’s ever happened to him and cemented with his vindictive fantasies of revenge and self-punishment. And it ends with this faint, sad shadow of a song, only a minute or two long:
All alone, or in twos,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down
Outside the Wall.
Some walk hand in hand
Some gather together in bands
The bleeding hearts, and the artistes,
Make their stand.
And when they’ve given you their all
Some stagger, and fall
After all, it’s not easy
Banging your head against some mad bugger’s Wall.
— Pink Floyd, ‘Outside the Wall’
I am painfully aware that this is what it’s like being friends with me sometimes. A lot of the time, actually.
I don’t mean to take refuge in this sort of thing, but it is something that you may or may not know about me; I am not well in the head. In 2008, shortly before I started all this noise and nonsense you’re reading now, I was diagnosed with cyclothymia, which – for those not in the know – is the Diet Coke of bipolar illnesses (it’s not as bad for you as the others but it’ll still rot your teeth in the end). I don’t so much ‘suffer from’ as ‘live with’ the condition, arcing gently back and forth between a ‘keep going forward, don’t get killed’ state of quiet depression, and bouts of ‘I could conquer the world and sex up a million nuns in my head without even needing to get out of bed, now FUCK OFF I’M NOT MAKING THE TEA’ manic energy.
I do know, however, that it’s not easy to live with me, or play games with me for that matter. I am volatile, moody, insecure and prone to throwing time and money at things in a hypomanic fit only to regret it a week later when I’ve coasted back to the state of two-drinks-and-an-hour’s-sleep-under-par self-detesting misery that passes for ‘normal’ around here. The condition is best treated by avoiding intoxicants and sleeping regularly and thinking positively; things which are not exactly compatible with a community of night owls engaged in a practice where luck or ineptitude can result in an experience turning negative oh so quickly.
And yet people do put up with me. People are kind enough to tolerate my constant “yes but why do you want me around when I’m rubbish at everything” prattling, and to ride out the periods when I want to do ALL THE THINGS and invariably overcommit. The thing is, I think, that I don’t behave that differently to anyone else; cyclothymia is classified as a ‘mild’ mental illness (perhaps to the detriment of those so afflicted) and most of the time I can just, well, live with it, get on with the day and not seem any different to other folks. I feel the same feelings as you, respond to the same things as you; I just feel them a little more intensely, respond to them in ways that are a little less logical.
I don’t always remember to thank people, but. Well. Thank you all. Thank you for giving me something to do with myself, something toward which I can direct that surplus energy or drag myself when I can’t be bothered to do anything. Thank you for helping me roll with the punches and encouraging me not to be at the mercy of my misfiring neurons and just give up or bully on through experiences. Thank you for helping me get past the poor choices, which I’m slightly more prone to making than you might be. Thank you for not mentioning the apparent hypocrisies inherent in the mood swings, and for being patient with me when I over- or under-react to things.
Every so often, I pass by a gap in the Wall, and I can see outside. It’s good to know you’re out there. I’m sure you’re not really waiting for me; I’m sure you’re just getting on with your lives; but I do appreciate it when you stop, and reach inside to take my hand for a while.