We are thrilled to have a guest post from All-Star Charlie, who tells the story of how he overcame a history of depression and anxiety to achieve his Epic Win!
I have been battling depression and anxiety for much of my life, and have had my good days and bad days with it. I still do. The thing is that I never have had the confidence to really face it head on, and in a way SuperBetter allowed me to take the first steps to do just that. I really lucked out finding out about SuperBetter. I had read Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken, and saw her present the keynote at PAX East. After watching her talk, I tried to keep tabs on what new projects she was starting, and then she made mention of something called SuperBetter. Not really knowing what it was, I blindly signed up for the chance to be an All-Star.
After applying I have to admit I was scared to death. What had I gotten myself into, was I really ready to try to take on something of this magnitude, would I really come out of the experience becoming SuperBetter? Then I thought, there’s no way they’d pick me, I’m sure there are others out there who probably should be the spotlight, but then I got the e-mail. My heart jumped. I was excited and anxious, but I did all that they asked me, and officially became an All-Star.
When I first logged in I was overwhelmed, and slightly lost. I tried to set it up just like I do with any MMO (massively multi-player online game): find a way to solo through this “game”. The problem is that in order to really get SuperBetter you’re going to need help. This isn’t something that you can simply do alone. Sure there are degrees of help required, but in my opinion you need a couple of allies to help lift you up when you’ve fallen short (or at least when you feel like you’ve done so.)
For my Epic Win, I chose to tackle talking to two complete strangers (I’m terrified to talk people I don’t know simply because somewhere in the back of my mind I feel like I’m going to be laughed at, or maybe criticized for opening my mouth) at a Game Developer meetup in Atlanta. The biggest obstacle that became abundantly clear from the start was scheduling. I will fully admit that there were several times where I could have gotten it done early, but decided to do something else that day so I could say to myself, “darn, it’s just not going to work for me this month.” Then a funny thing happened. I found out I was going to be a dad, and that we were going to need to get ourselves a house.
Now, if I thought talking to game developers (a community that I can actually hold my own in) was scary, talking to realtors, contractors, civil engineers, and more is outright the scariest thing I would ever have to do in my life. Somehow though, I found the courage, guts, and confidence to take all of those on, and I think held my own. So in a way I over-shot my original Epic Win by doing something I found much more difficult.
There was a piece of me who thought that that would be sufficient, that I would be okay not accomplishing my “true” Epic Win, but there was always a part of me who knew I had to still take it on. My biggest Bad Guy through this experience has been my Negative Self-Confidence, the true “demon” that stands in my way when I try to accomplish anything, or I try to set out to do something I’ve never done before. That guy has been the bane of my existence, and to this day I continue to battle him. It is not something I can easily put behind me, but somehow through the SuperBetter experience, and a lot of singing my lungs out (my favorite power-up, by the way), I gained ground on him and even beat him in battle a couple of times.
So that leads me to May 15th, a “final” attempt to accomplish my Epic Win before my All-Star experience comes to an end. I almost didn’t go. I found the perfect excuse, I thought: May 15th was Diablo III release day. I told myself that no one was going to show up, and that I hadn’t had a chance to really spend time with my wife this week with all the house stuff. Those thoughts and more floated through my head all day. I think without my lovely wife (my biggest and best ally) basically telling me to go, and that she’ll be alright if I’m gone for a couple of hours, I would have stayed home and found yet another excuse to miss out on a chance to accomplish my goal. But she pushed me in the right direction, and I battled rush hour traffic to make it to the meet up.
I arrived and went straight for the pizza and coke, and found a place to nervously consume my beverage and food, my eyes darting all over the room, hoping that someone would just come to me and say hello (you see that’s the wierd thing about me, I’m petrified of trying to make first contact.) But it never happened. After eating every small bite of my pizza until there was nothing left, I had to make a choice. I had to decide if I was going to go through with my Epic Win, or was I going to walk away quietly like I got an emergency text on my phone, or something along those lines.
Thankfully, after throwing away my trash, I spotted someone looking as nervous as I felt sitting by himself. His name was Jamal. I put my hand out, shook it, introduced myself as Charlie, and started chit-chatting about the industry, and what he did. Soon enough another person came to sit down and listen. I turned to that person introduced myself, found out his name was Justin, and we continue to talk amongst the three of us for a bit until another person joined in (sadly I didn’t catch his name). An hour or so passed and the meet up seemed to be dying down, so I made for the door, got in my car, and headed home. I blasted my favorite songs all the way home, singing until I couldn’t sing any more. When I got home I fired up my PC, logged onto SuperBetter, and claimed my victory.
There is part of me who wants to say with that I have conquered what I’m trying to get SuperBetter from, but in reality this is just the first step. There are so many more to take, and to be honest even if I move away from the site, I will continue to strive to be SuperBetter. If I can do that, I think the world could be filled with endless possibilities. It is through this SuperBetter experience that I learned that I’ve got a support system that can be there for me, and that there is a way to conquer a ton of my fears and doubts if I’m only willing to give it a go.
AKA: Altered Confusion