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I wonder if, after eight years, I’m now capable of explaining properly just how much this game has changed my life. Let’s give it a try.

I’ve never made friends easily. I had, for a long time, considerable trust issues, through actions that I myself was responsible for. When my daughter was born I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. Panic attacks became the norm, but in the midst of all of the chaos, I grasped that the depression I’d suffered from since my teens wasn’t ever going to get better. For the first time in my life, the realisation dawned that unless I helped myself, nothing would ever change. I made a conscious decision to cut ties with just about everybody in my ‘old’ life, and to start fresh.

It meant, as most of my best friends had been male, and they’d pretty much all distanced themselves after my kids were born, there was nobody to talk to apart from my husband. I had no close friends in the area I lived in. I felt completely alone. That’s why, when some online acquaintances suggested that there was this new MMO from the people who’d made Diablo that was worth picking up, I jumped at the chance. Those people too no longer are a part of my life, casualties as I tried to put the pieces of myself back together. I made a decision, that I don’t regret even now. I decided to reinvent myself as someone I’d actually like to know.

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This blog was the initial acceptance that I’d made progress. It was my way of allowing the World to note my existence. I knew full well I’d be lucky if one person read it on any given day, and often it was just me, plugging away, recording online achievements as if they were as important as the ones in reality I couldn’t discuss. By the action of sharing something that ultimately was just pixels, I gained the confidence to do it with more serious issues. For a very long time, this game was a crutch for reality. I make no bones about this, and eventually it became apparent that my desires in reality and the game’s demands weren’t ever going to satisfactorily mesh. Suddenly, just being a GM and being part of this Community wasn’t enough.

The events of the last seven months have caused a significant shift in my outlook. What started as a desire to get my work read on a wider stage has, I now grasp, evolved into a need. The career I could create for myself with writing is now more important than the game that originally began this portion of the journey. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but only through the last eight years of being here, and doing this often daily have I found the confidence to truly believe that path is possible at what is, let’s face it, a pretty late entry point. That confidence has also begun to positively influence and change other portions of my life, and vice versa.

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The reality of where I stand now is significant. The people who truly cared about me before I started this journey have come and found me, and have been generous enough to understand why I did what I did. That means that, to a person, everybody else who I now consider a friend has been made via Azeroth. The game, like it or not, allowed me to build a better life for myself, gave me tools to learn how to communicate again successfully. Of course, it has not been a smooth ride even here, but I’ve learnt important lessons over what matters most to me, and how that fits with the life I now wish to live. When I made what I knew would be a contentious decision as GM of a Guild I’d run for a decade, it became apparent that my ideals simply didn’t fit in the hearts and minds of the people who I was supposed to be a figurehead for. That made the decision to step down one I now don’t regret at all.

In fact, it is probably the best thing I’ve ever done, because I’ve now managed to find a casual peace with Warcraft that allows me to still write about the game I owe so much to, but no longer to be beholden to its demands. It showed me who my true friends were in-game, and who was willing to support my decisions going forward. It was another key moment in a development progress which sees me now, eight years on, as a completely different person to the one who started this journey. It always sounds like hyperbole when I say that, but if you’d been in my head a decade ago? You’d understand the truth. People can change. I’ve changed.

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Today is Time to Talk day in the UK, when you’re encouraged to sit and discuss mental health issues with a friend. Well, that’s what you are, and this is what I have done, like it or not, for all these years. Sometimes, I’ll grant you, there was a lot more talking at than with. I’ve not done everything right, far from it. However, on the days when the stars aligned and the Twisting Nether cut me a break, there’s been some brilliant moments of both insight and revelation. Without this blog I’d not have the two serious writing gigs I now perform both weekly and monthly. Without it I’d have not met the thousands of lovely people via social media.

More importantly, there’d not be the trolls, and the attention seeking wankers and the needy buggers who would try to throw stones in the road to unsettle me. As each drama happened, I refused to be slowed. Last year, there was a point when I considered jacking this all in and starting from scratch again, but this time I understood that this had been my failure all those times before. You can’t just keep running away when things get too hard. At one point in your life, you have to stand firm and defend what matters. That’s why I’m still here, writing this now. This is my life, and I’ll fight to my last breath to maintain the sanctity I’ve created.

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If you’ve been here since the beginning, I’m incredibly grateful. I don’t expect you to hang on until the end though, that’s fine. I don’t know how long I’ll keep writing here but as long as Warcraft exists, you’ll find me playing it. It isn’t because I feel a sense of obligation either, that time has long since passed. This place is where my friends are. This is where they call home, and as long as that remains the case, I’ll still be here, and there’ll still be stuff to talk about. It certainly isn’t the only life I know, but it is the one I still am the most grateful for.

Thank you for being with me, and here’s to the next year.

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