I wanted to post something I wrote a while ago. I did not write it as a post or a blog. I just wrote it the morning after a bad night. I want to make something very clear. I am not in this position anymore. I am very happy, off anti-depressants and do not need therapy anymore. However, I do know that a lot of people find it hard to talk about depression and I figure it might help someone. Also, I think depression needs as many kicks in the balls as it can get.
Max Payne 3 and the beating of levels of depression.
As I lay in bed early afternoon, still drunk from the night before and feeling new levels of self loathing and depression a tiny thought snuck into my head. It was to do with Max Payne 3 and depression. Max Payne has a special place in my heart. The original is still my favourite game. Max Payne 3 saw me through two separate instances on depression when I was signed off from work for over two months. It kept me occupied and from thinking about self harm. It mostly worked on this count. It kept me from thinking too many dark thoughts and gave time for my anti-depressants to do their thing. The reason it helped was that I became very good at it. I say this not to brag – but hey, who I am kidding? I completed the New York Minute Hardcore mode. I completed a thirty gigabyte game all the way through without dying, under a time limit. What has this to do with depression I hear you rightly ask? A tiny thought that snuck into my brain I answer. What if I put that same level of dedication, patience, attention to detail, honing my reflexes, learning the rules of that world and how to break them, remembering what enemy came out of where and how to dispatch them and not dying into beating depression as I did with Max Payne 3? With depression being the cunt that it is, I will have ample opportunity to replay the same level over and over again until I know it off by heart. As I write this, I have a recurring image playing behind my eyes of me calmly cutting the skin on my left arm. My natural reaction is to repress this. Who would want to think about that? Or acknowledge that they are thinking about doing that to themselves? Perhaps I should remember it. I should remember every bloody detail of it. How the skin separates from the flesh. How, even though I know how much it hurts, I do not stop myself from doing it. The fact that it feels good. I should remember this like the garage scene on the first level of Max Payne 3. I can see it now although it has been over a year since I played it last. Max slides behind a pillar. Enemies run into to cover. The boss is dragged away behind a locked gate. And go…
I should remember thoughts of self harm in this way. I should think of ways of beating this thought. Not dealing with, but beating it. Otherwise I am simply playing the same level over and over again and not wanting to get past it. Which is exactly what I have been doing. So how do I beat this? As I write this I admit I do not know the answer. Yet, even as I write this, another thought has come to me. What would Max Payne do? I do not say this lightly, mockingly or without all due respect to anyone who has ever suffered or suffers depression. I say this as an exercise in thinking through how to beat depression. So, what would old Maxy boy do if a hailstorm of depressive gunfire assailed him?
Option 1: Get into cover.
Ok. Good idea. When depression hits it can hit hard and contrary to logic, when I am at my happiest. It makes sense to bunker down and try to survive. The problem with cover though is that it is purely defensive. I can hide and hope the enemies won’t flank me and creep up on me and eventually, get me.
Luckily, Max Payne makes a habit of not staying in cover. He attacks, but he attacks with a set of skills.
Option 2: Slow down time.
Admittedly, a nifty trick to pull off and one we all wish we could do. Depression does not like me to try this. As soon as I take that first attempt at a calming breath, the panic sweeps in, the rage explodes in my chest and anger swamps my brain. Of course it does this. Depression does not want me to be calm. It is more effective if I am not calm. Much easier to knock me off balance and keep me that way. Yet, is this any different to learning how to guide Max through a burning office building? The principles are the same. Pressure, a need to escape the situation, intense heat. So, I know when I try to calm down depression will fight back. So, I need to find a way to fight back too. Not necessarily harder, just a way that wins. As I write this I do not know how to succeed at this. I am hoping an answer comes to me. I think being in cover while trying to stay calm is a start. Sadly in real life, cover is not always available. Being at work with colleagues does not give a lot of space to cover and deal with an onset of depression. Not withstanding the embarrassment of being depressed at work in the first place. Then again, maybe I have to find my own cover and not rely on it being readily available. Toilet breaks, pretending to smoke to be safely alone for a few minutes, emergency phone call from home that has to be taken can all be ways of getting into cover, even if only for a few minutes. But in those few minutes, I can calm down. I know I have talked my self down from some desperate heights before. Every time I did I had to regain control first. And that came from breathing and forcing myself to be calm. I know this is a contradiction, but desperate times call for desperate measures. In this instance it is a pure battle between me wanting to be calm so I can back to being happy, or at least as close to it as I know how to be and depression wanting me to not be happy. Depression has a whole host of ways to do this. The cocksucker uses my own unconscious against me. It knows secrets that I am not consciously aware of (thanks a bunch repression). It is the perfect time to attack. So what are my options? Breath. Force every other thought out of my head through pure force of will power and a desire not to be beaten and to complete this god damn bitch of a level. One thought. Breath. When I achieve that, everything does not become easier. It is still hard. It is now manageable. Which brings me onto what Max would do next.
Option 3: Attack.
Max leaps out of cover guns blazing. Enemies, stunned by this sudden and unpredicted assault fire wildly, missing him by inches. But those inches are enough. Bullets slam into his foes; they go down in grisly heaps one by one and they are all dead by the time Max hit’s the floor. I know right? If it only it were that simple. The truth is that the ninety nine times I did it this way before I succeeded in my hundred attempt resulted in Max being shot down before I killed anyone and seeing that damn loading screen that told me I had let people, especially Max, down. Max did seem to want to assist his own downfall in this regard by continuously jumping into danger at every available moment. My therapist and my fiancé (who is also a counsellor) would not doubt find it interesting that Max is my hero. A man doomed to tragedy no matter what he does. Yet, that is why he is my hero. He digs himself out of the trouble he finds or puts himself in.
The completing of the game can be done in many ways. My way was to use all of the advantages Max has. This seems fair to me. He is facing a literal army of enemies so needs all the help he can get. My own troubles are much less considerable. So Max Payne tactics should work right?
Get into cover first. Then calm down. Then, using all my knowledge and experience of my depression, where my enemies are going to jump out from, where they are going to lay in wait for me, focusing my aim so I do not miss my targets and staying alive, I can beat my levels of depression. Right?
As I write this I do not know. Yet. I do think I might be able to beat the first level of depression by doing something I should have done a long time ago. Like old Maxy boy, it is time to dry out a bit. Quitting drinking is going to be hard. Luckily, I do not really enjoy it anymore. It affects my anti-depressants too, which is another genius way I have tried to get better before now. Now though, I am seeing it as the option menu before I start the game. I simply need to set it to the ‘not drunk’ setting. As I am a fan of the hard mode of games, I can be ok with this as I have made it plenty hard enough before, and maybe this once, it is ok for me to start this game on easy mode.
So, I will give this idea a try. Now, if there were only something to help me stay occupied so I do not drink for the next seven days. Ah…good old Max saves me again.
Take (the best) care buddies,
[Image retrieved from here]