Health & Fit Writing Video Game Fanfic Is Helping My Mental Health

19:17  12 june  2020
19:17  12 june  2020 Source:   self.com

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  Writing Video Game Fanfic Is Helping My Mental Health © Adobe Stock / Good Studio

Until recently, depression and anxiety extinguished any motivation in me to write creatively. Other than some poems written sporadically, every time made an attempt to write I was filled with dread and despair. Over the years, I had gotten used to using writing as an outlet, especially through journaling. However, battling depression for years with few resources to treat it resulted in me developing nighttime anxiety in my early 20s. I would wake up in the middle of the night hot and sweaty with racing thoughts, unable to fall asleep again for hours. Between the myth of the tortured artist and the despair I felt when depressed or anxious, I had come to define my writing based on my pain. Eventually, I began to think of my writing as being totally dependent on being in pain.

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The tortured artist is a pervasive stereotype and myth based on the idea that you have to suffer in order to make good art.

As a Black femme, the tortured artist myth was especially dangerous because the mental health of Black women and femmes often gets overlooked. Instead of fueling my writing, tapping into the rawness of my depression and anxiety started to make me hate creative writing. A turning point came when I rediscovered fanfic through the Kingdom Hearts video game franchise and the website A03.

Published by Square Enix, Kingdom Hearts is a video game franchise that mainly features original characters, Disney characters, and Final Fantasy video game characters in an epic world-saving adventure. The main games of the franchise focus on Sora, a teenage boy who uses a weapon called the Keyblade to take out creatures of darkness called Heartless. For me, it’s main appeal has been seeing how the characters use their own personal strength and the strength of friendship and love to fight darkness both within and without.

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Since its initial release in 2002, the game series has become known for its theme of friendship, its huge cast of characters, and its convoluted storyline. I've been a fan since I played Kingdom Hearts II in 2007, and rediscovered the series through 2009’s Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Re: Coded (2010). 358/2 Days became my favorite game because of its emotional storyline of friendship and personal purpose (i.e. identity) as well as its focus on Roxas, my favorite Kingdom Hearts character.

Since I read Kingdom Hearts fanfic during its heyday in the early 2000s, I decided to read the fic again while playing both 358 Days/2 and Re:Coded. While doing so, I was reminded of when I wrote fanfic privately during my teen years in the mid 2000s while dealing with depression. At that time, fanfic couldn't help me cope because I felt deep shame about even being interested in fanfic, the result of being bullied about my personal interests such as reading and playing video games. However, the joy and fun I had writing fanfic for cartoons and video games fueled my dreams of becoming a writer. After rediscovering Kingdom Hearts fanfic and reading a lot, I wanted to write it again to recapture the joy I had as a budding writer.

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For a while, my depression and anxiety tried to talk me out of writing Kingdom Hearts fanfic. Both were fueled by the scorn about fanfic and Kingdom Hearts as well as my own imposter syndrome. Fanfic is often ridiculed as either a hobby for teen girls, or reduced to something pornographic, while Kingdom Hearts gets dismissed as cheesy and childish. My depression and anxiety told me it was ridiculous for me to write fanfic because I was an adult and I should be doing original stories by now. Despite the plethora of adult Kingdom Hearts fans, depression and anxiety told me that the Kingdom Hearts games were "for kids" and that it was ridiculous for me to still be so into it. A final message my depression and anxiety sent me: there is no way I could possibly write decent fanfic when I haven't done creative writing in months.

As I approached my 29th birthday this past February, I felt so tired of depression and anxiety getting in the way of my creativity and personal happiness. Although I’ve been unable to access and afford professional treatment, coping mechanisms such as journaling and online support groups have kept me going. Even though I knew writing fanfic wouldn’t cure my mental illnesses, it would at least give me an outlet and something to look forward to.

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Once I realized this, I managed to tell my jerk brain to shut up and let me write Kingdom Hearts fanfic by focusing on how much I enjoyed the games and certain characters. For two weeks, I wrote and channeled a little of my depression and anxiety into the insecurities of Naminé, a minor Kingdom Hearts character who I breathed new life into. Since she was originally a damsel who was manipulated and made to feel unwanted and powerless, I made her a heroine who gains newfound strength through a lesbian romance and queer friendship. Once I finished it and posted to A03, I felt an immense sense of pride, joy, and accomplishment that I hadn't felt in a while.

Since I started writing fanfic regularly, my mental health has been easier to manage. When beset by nighttime anxiety in the middle of the night, I direct my brain towards fic ideas until it calms down. If my depression makes me want to stay in bed or not work due to brain fog, I allow myself to type out fic ideas and create writing mood boards for a potential story. Researching online images for fanfic mood boards helps just as much as writing because it allows me to visualize a fic better and combat brain fog. I didn't start writing fic again for my mental health, but doing so has improved it in unexpected ways.


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This is interesting!