Posted on Nov 25, 2014 by Evan J. Pretzer
On a cold Saturday almost a decade ago, I’m sitting in an unused room in the basement of my family home. 12 year old me is sitting down and playing through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for the 10th time and staring at the cord attached to the controller in his hand, wondering if he could successfully hang himself with it or if it would break under the strain of his pre-pubescent body.
Yeah. You wouldn’t know it to speak to me now, but I once struggled with depression in my life. Growing up in an area where most people operate under a douchetastic mentality and the winters are cold enough to crack stones would do that to just about anyone. However, I had it worse. In a small town where the norm was to enjoy the mediocrity of the area around us and excel and physical competition, I was the out of shape kid with glasses who spent days reading in the isolated and secluded areas of the school playground.
Typically, the less intelligent people I grew up with were quite vexed by all this fancy book learnin and geeky behaviour that I exhibited and oh, did they respond in kind. I remember days where people would stand around me and hurl insults repeatedly as I attempted to read through the latest young adult novel series of the moment or play the latest Pokémon installment from Nintendo. Though I would put on a strong face, inside I was seething with a great pain.
“Why don’t they like me? Am I not doing the same things they are? Should I abandon the pursuits I enjoy in an attempt to gain acceptance from the larger group? Would it work?”
When alone with my thoughts on the cold prairie evenings, these questions would often enter my thoughts. I didn’t know why kids could be so mean and self centered, but for a time I decided to try and fit in and “be a team player”, as I put it during a parent teacher interview once upon a time.
Predictably, that didn’t work and things got worse. Instead of hurling insults during my reading time, my books would get thrown in the dirt or on the roof of the school. In intramurals, I never once got passed the ball in a single game of anything that I played, soccer, football, you name it.
So, my thoughts started to get darker and I began to think about doing horrible things. Things that would drive my parents to tears. Some nights, I even got close. Holding a razor over my wrist in the bath and stopping at the last second and taking the belt off my neck and tossing it back in the drawer. From about 2003-2007, the thought of clocking out excited me greatly.
And then, things changed. As silly as it is to say, that was the year I got an Xbox 360 and began to explore the wonderful world of online gaming. Suddenly, I had people I could talk to.
On a Tuesday, I could hop on live and spend the day waxing about politics with a kid my age from New York as we fought each other on the virtual battlefields of Gears of War.
On a weekend, instead of crying silently and stewing in my discontent like I used to, I found myself hosting boosting matches in Halo, myself and several other people would get together and talk about life whilst grinding for virtual awards designed by some developers in Washington. Suddenly, things didn’t seem as bad and my world started to get a little brighter.
And then, I met them.
On night, I don’t know exactly when, I was playing a match of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and got into a conversation with two kids from the great city of San Diego. Normally, online friendships don’t last, and I’m sure you’re thinking this one is similar, but you’re wrong.
I’m proud to say that through that chance conversation in a random first person shooter video game, I managed to meet the greatest people I have encountered in my years on this earth. For almost a decade, I have been proud to call them my friends and can honestly say that they saved me from my worst impulses. Without the group and their stabilizing influence, I would not be the well rounded and kind hearted man I am today. With them, I felt a sense of belonging and acceptance that had so eluded me during my time growing up in Canada.
And amazingly, we’re all still close today. Earlier this week, I even went to Las Vegas with them. I had a wild time, but to quote a silly song, there’s “no place I’d rather be”.
So that’s it gang, that’s how a young and tormented man from one of the worst places in all of Canada was saved by a great group of people he met online. I’m doing fantastic right now and finally have a sense of inner peace. If you’re tormented like I used to be, please get help.