For today’s article, I wanted to move away from my usual deck brewing and theory crafting and instead talk about something that is very important to both myself and many others. Today, I want to talk to you all about mental health and how it relates to our shared hobby of Magic the Gathering. I realise this might be a heavy subject to tackle and some of you might find it an uncomfortable topic of discussion, but the fact is that it is a real issue that many of us will have to deal with at some point in our lives, so it’s certainly worth talking about. Hopefully we can all approach it with equal parts compassion and tact and gain more of an appreciation of the subject as a whole. With that said, let’s begin.
I guess if we are to talk about mental health, it’s important to be honest and up-front right from the start, so it’s probably also worth going over why I want to tackle this tough subject. A few weeks ago, I decided to take an unscheduled break from Magic content and took a bit of a step back from social media. Those of you who follow me on twitter will probably know the reason why.
For those of you who don’t know, I suffer from depression. It’s a condition I have lived with since I was about eleven and, up until recently, was something only my doctor and wife have known about. While most of the time I am a fairly ‘happy-go-lucky’ sort of guy (and can be more than a bit boisterous and loud) sometimes my mood can take a turn for the worst. When this happens, I can become very insular and down about pretty much everything. It can be hard to get up in the morning, and I find it difficult to become motivated about anything, which has a negative effect on many aspects of my life.
Thankfully, these ‘dips’ are pretty rare and, with the love and support of my wife, I can usually make it out the other side rather quickly. In fact, Magic the Gathering is something that helps me stay positive. My wife will often encourage me to go out and play at FNM during these times as she knows the social aspect does me a world of good. So, if you have ever shared a laugh with me over a game of modern or joined in on a joke about a particular draft format, you have helped me keep a level head – thank you.
However, sometimes Magic is not the helpful distraction I wish it was, and can sometimes exacerbate my negative mood. I’m not saying that if I go on a losing streak, I start to feel depressed (although I can see why some people would), it’s more about how content creation affects my mental state.
I pride myself on the work I do here at Master of Magics, and while we might only be a written content site, it is staggering the amount of work we put into each and every article. I play all the decks I brew, often using it as an excuse to spend my wildcards on Arena. We also do our best to accommodate current MTG trends, focusing on relevant sets and decks as much as we can. Most of the time this is a joy – it would have to be for us to do this for free – however, things can sometimes go off-course.
Sometimes we can spend a week or two brewing a deck or writing up about a particular subject, only for someone else to cover it before it’s ready to publish. Other times we can work on articles speculating on the new set, only for it to get spoiled the day before publishing thanks to ‘someone’ in a warehouse. These are just part of being a content creator though, and most of the time we just shrug it off and get something else ready. But when you are already feeling vulnerable, these things can hit you pretty hard.
That’s what happened a few weeks ago, and that’s why I decided to take a step back and sort myself out. I am fortunate to be one of the lucky ones, as my condition is fairly minor and most of the time it doesn’t get in the way of me doing what I love to do. There are those out there who have it much worse than me, and it’s these folks that I wanted to discuss today.
Statistically, one in four of us will suffer from some from of mental illness at some point in our lives, so it’s a pretty safe bet to say that if you don’t have mental health issues, someone you know probably does. In fact, I asked on twitter if you or someone you know in the hobby suffers from mental health issues, and the results were staggering.
Ok #mtg community, got a serious question regarding a upcoming article. Bit more serious than I’m known for, but it’s an important subject.
Have you or someone you know in the hobby ever suffered with a mental illness?
— James Wise, #mtg & #40k content creator, #TeamMoM (@MTGTengu) August 16, 2019
While everyone that suffers from a mental illness is different, it often has similar effects on our hobbies and personal lives. You may be told to do something that you like to help improve your mood, like play your favourite TCG, but what if your hobby is the thing that is exacerbating your condition? Well, here are a few pieces of advice I find that help, and hopefully you might find them useful too.
Remember you are not alone.
It’s easy to convince yourself that you are the one that has to deal with this on your own. You don’t want to drag loved ones down to your level and would rather handle it by yourself. After all, if no one else gets involved, you can’t hurt them, right? Well the fact is that friends and family are probably your best tools in combating the negative aspects of your condition. Even if you don’t want to talk to family, there are others that can help bear the load.
The MTG community is, for the most part, one of the best and most supportive groups out there and is full of people willing to offer a sympathetic ear. Remember, 90% of us have experience dealing with mental health in some form or another, so in that regard you are definitely not alone. If you’re feeling down, make sure to remember that we’re here to listen and help where we can.
Take a break when you need it.
While some people will find that focusing on the hobby is a great way to get themselves out of a down spell, for others it can be an additional thing to deal with at a bad time in your life. Trying to play competitively when your head is not in it can make things worse, and that can make you start to hate what once gave you joy.
This can be harder if you are a content creator, as you have the added pressure of meeting deadlines and not letting down the people who follow you. The simple fact is that if your heart isn’t in it, you might need to step back and have a break. Getting your head straight is more important than making the top eight of an event or posting a video on time. You might feel like you are letting people down, but they will understand and give you the time you need. Remember, your health comes first. And speaking of health…
Get the help you need.
You might find it difficult to do so, but it is important to get the professional help you need. At first, I didn’t want to go to the doctor about my depression for a multitude of reasons. I grew up in a time and place when mental health wasn’t as understood as it is now, especially if you were a man. If you cried in my village, you were basically inviting every bully to target you both verbally and physically. Adults weren’t much help either; I even remember being told that if you had a mental illness you wouldn’t be able to get a good job, so the fear of needing to get help was ever-present.
Thankfully, attitudes have changed in a big way for the better in recent times. There is a more helpful approach to mental health these days, with professionals more willing to get you the help you need, whether that be medicinal or by just providing someone to talk to. You might still feel more than a little awkward about getting the help you need, but look at it this way, you wouldn’t tell an asthmatic to ‘buck up’ and ‘walk it off’. You would get them their inhaler and the support they needed. It’s the exact same with mental health, so, if you need the help, go and ask for it.
As I said, these are just a few tips that I have found helpful. Of course, these won’t necessarily help everyone, and may be more difficult to implement for some than others. Your needs may be different to mine, but please remember that there are those out there that are ready and willing to help – don’t be afraid to ask for it.
I hope you have found this article helpful, enlightening, or some combination of the two. Next week I’ll be back to the usual brewing and format-tackling content you are all used to. It will probably be something like mono-counter-Counterspell for legacy or some other nonsense. If you don’t want to miss out on that, make sure you like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics.
We also have a Patreon, so if you want to support future content on the site, please consider becoming one of our Patrons. Just $1 a month would do so much to help us create more of the content you enjoy. If you have any ideas for new and exciting decks you want me to look into, you can contact me directly @MTGTengu over on Twitter. But until next time, remember: no matter the game you play or where you play it, good luck and have fun.