Hello again TAY! I've always been nervous about talking about such personal things but my last two posts were so well received here that I'm back to spill my guts to you wonderful people. I know I'm not alone when I say that I've been through very difficult times in my life and I know like many of you, gaming has always been there to pull me up when I'm feeling down.
I've been a gamer since I received a GameBoy Color and a copy of Pokemon Red one Christmas many years ago. I can barely remember a time that I wasn't a gamer. In those early days gaming was just something I did for fun but over the course of my 21 years on this Earth my understanding of what games mean to me has drastically changed.
I always felt isolated due to my anxiety and having a physical disability on top of that was certainly no help. As my condition progressed I retreated further and further away from everyone else, maintaining a precious few friendships. They were and still are wonderful friends but few people can truly understand how crushing it is to have your ability to walk stripped away from you, to have your strength slowly drained away from you.
Gaming remained one of the few things I could still do on my own. I am so grateful for that. Without gaming I seriously doubt I would have had the will to carry on. Games could take me to places I never dreamed possible, to do things I never imaged. I wasn't some weak kid; I was an ace Arwing pilot saving the Lylat system, I was a badass bounty hunter thwarting the plans of the evil space pirates, I was the defender of the Kingdom of Hyrule, I was an elite Pokemon trainer.
When I was 12 I faced one of my first huge struggles: recovering from my first surgery, an operation on my heel-cords to extend the time I would be able to walk for just a little while longer. It was a difficult process and at the time it was the most painful thing I had experienced. The throbbing, aching pain in my legs was nearly unbearable.
What got me through it was Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. It was a get well soon present my friend bought for me when I was in the hospital. When I got home from the hospital I spent countless hours in front of the TV with my legs elevated playing through that game. Instead of being stuck in my house I was off on a quest with Mario to collect the Crystal Stars, save Princess Peach, and thwart the plans of Grotus and his X-nauts.
I love that game, not just because of the wonderful gameplay and compelling characters like Goombella and Admiral Bobbery, but because of the way it helped me through a difficult time in my life. I will never forget the wonderful locations that TTYD brought me that was so full bright colors and cool scenery. It was such a contrast to the bland and stuffy confines of my house.
Only a few years later I went through the most difficult experience of my life. Due to my condition, as my body continued to develop and grow, my muscles just couldn't hold me up any more and my spine was gradually curving over. By the time my freshman year of high school rolled around my doctors decided it was time to deal with it. I knew it was coming, I felt prepared even, but nothing could have prepared me for the pain of that experience.
Due to my condition there really wasn't much they could do to other than prevent my scoliosis from getting worse. It was too risky to try to straighten it back out because it had caused shifts in my pelvis and rib cage and all the internal organs held in place by those bones. Even so, the pain of having my back sliced open and having metal rods attached to my spine was brutal.
I spent weeks in the hospital in pain, not being able to do much of anything. I couldn't even sit up without throwing up. I could barely keep any food down. I was drugged up on so much morphine and it still hurt. It was so miserable.
When I was finally released from the hospital I was still confined to my bed but at least the just released Super Smash Bros. Brawl was there waiting for me. This game got me through the most difficult time in my life. I spent my long and painful days with my Wavebird in hand, trying to unlock all the fighters or having wonderful battles against my friends when they came to visit.
The thing that sticks most clearly in my mind happened when both my parents were away for the day and my older sister was unavailable as well. My older cousin who had been quite the Smash player in his college days came to hang out for the day and together we took on Brawl's story mode: The Subspace Emissary. We didn't manage to make it through the whole thing, but it was such a fun time.
I doubt I would have managed to make it through this difficult time without Brawl. Unlike with my previous surgery where TTYD let me escape into a different world, this time I got through my ordeal because of the bonding experience I had with friends and family by playing Smash Bros. with them.
Recovering from surgery left me feeling so helpless and alone. I felt like everything was out of control, like there was nothing I could do on my own anymore. Games gave control back to me by allowing me to go on incredible single player journeys, by allowing me to beat the crap out of my friends in a competitive multipayer experience, and by allowing me to bond with family in a co-operative multiplayer experience. Without these experiences I would have succumbed to the darkness and misery and I don't know if I would have been able to find my way out.
Thanks everyone for reading my tale and feel free to share your own experiences. I would love to know what games helped you get through your own tough times.