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Getting Better Mental Health

Me at 30: some advice

Turning 30 is a trip, so I decided to write something about the things I’ve learned.

I wanted to some writing to expand on a tweet that I made yesterday that had some advice for people that might want it. My own qualifications aren’t that impressive; all I can say is that I’ve survived to 30 working in the game industry, and that therapy and massive amounts of introspection have caused me to be the tiniest amount healthier.

Some of these things might sound like they’re coming from your parents, and yeah, I know how much that sucks. Sometimes it actually makes sense, and you just need to understand the hows and whys so you can get there yourself.

Get off Twitter

Yup — this is probably the most “dad” of my advice. While the online world allows for a huge amount of knowledge and connection, it’s also turned into something that allows us to narrow our worldview considerably.

I know a large amount of people who will spend their entire days on Twitter — if you go through their timelines, there will be tens (or more) of posts every hour that seem like they’re about life.

Whether it’s surrounding yourself with people you know will support and enable you, or constantly seeking out conflict to strengthen your ego, ultimately this dependency on a service to provide you with what fuels your soul will cause it to rot.

For me, I constantly was seeking out what I felt was like-minded individuals because I was scared and insecure about my own positions. I felt like I became untethered to the world around me, and it took disconnection and risk to find spaces that felt comfortable (though flawed) in the offline world.

I’m not going to tell you that IRL is going to be perfect, and that it won’t take effort to find spaces that will enrich you. However, the reminder that real, tangible humans can give you is understated, and valuable. It can be very easy to believe you’re the protagonist in your own reality, especially when you can instantly find things that affirm that line of thinking online.

I’m mostly just saying that sometimes the humility that comes with stepping away from that curated experience is what enables you to stay grounded. It leads you away from the necessity of maintaining that careful balance, and better prepares you for the possibility that life will not warp itself to accommodate you.

Dive below the surface

This kind of scratches my amateur psychology itch, but I firmly believe that you can get better at your chosen career path by focusing on the question of “Why.” Being able to empathize with decisions, or at least work backward in purpose, will allow you to rise beyond the amateur-to-professional divide to a certain degree.

While education and experience allow for a lot of that gap to be closed, there’s still something to be said for someone who can be self-critical about their own efforts, and also think “okay, I’m in their shoes. Why are they doing what they’re doing?”

This layer of extra thinking means that even if you don’t use the idea yourself, you can perceive why it’s useful. The best part of this is it’s free; all you need to do is look at the end result and work backwards.

Take care of yourself

This falls into the “get off Twitter” school of advice, and it involves balancing what you feel is self-sacrifice and legitimately making sure you can be a functioning human.

It’s really easy to think that giving up proper sleep, food, relationships or health will pay off. The thing is, society proves that sometimes (but not all the time) it does — just like a gambler, we think that we’re the ones who it’ll work out for.

While I don’t regret the path that I’ve taken to the point that I would undo it all, I do realize that the fear of “not having time for the important things” because of say, going to the gym, or cooking, or dating, is unfounded and wrong. In the same vein as the Twitter advice, these experiences are what allow you to be a more well-rounded human that doesn’t necessarily depend on success to validate the effort that you’ve put in.

If you’re constantly working and sacrificing without success, the bitterness and resentment at “losing” these desirable things/experiences will taint your ability to keep trying. You’ll look at yourself and think “well, I’ve missed out on all these things, and got nowhere — I must be the problem.” Worse, you might start believing that you’re being held back by the universe, rather than being able to honestly figure out realistic steps.

In short, both dependence on the Internet and the Sunk Cost Fallacy (especially the “oh, if I buy this expensive PC, I’ll definitely want to stream to justify the cost!” argument) mean that anything you do try needs to work out in order to justify the sadness or frustration that you had to get there.

This can be absolute poison to a person — it robs you of the hope it takes to persevere through struggles, and means that your warped ideas of how long “should” it takes to achieve success are what you think is must be true. That journey is a lot more difficult or unpredictable that you think it is.

Realize that privacy is okay

This might sound a bit out of left field, but I”m realizing more and more that you don’t need to share everything about yourself, and you don’t need to let everyone into every facet of your life.

You might think this is extreme, but it’s more commonly rewarded — moments of our lives that can be embarrassing or stressful or successful may earn us incredible validation or attention from the Internet or our immediate social circles. That dopamine high — from getting the compliment we wanted or starting the fight we’re able to win — keeps us searching for more.

What caused me a lot of anxiety was when I felt myself drifting from what worked for other people. The desire for some experiences to be kept to myself and private ultimately felt confusing and almost wrong — certain things, like not watching many movies, or not feeling to become a public card-carrying member of a fandom self like missed opportunities.

Every game that I would buy felt like something I “should” stream. Every movie, or book, or thing I went out to do felt like it “should” be turned into content. Every opinion I had that I felt wouldn’t be accepted by other people was something I felt ashamed by; things that were kept hidden felt like a liability.

But ultimately, realizing that I didn’t have to let everyone in meant that I was not automatically wrong for being different. This thinking came from a long lack of confidence, and a doubt that I would be accepted for who I was, especially if I was a flawed person.

Again, this kind of came with escaping from an online space that was constantly urging me in one direction. Meeting people outside of those circles teaches you that life kind of rolls on, even when you’re not immediately participating — it doesn’t stop, and your momentum doesn’t just cease, either. You don’t lose everything the moment you deviate.

For people who aren’t used to positive momentum at all, that can feel impossible to reconcile — I’m more just saying that embracing what you’re capable of doing on your own, and for yourself, allows you to feel like there are less stakes attached to every action.

Sometimes you just need to be able to do things for their intended purpose — health, entertainment, whatever — and focus on the moment at hand. It can be difficult, but it’s a practiced skill that keeps you well-rounded and attuned to the world around you.

This got a bit rambly, but I hope it helped in some way. A lot of it really seems to follow the same theme, and I think that’s okay; it’s more just trying to address a way of thinking that I know I’m not alone in.

I definitely have more to say about turning 30. It might be a little more personal, next time, but for the time being, I’m fine with this just being it.


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By Matt Demers

Matt Demers writes about media, esports, life, and mental health. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram. You can watch him stream on Twitch.