Thank you note to John Bain

totalbiscuit-john-bain-retiringPC have always been my preferred medium to play games and when I am not playing PC games I’m listening to others talking about PC games. One of them were John Bain. A games and games industry critic.

I’ve followed John Bain and his work for many years. Much longer than any other YouTuber, streamer or podcaster. He was knowledgeable, his thoughts were always well put together and his content well produced. He cared about giving costumers the power to make informed decisions in an industry where the water’s  become muddier and muddier over the years. Our tastes in games were similar so I always turned to him first for his thoughts on the games that were coming out.

When he told his audience in 2014 he had ben diagnosed with bowel cancer my heart sank. No one escapes cancer. Cancer took my grandfather and now it will take my most trusted games critic. It may sound stupid but these people produce thousands of hours of content. Those of us who consume every piece of John Bains critiques, thought-pieces, podcasts, streams etc have spent more time with him than with our best friends. With that context it maybe doesn’t sound so stupid any more. I made peace with the fact that that John Bain only had a few months left. That the steady stream of his opinions would dry up.

Then he beat it the fucking mad man. On the month a year later his cancer was in complete remission. I was over the moon. The impossible had happened. But it was to good to be true. The cancer had moved to the liver and he was given two to three years to live. He got almost four.

This morning I woke up to the news that John “Total Biscuit” “The Cynical Brit” Bain had passed.

I know you will never read this but I have to write it down anyway. You fucking rock, you know that? You were never afraid to speak your mind about the games you were critiquing or speak up when the games industry was was up to some no good shenanigans. I always knew that I could get the facts from you and then your opinion. You never mixed the two.

You were open about your own issues. Your mental health as well as your physical. You weren’t one to hide behind a facade of roses and sunshine. When things were shit you told us, normalising the fact that life can be shit sometimes and that’s okay. The same reason I’m writing this blog. It’s okay to feel shitty. It helped me and many others in our own fights, whatever they may be. We are in this together.

I will not mourn your death. I will celebrate your life. The energy waisted on mourning would be an insult to all the awesome you’ve contributed to my existence and the world at large.

Thank you.

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Speaking up

Warning. Longer post, it’s story time.

When I realised I had mental health issues I made a choice. I’m not going to keep quiet about it. I’m going to speak up. I wanted to break the stigmas, the taboos and all the other shit keeping people from being open about their issues. Doing so I hoped to show people who haven’t experienced mental health issues what it can feel like and what it does to you, but most importantly to try to normalise it so that other people who might suffer from similar issues don’t feel so alone and isolated.

Up until now this decision and me acting accordingly has only been something I’ve done for myself. Being honest about how I feel helpt me stay sane and I ressurected my blog to write down my general thoughts and ideas as well as the feelings, emotions, sensations and thoughts I have/feel right as I have an anxiety attack or (lacking a btter word) a depression spiral as a way do deal with them. The hope that someone would learn something or feel better from reading my blog or hear me talk about my issues was always there but never something I seriously considered. Little me teaching someone something? No way. Me having a positive impact on someones life? Never in a million years. Those admirable goals of being a positive change in society were only pretentious excuses to not wear a mask quite as often as I would have to otherwise.

At leat that’s what I thought up until last weekend.

In highschool my mental health (or rather, the lack there of) forced me to change classes from natural sciences to humanities since I was unable to keep up with the pace. I was very open to my new class about where I was coming from and why I still didn’t have the energy to show up to class every day. My classmates were understanding and even though I never really become close friends with any of them I got along well with most of them and actually hit it of quite well with a few (can you say ‘hit it of’ without it implying dating?).

Even though the less intense courses had a slight improvement on my ability to study it was far from enough. After struggling for a year and a half I decided to drop out of highschool having achieved next to nothing. I went on with my life barely sparing a thought to the classmates I left behind, up until last weekend when I ran into one of them at the bar.

After a meeting with a political group we decided to go to a bar and as the evening progresses it gets more and more crowded. Several groups come and go at the table next to us until I notice one of our latest neighbours waves at me. I recognise the face but who is it? I wave back and we both return to the discussions at our respective tables. Of course. Highschool. Now I remember.

Eventually there is some breathing room and we get together at the same table. We exchange plesantries. Ask each other what we’re up to nowadays. The usual. Then they get emotional and tell me how me being open about my problems, talking about it in class and then later writing about them here helped them deal with their own problems.

I know this was exactly the effect I hoped my decision would have, but this was the first time someone told mr about their experiences regarding to my decision. It was overwhelming and beautiful to hear. Even if my decision only helped this one person it has been worth all the strange looks I’ve gotten from people who aren’t used to talking about mental health. All the comments about it not being something you talk about in the public. Because if I don’t talk about it, who will? How else will they get used to it? How else do we normalise mental health issues?

Noise

I am paralysed. I can’t blink. My vision blurs and my skin crawls. The void pressing all around me, seeping into me through the cracks in my facade.

Thank god my friends finally left, my mask was just about to crack. Now I can embrace the pain, anxiety and misery for a while until I go back to my autopilot. But what is this? One of them left their phone. Fuck. I call the others who are with them so they can come back and get it. As I throw on my jacket to come out to meet them I also put on a new mask. This one will only hold for a few minutes, but that is all I need.

I hand the phone over and head back home. The door shuts behind me. My music plays on full volume as I sit down. Everything is spinning and the music fades to a distant noise in the outskirts of my consciousness. I can’t move. My field of view shrinks. I am paralysed. I can’t blink. My vision blurs and my skin crawls. The void pressing all around me, seeping into me through the cracks in my facade.

The Resistance Front

sci_fi_battle_fighting_war_art_artwork_warrior_futuristic_spaceship_space_5400x2388

-Genna! We have one on our tail!

-Taking evasive actions! See if you can hit them with our aft cannons!

I spin around in my chair to access the control panel for our backwards firing lasers. Clutching the trigger I wait for the right moment to fire. The battle around us grows distant as I focus on the ship following us, forcing us into a dance across the battlefield.

For a long time The Terran Empire has terrorised outposts and trade routes of the lesser alliances in Alpha quadrant, hoping to whittle them down and absorb them into the great blob of ruthless expansion that they are. It was not long until the Resistance Front was formed. A loose network of independent freedom fighters from all across the quadrant bound together against a common enemy. To begin with most of us saw them as nothing more than violent vigilantes, seeking thrills and profit in the destabilized border regions. The last thing we need is a bunch of pirates adding to our misery.

-What’s taking you so long Lauren!? I can’t keep this up forever you know!

Breathe in. Lead the shot. Release. Our pursuer weers of to the left, crashing into one of the enemy capital ships, ripping a hole in its port side.

-Ha! Those Terran pilots are focused on their target they’re completely blind to their surroundings! Unlike you!

Genna was the first pilot from the Ripped Banner Project to join the Resistance Front. She volunteered to infiltrate the organisation and report back on their actions. At first it seemed like our fears were confirmed. A significant part of RFs members were nothing but opportunists looking to make some quick and easy money in the wake of the Terran expansion. However as the Terrans grew more aggressive, greater numbers of displaced, angry refugees turned freedom fighters joined the Resistance Front and soon the opportunists’ numbers were reduced to nothing. We in the Ripped Banner Project realised that if there was any chance of stopping the expansion of the Terran Empire the smaller alliances of the quadrant had to come together and stand united against the Terrans.

-That might be true but it won’t help us if you’re going to take that long shooting at the enemy! That bugger chased us right into the mouth of the enemy! Now get back to the front shooters and be useful!

She was right. I intentionally let the pilot chase us so I could make the ship crash into one of its own. No weapon in our ships arsenal could inflict that much damage to a capital ship. As I look around for a suitable target to go after I notice a Ripped Banner ship sporting Terran colours hovering above us. That would be Torulf who sold Green Garden colony to the Terrans and joined their ranks, earning his true place as the lapdog of the Empire.

-Oi Genna, that traitor Torulf is hanging out above us, let’s take him down before we head back for repairs.

-Gladly.

The Ripped Banner project sent every combat crew it could spare as volunteers to the Resistance Front as well as diplomats to the other alliances urging to do the same. Since I’ve worked extensively with Genna before it was natural for us to pair up. To begin with our operation was small scale. Classic rebellious activities. Quick hit and run missions, evacuation of threatened colonies and outposts, the usual. Soon the other alliances followed our example and as the strength of the Resistance Front grew, so did the scale of the conflict, finally culminating in this final showdown between the Terran Empire and the Resistance Front, backed by every remaining independent alliance in this quadrant. All of our resources were put behind this engagement. Whoever walks out of this fight victorious will decide the fate and future of the alpha quadrant. One homogenous empire or a diverse set of alliances.

-Got him! Haha I would have loved to see his face when he realised there was no way he would be able to evade my shots!

-You keep bragging, just know that without me as pilot you would be a sitting duck!

The conversation went on in this manner all the way back to the mothership. Me gushing about thrill of battle and Genna reflecting upon the outcome. She’s always been like that. Cool and logical. As we disembark the ship I notice a tall figure, not part of the repair crew, waiting for us. It’s Commander Garrack, coordinator of the Ripped Banner forces and he doesn’t look happy.

-I should court martial you two for your reckless behaviour! Baiting an opponent like that with no regard for your own safety. However I cannot deny it’s effectiveness. Disabling that capital ship is surely to swing the tide of battle in our favour. And taking out Captain Torulf like that is sure to be appreciated by everyone in the Banner! Now off with you and go get something to eat while those who are less willing to disobey orders finish this of. I don’t want to be seen favourising rulebreakers!

With Garracks words still ringing in our ears me and Genna disconnect from the battle servers and join the cafeteria lobby. Genna grabs a plate and start shoveling roast potatoes and stew onto it. I only grab a glass of water and sit down at the nearest table in the empty completely empty hall.

-Geez, Didn’t Garrack play a pirate before? One would think that out of all of these alliance commanders he would understand the value of independent initiative.

-Yeah, that’s why he only temporarily relieved us of duty instead of banishing us from the alliance completely, Genna mumbled as she stuffed her face with stew.

-Aren’t you going to eat?

-No, eating this virtual stuff always makes me queasy when I exit, I don’t know how anyone can do it.

-Suit yourself. Food is all we will have to entertain ourselves with until the battle is over. Unless you’re exiting prematurely?

-God no, Genna I thought we knew each other! We’ve never exited before the results of the battle was in. Also I would hate to miss…

The rest of my sentence is drowned out as the voice communication system is flooded with cheers. I lean over to Genna:

-Seems like we did it huh!?

-It does seem like that is the case!

-We should reconnect to the battle servers then! As I said, I would hate to miss the awards ceremony!

The ceremony takes place in the hangar of the mother ship, the only place that is large enough to accommodate every person who took part in the battle. We receive our allotted experience and credits for our contribution and those of us that survived an additional survivors bonus. Finally Commander Garrack walks up to me and Genna and hands us a cassette tape.

-For your outstanding contribution in the battle.

That is all he says before walking of to speak with an other commander.

-Well Lauren, it seems like we’re done here. With the Terran threat dealt with I doubt the Resistance Front will exist much longer.

-Yeah, it’s going to be fun to see what happens next. Anyway It is time for me to exit. I should have been in bed several hours ago. See ya later Genna.

-Timezones still a bitch I gather. Take care.

I wake up and ponder the strange dream. My attempts to remember the details are futile as they slip away as soon as I grasp for them. All I can remember is me and Genna fighting for our survival in a space battle of epic proportions.

Us two in space, flying battleships no less! Genna is going to think I’ve finally gone completely mad when I tell her… hang on what’s this? I don’t recall ordering anything.

In the pile of ads that always gets delivered there is an unexpected, small brown parcel, addressed simply LAUREN. No address, no stamps, nothing. Opening the parcel the content is revealed. Bubble wrapped inside lays a cassette tape.


What you’ve just read is a short story based on a dream I had recently. Like most dreams the details fade away very quickly so I had to take some creative freedom since the source material was quite lacking, however the broad strokes are still the same.

In my dream I fought in a space battle with one of my friends. For some reason the only detail I can remember is us flying up along side a giant spaceship, presumably to dock. At some point I realise it is actually a hyper realistic VR space MMO from the future, using similar technology as can be seen in the anime SwordArt Online. The battle is concluded and everyone is rewarded for their contribution including a cassette tape token/trophy/item thingy. Then I wake up. I go about my day, pondering over the strange dream however when I go to check the mail and see a parcel addressed to me. I open it and inside is the same cassette tape. My mind is blown and as I try to figure out what is actually going on my mind starts drifting and I wake up a second time, presumably for real (I don’t want to get into the whole inception thing here).

Now this is interesting for two reasons. First, meta dreams are always curious. You wake up, convinced that you are actually you, for real and not in a dream because why would you think otherwise? Isn’t most dream like that? You don’t realise it was just a dream until you wake up. But then you wake up a second time and you can no longer trust your surroundings for a while until you realise how extraordinary mundane everything is and can quite comfortably relax in the notion it is probably not a dream.

Second, I’ve had meta dreams several times, however this is the first time the first dream has referenced itself in the second. It was an extraordinary sensation standing there and having the cassette fall out of the bubblewrap. That must mean that experience was for real, right? Maybe exiting the game have a similar sensation as to waking up and you have to find the way to access the game each time? Those were the thoughts flying through my sleeping brain as I tried to find a solution to the mystery

I realise this is quite different from what I usually put on this blog, but hey, you need to break up the depression with something else every once and a while.

Reorganising my bookshelf

full-bookcase-of-booksI’m young so I’m yet at the beginning of what I hope to be a long journey of collecting books. Still I feel I’ve already accumulated a respectable collection of writings of various genres and topics. Every once in a while there is a new addition to the ranks which always poses a problem. Where do I put it?

More often than not it ends up on my desk somewhere until one of the rare clean-ups happen when it goes on top of other books because I can’t be bothered to find a proper place for it while also making sense of the mayhem that threaten to not only break my desk but possibility time and space itself. Today however, I had enough. I was tired at looking at the books scattered across my room, or carelessly shoved into the shelf where the chaos from the desk now found a new home.

At some point when I first started filling my shelf there was something remenicent of a system; read fiction, unread fiction, political philosophy, interesting topics in general, plays, theatre related stuff and other. It took time but when order was finally restored I could step back and admire my work. I felt that I had reconnected with my books. It reminded me of why I got my hands on them and why I should read those I haven’t gotten around to yet.

It also helped me deal with my guilt. I consider myself a reader. My family is a long line of teachers, scientists, engineers, researchers and writers. My family home has more walls that have bookshelves on them than don’t, yet over the past few years I have not read nearly as much as I have wanted, or felt like I should. Depression is a bitch. Despite that I have kept acquiring books, maybe hoping to find the one I won’t be able to put down, maybe to satisfy a need to keep up appearances, fooling myself by getting books at the pace I would like to read them despite being unable to.

I felt so guilty. I felt guilt towards my family for not living up to the academic standard set by generations, i felt guilty towards my friends for not having read this or that. However the biggest guilt I felt was towards myself for not consuming this wealth of knowledge, stories and ideas sitting right in front of my face. The simple act of touching my books helped me alleviate at least some of the guilt.

I don’t know why but pulling them out, stacking them and put them back into place gave me the feeling that it was OK. it’s not a race. I can take my time. Feeling their weight in my hands reinforced my bond to my books and reading in general. Stepping back and admiring my new, organised bookshelf was incredible.

My desk is once again a complete mess however.

Disconnected

d-custom-brand-disconnectThe guilt. The guilt of having been away. You’ve got a legitimate reason, after all you have barely been able to get out of bed for the past week. But now that you no longer blow your brains out each time you sneeze and there Niagara Falls no longer is located in your nose you have to go back, but you’re afraid. They will be angry and disappointed because of your absence. You don’t want to face the stares. You are afraid of the mean things they will tell you, that they will scold you and guilt trip you for being unable to function due to circumstances outside of your control. You’re scared that you are no longer welcome, that you’ve become a nuisance, a problem to work around rather than a member of the group.

So you find an excuse. A way to justify being away for a while longer. ‘I’m still sick’ you tell yourself. ‘I have to do this and that that’s more important’ Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s just excuses.

You know none of the things you fear will happen, everything is false because you know the people around you are nice and understanding. But the fear is real so you stay disconnected.

Grey

grey-girlWhat’s even the point when nothing feels real? You feel like shit, wanting to harm and kill yourself for a few minutes or hours before you go back to your old, numb disconnected self. On one hand these spaces in time are the few moments when you actually feel real and connected with reality, on the other hand they’re just an other scale of grey in a bleak and dreary existence.

On one hand these are the few moments when you actually feel anything beyond complete apathy and contempt, on the other they’re nothing more than a flash.

On one hand these moments fill you with a deep desire to do something radical just to end the constant grind, like walk in the middle of the street to see if you’re hit by a car, or maybe punch a police officer in the face so they take you in and maybe then someone finally realises you have a problem.

On the other hand you’re to comfortable to want to change. Its so easy to crawl back to the bed, back to the grind, back to the long road towards death.

A tiny speck of failure

splatter-png-picAll around me I see people achieving things. Working towards their goals, succeeding at whatever it is they do. And here I am, a tiny speck of failure.

Sure, I have dreams, I want to be an actor! I want to write meaningful texts! I want to sing in a band! I want to put myself out there and have my work recognised. I want to make an impact on peoples lives.

I can’t though. Nothing I do is good. Not even good enough. If it was someone would have noticed by now right? The only ones who watch my plays are the ones I drag to the theatre, the only ones who read my stuff are the ones I make read it, the only ones who listen to me sing are the ones I force to listen. I am putting myself out there, my voice swallowed by the void. Not even an echo. My efforts are downed by the signal noise, the abundance of mass-produced, mass appeal content. Why me and not those others? Why am I left to wither in the shade while people around me are reaching for the sun and the stars beyond?

Why don’t I have the energy to do all the smaller things I want to do? I want to ‘git gud’ at Dark Souls. I want to write more songs. I want to be useful to the people around me. Yet I give up after 30 minutes. Yet I only write a few words every few weeks. Yet I’m just a depressed cloud in everyones way.

I have so many ideas for projects I want to do. Improve my home and community, create websites and write articles about the things I love, create an independent theatre group, the list goes on and on. Seeds waiting to sprout, seeds left to wait forever. I don’t have the energy.

My Tea jurney.

a-scoop-of-alishan-jin-xuan-oolong-tea-lot-107For those who know me it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I sooner or later would write a blog-post about tea. Gamers Fighting Depression, the community I help moderate is currently running a mod AMA that I am a part of so the question came up and it was as good a reason as any to write this blog post.

My tea journey began in 2013 when I started high school and joined the schools tea club. The club had been branded for being the black sheep of the schools clubs because it had a more “relaxed” atmosphere than the rest of society. Now, the reason I joined was due to this and not the actual tea. I enjoyed the fact that you could lie down and hug in a sofa or make out or even have sex casually without all the stigmas that usually surround these activities. I thought that tea was just a gimmick to legitimise the existence of such a club in a school environment.

However as time passed by and the more tea I drunk I started to appreciate the complexity and variety of the phenomenon that tea was. We drank everything from double-smoked lapsang to delicate silver needles. And so one Monday morning in spring 2014 I walk into the tea club room and see my friend meditating and drinking tea before one going downstairs and taking his first final exam. To this day I do not know the name of the tea, but just writing about it now makes me feel the taste in my mouth. An Oolong with strong mineral and almost nutty flavour. It wasn’t the tea that changed my perception of tea but it is the one symbolising that and the coming two years of drinking tea every day in high school. Since, me and my friend have become best friends and the biggest tea nerds. We get together and drink tea as often as we can and try to pinpoint all the flavours, textures and what have you for every tea we drink.

I have plans or dreams about opening a tea house in the future to serve and sell proper tea since you basically have to go to the capital city or order online if you want good quality, pure tea that you know exactly what kind of tea it is, where it comes from, when it was harvested etc. Otherwise people will just try to sell you “green tea” or “black tea” That’s as informative as “red wine” or “white wine”. Just as a wine nerd wants to know exactly what sort of whine it is, what grapes were used, what mountain they were grown and how it was made, a tea nerd wants to know exactly what tea it is, what tea bush variety was used, what mountain it was grown on, exactly how it was prepared etc.

maxresdefaultAn other thing I want to do is spread knowledge about the intricate world of tea to the general population. Most peoples experiences of tea are Lipton bags flavoured with god knows what. I’m not quite sure of how I should go about that. Maybe I should start a YouTube channel about it. There are several good English ones but I don’t think there are any in Swedish. However in the end I can’t force people to stop enjoying what they are enjoying. Even though it’s often literally dust from the factory floors. All I can do is to try and spread the joy I receive from drinking high quality tea the traditional, eastern way.

A snapshot

IMG_20170403_045409This is one of those posts where probably nothing is going to make sense. I am drunk, suicidal and just in general pretty crappy but I think it’s important to expose this side of depression as well, not just the calm, intellectual smart-ass side that shines through when you have thought out what to say in advance or you have something specific in mind, but this raw, uncensored cluster-fuck that is taking place right now.

As I said, I am drunk. I have had several glasses of strong alcohol, I’ve been self-harming and talking to some friends. Hi snow, trowsquaredbro, bhlek, phil and probably a few more of you. I am really touched by your efforts. It has probably kept this situation form going from bad to worse. Technically keeping it since it’s still going on but whatever. Thanks.

I really want to die. I have several times in the conversation stated above expressed my desire to end my life. Why? Because I can’t be fucking bothered. It’s just turtles all the way down, but instead of turtles its pain, anxiety and misery. I don’t have the balls to end my life because I am a weak, pain fearing whimp but if I was presented with a button to end my life instantly and painlessly I would push it in a heartbeat. Wow that expression is oddly ironic and morbid…

“But you have so much to live for! You’re young! You have dreams! Things get better!” Yeah please gently shove something large and uncomfortable up where the sun don’t shines. I am incapable of doing anything. I can’t study, let alone hold a job, I am a burden to everyone I engage with… I am literally a worthless piece of shit.

Now I don’t want any encouraging messages, they always make me feel like a petty attention whore. I don’t write this for you to feel sorry for me. I write this so you who have never experienced it maybe can get a glimpse of how it is to live with depression. I will encourage you to share it though. Depression is a serious thing and it claims lives every day. It could have been me tonight if not for my friends over at GFD, hell it still might be. What do I know? Share this post, share this blog, not because I want your bloody clicks but because I want the world to know. Depression is still taboo and it needs to stop. I’m going to pour myself another glass. God night.