Distraction and Depression: The Other D&D

Hey guys. So this post is going to be a bit different than my others. I was originally going to write about the Five Room Dungeon format but a lot of stuff has happened this week so I’ve decided to switch it. This post also might be a bit of an echo of the Burnout post and for that I apologize. Additionally this post has a content warning for discussion of death/suicide and depression; I don’t talk about it much but if you’re sensitive to these things I would either pass on the first few paragraphs or just skip this post altogether. Thanks for reading. 

D&D is an escape for many people. In a world where we have to constantly deal with responsibilities like jobs and taxes or emotions like stress and anxiety, who doesn’t want to escape to a world where you can break doors and kill dragons without a second thought? Both Dungeon Masters and players often use D&D as a way to shut out the world for a little while and just exist in another world. But sometimes even D&D can’t be an escape for everyone. 

This past week has been an extremely rough one for me personally. On Monday, Kim Jonghyun, Korean singer best known for his work with the group SHINee, committed suicide. SHINee was the group that brought Neli and I together; we saw them three times over the course of last year when they came to the United States. It may seem silly to grieve over something like this; we never really met him or spoke to him or knew him. But he still meant a lot to us. I won’t go into details, but this week has been extremely difficult for both of us. I know personally I’ve been trying to find things to distract myself; on Monday I started playing Stardew Valley, and the relaxing music and the monotony of the tasks have been mostly a great way to force myself to stop thinking about the situation and the grief. 

It’s strange though. Normally I find myself drifting to things that I can pour my soul into when I’m upset. It’s one of the reasons why I like fandoms so much; I can bury myself in them when the real world gets to be too much. Over my twenty-two years of life however, I have had two great loves: theatre and D&D. When theatre left my life in 2015, I didn’t have anything that I was incredibly passionate about until I started playing D&D a year later. Since then it’s been the one thing that I’ve been able to use to escape when the going gets tough. Particularly since I’ve started DMing, it’s been a wonderful way to destress from normal life and bury myself in what I love. But what happens when I can’t even enjoy this? 

It seems incredibly likely that our group will have to skip our January decision due to schedules with school, rehearsals, and work. Normally I would be upset over having to skip an entire month, but this time I’m actually relieved. Between where we left off at our last session (Session 7) and everything that has happened this week, my brain has shut down. Any average day a person could walk up to me and strike up a conversation about D&D, and I could talk for ages and ages. But now my brain has just shut down. Every time my brain drifts to thoughts of the campaign I feel lost. It takes up so much energy to play, to plan for the session, and mine won’t do it.  

I’m not here entirely to talk about my grief and my struggles. The reason I started this post was to encourage you, as either a player or a DM, to pay attention to both your fellow players and yourself. If your players (or your DM if you yourself are a player) are showing signs of reluctance when discussing the game, or refusing to talk about it, or requesting some time off, listen to them. Maybe they’re burnt out, maybe they just need distance, or maybe it’s indicative of something deeper. Whatever it is, listen to your friend, your player, your DM. If they need distance from the game because it’s hurting them more than it’s helping them, be respectful. Similarly, if you find that the game has become a chore for you, then put the game on hold. Nothing in the game is anywhere near as important as your mental health. 

I know this has been a rambling post, and I’m sorry for that. I can’t seem to bring myself to talk about anything else just yet. I promise I’ll get back to posts about sessions and advice next week. There are some people here from Twitter I know who just found out about the blog, and I hope you stick around for the better posts, though I understand if you choose not to. But for now, enjoy the game if you can, and tell those important to you that you love them, whether it’s your family, your idols, or your fellow gamers. Merry Christmas and happy gaming. 


If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, please reach out to this number: 1-800-273-8255. 



Questions, comments, or concerns? Leave me a comment below or find me on Twitter @DandDDM.

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