As a stereotypical millennial, I can’t image what it was like living 50 years ago… no phones, laptops, Fitbits, digital cameras, and the like. Every day, I keep a small tracker (a Spire) close to my heart- monitoring the rise and fall of my chest so that I know when I am starting to get anxious or forgetting to manipulate my breath with long, slow inhales and exhales. This tiny piece of technology helps me stay in control of my disorder. It is astounding what is available to help individuals manage their mental illness… meditation apps, mood tracking devices, and even something as silly as Pokemon Go.
Although it is too soon to have significant data focused on the impact of AR games like Pokemon Go on disorders like depression or social anxiety, anecdotal evidence shows that there may be something positive happening. People who have struggle to leave their houses because of the overwhelming sense of fear, sadness, and anguish is too much, are forced to leave their houses and get into the sunshine- a key step in fighting depression. Groups of people are being brought together at Pokestops and gyms- something that someone with chronic anxiety may find hard to do without a little help.
Recently, my life was touched by the death of a student at the college that I work at. It ripped my heart open and crushed my spirit. I could not force the sadness away. My thought became obsessive over the life cut far too short. After a memorial service, I found myself barely able to breath as the air felt far too thick and heavy in my lungs. I decided to walk around campus to clear my mind. I stumbled upon a group of individuals sitting together, playing Pokemon Go. We chatted, laughed, cried, remembered, and cherished a simple moment of retreat from the world.
Later that evening, when I contemplated sharing my experience with the world of social media, I hesitated out of fear of the judgement that may come from revealing that I play the silly little game. Shame is a part of my daily life, as I am often so embarrassed that I have a mental illness. Yet, until then, I was never aware of the privilege that is an underlying piece of the dynamic in place between those who struggle with mental illness and those who do not.
“Get off your phone. Go experience life. Quit wasting your time with a game and go make some friends.” What if, instead of judging, we starting listening? The reason I am on my phone is because I am texting the datemate to help me remain calm and avoid a panic attack. The reason I love playing Pokemon Go is that it motivates me to get out of bed and go outside- something my depression loves to stop me from doing. Maybe I am out making friends and using technology to facilitate that interaction as my social anxiety stops me from ever spontaneously starting a conversation.
Next time you feel like judging someone for relying on technology, check your privilege. It may be the only thing stopping them from falling apart. Each of us is fighting our own battle, be kind.