Deep down in the abandoned corridors of my brain, a shadow lurks – a sort of personal Dementor if you will. He can pop his head out from time to time just to critique any fun I’m having, then bloody ruin it. There can be no rhyme or reason to his appearances, but he is always an unwanted guest. It’s a tricky balance between processing him enough but not too much since he feeds on attention and – if given enough – will always outstay his welcome. This guy has a name, and it is depression – or for me: “Anxiety McPanicFace with a Large Side of Feeling Down.”
If you have ever felt like me, just know that it is totally okay, and this too shall pass. There is a myriad of strategies and people trained and willing to help. I sought these out and was immediately supported and on my way to feeling better. The one thing, however, that this process didn’t teach me was patience. I constantly asked myself, “When would feelings of prickling panic pass? Ooh, was that one then? If it was, what did it mean? What was I/had I been doing to cause it just now?“ Analysis and deep probing into “what ifs” and “whys” while well-intentioned were not helpful in halting or successfully slowing down a Dementor snowball. Sometimes, you just have to stop picking at a sore spot and wait. In time, it will heal.
This is where LEGO Harry Potter video games came in…
Knowing I was far down the tunnel of overthinking and realizing I needed a distraction – something I was interested in and something that would give me levels of achievement – my video game-enthused boyfriend did what he knew best: He found a quest for me to focus on – one I had background knowledge in, that would be the best distraction to stop my racing mind, and that would get me to relax.
I am not a video game aficionado by any means, but I am a Harry Potter connoisseur. My boyfriend knew this, but what he didn’t realize was how much. Soon, we were frolicking through the LEGO-made halls of the Hogwarts castle, making potions, following Nearly Headless Nick as he divvied out tasks, and attacking plants. Yep, you read that correctly: plants.
Not one for gruesome violence, the video game satisfied my (albeit surprising) joy of letting off steam by blasting plants with a wand: Hagrid’s pumpkin patch, Professor Sprout’s greenhouses, and a plethora of foliage in the Forbidden Forest. It was the perfect case of vandalism, knowing the game would just rebuild everything.
The LEGO Harry Potter video game took us through all the years of Harry, Hermione, and Ron’s time at Hogwarts and followed the movie scenes fairly spectacularly. It has a relatively easy barrier of entry for beginners, which was good for me and meant I had fewer control commands to learn. The game focused on our characters collecting artifacts and solving puzzles as well as having many locations available to explore such as the entire Hogwarts castle, Diagon Alley, Gringotts, and the Leaky Cauldron.
My boyfriend was surprised and impressed with the sheer amount of background knowledge I brought to the game, especially when it came to instantly recognizing an area and immediately knowing what we would be facing or needing to achieve – whether that be learning a new spell, warning him of a pending Acromantula attack, or knowing which Houses various characters were from. (Something you need to know if you are to get into and search common rooms.)
We played well into the night until I said, “I want to keep playing, but I can’t keep my eyes open for some reason.” He looked at the clock and announced it was 4:00 a.m. I had just spent the first night in a long time not overthinking and simply enjoying myself. The next few days, we played LEGO Harry Potter most nights, and each morning, I felt a little better. I had broken the pattern of always needlessly racking my brain for immediate answers, and though I still processed my feelings, I didn’t dwell on them. It was an eye-opening experience. I’m sure there are lots of ways and healthy activities one can use to relax, but for me, a dip into a world I have loved since 1999 was a masterful brainwave.
I learned that taking a short break helped me refocus my energy into calming down and refreshing my mind so I could revisit whatever was nagging me with a healthier perspective and that constantly picking and prodding at why I was feeling anxious only served to confuse me and make me feel worse.
Do ask for help when you need it, and definitely work through your feelings, but don’t dwell on and irritate them to the point where they become bigger than the actual sum of their parts. If you find yourself doing this, it is perhaps time to take a break. Grab a hot tea (or pumpkin juice), turn on the computer, and spend your evening saving Hogwarts students stuck upside down in spider webs, cursing Boggarts, and yelling “Expelliarmus” at plants with Harry, Ron, and Hermione instead.