I don’t know about you, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep my head above water these days. Part of it is school and part of it is depression, but most of it is just … life. There’s always something bad going on. Another shooting. Another attack on healthcare. All of it senseless, overwhelming, and hard to wrap your head around.
If you follow me on social media, especially Twitter, you’ll notice I haven’t been around as much. I’ve been trying to limit the amount of time I spend consuming headlines, and it has helped. Of course, I’ll never be completely cut off — my TV displays a constant stream of news articles thanks to Google Chromecast, but I’ve noticed a difference. I still keep up with things, but it’s important to allow myself the time and space to decompress. Sometimes it just gets to be too much, and that’s OK. I don’t always have to be plugged in.
I say all this because the Dungeons & Dragons show I keep up with, “Critical Role,” aired its penultimate episode last night. I stayed up until 3 a.m. to watch it (yes, I’m definitely feeling the sleep deprivation, and no, I absolutely do not regret it) and unsurprisingly got emotional, which unsurprisingly got me thinking about the impact it’s had on my life.
I started watching it at a very weird time. I’d just gotten out of a toxic, emotionally abusive relationship, and was struggling with loneliness. All of my friends at the time were, in one way or another, connected to — or in the same circles as — my abuser, and I wasn’t sure how to engage with them. They were, in many ways, a lost limb; I felt their absence keenly. I was convinced I’d never find friends like them again. I would never experience that keen sense of belonging again, soft against the lining of my throat. I knew I’d be happy again. I did, but I didn’t know when, or how it would return.
And, well, it was a lot like living at the bottom of a pit.
“Critical Role” gave me something to look forward to. For a while, I was watching an episode every night; once I got caught up, I would immediately devour the newest update every Friday morning. I grew so used to the sight of the cast on my TV that they became my friends in a way. Or, I suppose, gave me hope that I would one day have friends again. They weren’t doing anything in particular — they were just playing D&D together, like they have been for years now, but it instilled in me a kind of hope. A few of the cast members struggle with depression, and yet they’ve managed to carve out a space for themselves. They’re happy, doing what they love with people they love, and watching them live their best life encouraged me to do the same.
Now, a year and a half later, their journey is ending. (They’re starting another campaign, thank God. No sweat.) But, somewhere along the way, their silly little adventure made my real-life adventure that much more enjoyable.
The hope worked. Things got better.
I found new friends. Better friends. It wasn’t easy, by any means, and there are obviously still bad days. But I made it here. I found the joy that was so elusive last spring. I grieved, I went to therapy, I came to terms with all of the ways my SMA has messed with things. And life is better — infinitely better than I ever thought it would be. Back then, I was stumbling through the dark, angry as an open wound.
Circumstances vary. My life is not your life, but I want to encourage you today. It’s easy, I think, to fall back on the But things are different because of _____. I do it all the time. It might get better for some people, but they’re not in wheelchairs. They’re not living in their parents’ basement. They’re not unraveling a lifetime of trauma. But, from me to you, as someone who at least has the same diagnosis as some of the readers of this column: It gets better. It does.
Sometimes all you need is something to look forward to every Friday morning.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.