The Sims is a best-selling life simulation game developed by EA Maxis and published by Electronic Arts. It’s been a huge part of my life since the original came out over sixteen years ago when I was just a kid. The Sims and I kind of grew up together. It was a constant in my life and an escape from my reality when it got to be too much.
Middle School, being the overly-dramatic, awkward and hormone crazed cesspool that it is, was not the best experience for me. I was overweight, had acne and wore way too much eyeliner. I was kind of a loner and the few friends I did have were not the best influence. I was bullied on a daily basis, and what shreds of self-esteem I had at that age went down the drain pretty quickly. As I watched girls get invited to dances, and go on their first dates, I took refuge behind my computer screen in the safety of my own room. The Sims became my safe haven, the place where I could create the life I wanted. I could create perfect people in their perfect homes. I could lose myself in the characters I created.
The summer between 8th and 9th grade is when I can remember my anxiety starting to really set in. I got into some trouble at the tail end of my 8th grade year and my parents made the decision to send me to a private high school. The thought of having to try and fit in with privileged, upper class, kids made my heart race. There were times it felt like someone was squeezing my heart with their bare hands, times when it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest and I couldn’t catch my breath. That’s when I really started to understand what anxiety was.
Halfway through my sophomore year of high school my parents decided it was time to move. I should mention, up until this point I had lived in the same house my entire life. Being sixteen, halfway through high school and being uprooted from a big city to a rural country area that had nothing to offer but a Walmart and McDonalds, was quite a change. And of course my anxiety started to heighten again. I kept all of my feelings to myself, as any good teen filled with angst would do, so my parents really had no idea the anxiety and depression I was experiencing. Dealing with this can be a lot for anyone to deal with and finding ways of managing effectively can be challenging. A friend of mine did recommend that I should consider using medical marijuana to help calm down these symptoms. She even pointed me into the direction of sites like MagicVaporizers if I ever decided to give it a go. If you are in a similar position, this may be something worth checking out too.
My only salvation at this time was the announcement of The Sims 2. It was as if the Gods smiled down on me and said, “Mandi, we know you’re struggling with all of these changes in life, allow us to ease your pain with a sequel to your favorite game…and this time with 3D graphics.”
Bullying still occurred at this new school, periodically, but I did make some a few good friends, and I also managed to begin my first romantic relationship. Little did I know the emotional turmoil and tragedies that are teenage dating. These hormonal ups and downs of course equated to more time on The Sims 2.
Fast-forward to my senior year, a year into my second relationship and I get engaged to a soldier that is leaving to go to Iraq. Said soldier and I certainly didn’t have a very functional relationship. We’d broke up several times up to that point, he’d left me for others or cheated on me several times. But I was young and thought marriage would solve everything. So, the same week I graduated high school, I got married and then he headed back to Iraq for another six months. At this point if I wasn’t working, I was hanging out with my best friend or I was lost in the virtual world of The Sims 2 and it’s various expansion packs.
I took such comfort in creating a beautiful marriage filled with love and laughter in The Sims. Everything was perfect in my virtual neighborhood. I was friends with my neighbors, I was an aspiring chef, my husband worked in the business field. We had three beautiful children who did well in school and our four bedroom house was maintained by a maid.
I sound pretty pathetic right about now right? I guess I was, but the truth is I was in a really bad marriage. I had my son when I was 19, and he was what I lived for. I was cheated on and lied to. We separated and got back together. The only two constants I had in my life were my son, and The Sims. Each time I felt that twang of anxiety, and I started to lose my breath and feel my heart start to pound out of my chest, I could open up my laptop and hit that green Plumbob icon on my desktop and all of my pain and fear went away.
I have chosen to live my life without seeing a psychiatrist, and without medication. I like to be in control of my own life, and even though sometimes it seems like it’s too much to handle, there is a piece of me that takes comfort in knowing I’m handling it myself. And now in present day I’m remarried to an incredible man, and my son is healthy, and smart and hilarious. But anxiety and depression are ugly and vile creatures. If you are a person who likes the idea of using medication to help them with their anxiety, then there are plenty of things that you could look into taking. For example, CBD can help with anxiety. If this is something which interests you then you can check out a site like Yours Nutrition.
Mental illness isn’t something that just goes away. It doesn’t matter that I’m happy, and that my family is happy, it still creeps back. And now, in 2016 we have The Sims 4 which is pretty amazing. And I still play my virtual families on a daily basis because it’s my form of therapy. It’s my digital medication I guess you could say. Be kind to one another my geeky friends, a simple act of kindness can change a life. And sometimes, a silly video game can be the lifeline someone needs.