Today I’m going to share a few things with you, not all of them pretty. The first of those things is that I’m a total consumer of trashy gossip magazines. And TV shows of similar ilk. I’m not sure I should tell you how many times I’ve had a subscription to People or that I’m considering snagging the e-publication version as we speak (don’t judge me!), I swear I buy them for the articles! And if E! has a True Hollywood Story on, you can bet I’m glued to the TV. Ok, ok, I’ll come clean – the same is true for any Behind the Music or Top 100 (insert something here) countdown. (Seriously, don’t judge!).
Anyhow, I have a point. Lest someone feel the need to advise my that my incredibly shallow taste in entertainment is…well, incredibly shallow (hint: I’m aware), I suppose I should probably get to it.
The other night I was watching a countdown of the 40 Most Shocking Moments. And one of the top ten moments was Britney Spears’ public meltdown – maybe it was even in the top three, I don’t remember now. But you know the one I’m talking about; the one where she shaved her head, completely fell apart and lost custody of her kids. Now in the commentary they actually had some people who were rooting for Britney talk about her meltdown, as opposed to the I’ve-never-heard-of-you-before comic tossing out jabs that is the norm. And one of the things that they said about her was that it was that moment she hit rock bottom. That in every crisis, there has to be a rock bottom. And once you’ve finally hit it you can start your climb back up.
Well, folks, I hit rock bottom.
At least as far as WoW is concerned anyhow. I was going to say that it all started Sunday night, but I don’t think that is entirely true. Looking back on it, I think it all started close to four weeks ago. I had been underplaying the importance of getting a Heroic Rag kill, and more than that a server first Heroic Rag kill, to myself. I had been trying to convince myself it wasn’t important, it wasn’t the end goal, it wasn’t the end all be all and that it would happen in time.
I was lying to myself.
The truth was that I was terrified almost nightly. I was worried that if we were in the middle of an attempt and realm spam came flying in our faces it would be debilitatingly disheartening to a great many people. I was stressed almost nightly that if we didn’t get this done, people would leave, looking for greener pastures. I was inundated with nightly complaints, comments and suggestions that overwhelmed me. And yet I kept pushing on with a smile on my face singing the “everything’s going to be fine” song.
Hint: it wasn’t.
The pressure on the raid soon caused a huge divide between “people who fucked up” and “people who didn’t fuck up”. Even if you rarely made a mistake, if you made a stupid one when tensions were high, you became a “person who fucked up”. It made me incredibly sad. Especially when I truly like everyone on our raid team, despite their flaws and despite the fact that I’ve wanted to strangle every one of them at some point. I tried very hard to keep the peace. To reprimand when appropriate, to speak to people privately about performance when appropriate, to keep spirits high when things were rough, to not morph into psycho bitch nightly. But underneath it all, the truth is that I worried on a nightly basis.
And it exhausted me.
What Rock Bottom Looks Like.
For years I’ve been trying to keep my stress over work locked down. However, unbeknownst to me until now, that has taken so much energy that there is very little room for additional stress. In looking back, I now notice the cracks that were forming each week and were threatening to weaken any resolve I had left to hold it together.
Sunday night, the cracks won.
I knew our second Rag kill wasn’t going to fall in our lap. I was optimistic that it would happen Thursday, but was prepared for Sunday. We were bringing in five new people for the kill, and there would probably be some bumps in the road. But as pull after pull came, and low percentage wipe after low percentage wipe happened, I started to crumble. This second kill was important to me. Just as important as the first.
I wanted everyone who worked on the fight to get their kill. I wanted the guy who DC’d on our first pull the night we got the kill, but hadn’t missed a single Rag night, to see the asshole dead. I wanted the young man that I’ve been raiding with for a year and got to know better at Blizzcon, and who is devastated at missing guild first kills, to finally be able to say he had done it. I wanted the healer who I’ve known for seven years now, and who voluntarily stepped out of our first kill to get the satisfaction of all the time he put into the fight. I put a lot of pressure on myself to see that we succeeded, because it was extremely important to me, and time before 4.3 is a limited commodity.
I think it was the pull where an add hit the hammer on the side with only two adds at the end of the night. I think that was my shave my head moment where everything just all fell apart and I couldn’t deal anymore. I was devastated to have to walk out Sunday night kill-less, and I was now incredibly stressed about being up against the wall on Monday night. Brade did our raid analysis, trying to figure out why we were struggling and how to solve it, because I was too upset. I honestly just couldn’t think.
I went to bed extremely upset, and woke up heavy-hearted, feeling like I was Atlas.
And then I learned that one of our two DKs, who performed a crucial role on this encounter for us was bailing. There is no other way for me to look at it. He bailed. He bailed out on me, he bailed out on his friends and he bailed out on a team that accommodated him for years. Why? Because he didn’t like that he was offered feedback on his performance that he didn’t like – and it was “too stressful”.
And it broke me.
I had now completely and totally hit rock bottom. Our second DK doesn’t log in until 9:15 on Mondays and we felt it was imprudent to pull Rag without at least one deathgrip, and we had built our strategy largely around having two. We’d adapt with only having one, but it was going to be harder. And we were losing almost an hour of raid time.
I cried all day, I couldn’t help it. I felt hopeless. I felt like no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t matter. I cared so fucking much about getting this done for people, I had been stressed for so long, and I just broke. I couldn’t take it anymore. This one thing was the last chink in the armor that I was desperately holding onto. I wasn’t even pissed that the guy was bailing, because as cruel as it sounds everyone can be replaced - I was pissed that he was selfishly potentially shitting on so many people and seemingly didn’t care. And because I cared so much, it was more than I could take.
I was so emo on twitter over the entire situation, that if I were me, I would have unfollowed myself. I got home, logged in and couldn’t stop crying. I cried through the entire fucking raid. I was so emotionally distraught that I was playing like shit. And that one percent wipe that night where I used two of our battle rezzes as a result? Yea, I almost couldn’t keep going. It got to the point where a mistake by anyone only made me more upset, and a mistake by me was inconsolable. I was so upset that I could hardly talk in vent.
Rock bottom, folks. It’s an ugly place.
Brade, bless his heart, came over in between pulls to comfort me and try to tell me it was going to be fine. I’m pretty sure the entire night on the inside he was screaming “CRYING?! THERE’S NO CRYING IN RAIDING”. (If you don’t get the reference, google Tom Hanks, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell).
We did get him killed again, in case you were wondering. And even though we only had one DK, not a single add hit that hammer, and we adapted to deal with the meteors. And I love my raid for that. You have no idea.
The raid stayed late to push it out, we never ask this of them and are actually pretty strict about our cut off time, but they did it anyhow. And I am forever grateful that they did. By the time we were finished with loot and sorting out the mount it was almost 1:00. Honestly, we were about 10 seconds from another 1% wipe. We lost a tank that we couldn’t rez fairly early in phase 4. We were down a few DPS early in phase 4. Somehow Borsk had a heal in there on Brade that was a borderline miracle. Seriously. In fact, I almost think he must have redeemed some sort of ”favor” card to have pulled it off. If he hadn’t, it would have been another wipe. Somehow the healers kept that one tank alive, and that one tank navigated every single hammer alone. I remember seeing the 3% mark and just going “please, please, please”. Our lone tank died as Rag hit the floor, but it was over.
I logged off.
I needed a break. That was abundantly clear. I went to watch Once Upon A Time (my new favorite show, by the way). I didn’t want to think about WoW. I didn’t want to think about the guild. I just wanted away. Last night I came home and lit up the fireplace, changed into PJs, found some deliciously terrible countdown on VH1 (40 greatest one hit wonders of the 90s…if you were interested) and snuggled into the sofa with my laptop to answer some emails. I was “taking the night off”, I wasn’t going to log into WoW, and it was much-needed.
I just needed to recharge.
And this raid week will help. We aren’t doing another Rag kill this week. The plan all along was to take this week and finish out everyone’s T12 mounts. And while you may think that Alysrazor’s achievement would be stressful, I assure you, she has shit on Rag. We are running two 25 man raids over the course of four days (although, I strongly suspect each raid will only need one of their two scheduled nights). I am really looking forward to this for a few reasons. I think after the past few months this is going to be fun. And I get to bring an alt in tonight, which I’m really looking forward to doing. Of course, I can’t decide if I want to bring my shaman or my mini-me, but if that’s the worse problem I have this week, I can live with it.
Not only that, but after this, we don’t have another raid until after Thanksgiving. Which means I have some additional much-needed down time to continue to recharge. I am really looking forward to not having to look at Heroic Rag again for close to two weeks. Whether or not a fight should make me feel that way is a completely separate topic.
Why I Am Sharing This
There are a few things I don’t want to hear. Please do not tell me I need a new guild, or need to find a better guild. For better or worse, I love my guild. Please do not tell me that a game shouldn’t make me so upset – because that just tells me that you didn’t understand why I was so upset to begin with. It has nothing to do with “the game” – and everything to do with my connections to the people in the game.
People are important. When I play WoW, I don’t think of anyone as a pixellated creature in my computer, but rather as a person sitting behind a keyboard. A person with emotions and feelings. A person that I want to share holiday cookies with. A person that I want to help be entertained. And when it comes to the people in my guild, they are people that I care about. I don’t get upset because of a game. In fact, it’s rarely the game that upsets me. I get upset because I care so much about the people that really make this game amazing.
People get upset at real life situations all of the time – why should the medium in which I deal with people (i.e. online) prevent me from having the same gamut of emotions as anyone else? (Hint: it shouldn’t). Do I take things too personally? Absolutely. Do I try too hard? Most Likely. Do I care too much? Maybe. But those aren’t things that are there because of a video game – those are things that are there because of who I am.
Please don’t feel sorry for me because I spent the night in tears. While it’s regrettable, it’s things like this that help to define us as people, help to build our strengths. I mean, I may have been in tears the entire night, but not once did I pack up my bags and go home. Not once did I set aside my values because I was upset. I was going to get through this dammit, because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – and I’m not going to run away just because it’s hard and someone hurt my feelings. That’s just not my style.
I hung in there because it was important to me, and I have no regrets about that. And neither should you.
So Why Am I Sharing This?
Because it’s cathartic to finally be comfortable enough with it to get it all out in the open. Because I’ve finally found enough calm to say “I hit rock bottom, and it was terrible”. If I can’t recognize and admit that I hit an all time low, how can I expect to recover from it?
But mostly? It’s because there is someone reading this right now that has felt the exact same way. Who has wondered if they can pull through. Who has questioned if it was all “worth it”. Who wonders if they should feel bad for crying “at a video game”. I know that there is, because I’ve personally spoken with some of them. I know that I am not alone, and everyone who finds themself in this position should know that they aren’t alone either.
There is no shame in feeling and sharing emotion. It’s human, it happens, and talking about it is one of the best therapeutic tools out there (and this thought has spurned a crazy idea for a top-secret project that I’m thinking about). There is no shame in hitting rock bottom – because in a challenging times there will always be a bottom before there is a top.
I hit rock bottom and it was terrible and terrifying. It needed to happen, and I’m in a better place because it did. And I’m okay admitting that and moving on.