NOTE: I am not a licensed therapist or psychologist. This essay is about my personal experience with D&D and how much it has helped my struggles. I believe everyone should go to therapy if they can. D&D is not a replacement for therapy, but I think it has great mental health benefits. Please speak to a professional if you can. Take care of yrself 💖.
I have not been playing Dungeons & Dragons long. In more geologic timeframes, I am a newbie, a bandwagon-hopper who took an interest thanks to a well-crafted podcast and streams on Geek & Sundry. This, the 5th edition, is my first real experience with tabletop role-playing games in general. It is definitely one of those hobbies that once I started, it felt like something I’d been doing forever.
Over a year in and hundreds of hours of Dungeons & Dragons under my belt, I’m a different (better) person. D&D has been wonderful for my mental health. Roleplaying has taught me lessons about interpersonal relationships that will stick with me forever. Thanks to this game where I pretend to be a teenage dragon who loves crystals and communing with nature, I’m more confident, willing to take risks and be part of a team.
When I am at my lowest, my brain often feels like it is pacing. Back and forth from subject to subject, worries diverting into new thoughts faster than I can process them. Sweaty palms and erratic breathing follow the inability to slow down my brain. I am mentally overloaded. Well meaning people often suggest “relaxing” activities to ease this, like coloring books, white noise, or meditation.
None of this works for me, and I end up more restless than ever, upset at myself for being unable to “turn off” and enjoy simple activities. It took me some time to recognize that my brain really needs a different approach when its close to overloading.