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Dungeons & Dragons & Disability

So here I am still signed off from work. And over the course of this year I have truly struggled to find join in any of my old hobbies except for one, which has taken over and restarted my creativity: Dungeons and Dragons. First let me introduce myself: I am Helja, the dwarven cleric. I am Anakis, the tiefling Druid-warlock. I am Meredith, the human sorcerer.

For anyone who doesn’t know what it is, it is a Table Top Role-Playing Game (TTRPG) typically played with pencil, paper, dice (LOTS OF DICE), and imagination. One person in a group is the Dungeon Master (or Game Master), and they weave the story and the settings and battles, and play any number of characters that the Players will encounter and decide how to deal with. Players design a character that they role play as, making decisions as this character, not as themselves. The basics of this character are Race (Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling etc.) and Class (Rogue, Cleric, Fighter, Wizard etc.) but you then add to this by thinking up a backstory, a personality, and flaws with your DM. All this to hope that your characters get on or at least tolerate each other enough to work together to achieve larger goals – I’d say save people but there are evil characters and groups so it really depends! It’s not just a case of stabbing and burning everything you meet, you get to know characters of the world, try and use your charisma to maybe avoid violence…and yes sometimes kill the hell out of some things and loot their body and home. The more you do, the more you level up, the ‘stronger’ you get, the harder the adventures can become. It sounds trite but imagination really is the limit with the D&D. Well imagination and dice rolls. This is the basics but if you want to know more find your local tabletop game café and see if you can sit in on a game. Or drop me a comment and I will try and answer your questions.

Anyway, back to the topic. Being off work as long as I have, and recently being unable to volunteer, I’ve been going round the bend. I’ve been bored, depressed, lost, and almost incapable of seeing past the pain I’m in day to day. I don’t know when this happened, but at some point D&D became one of my main interests and coping mechanisms. I think it comes down to several aspects of the game.

1) Socialising: I know that once a week I am going to meet up with my friends over Skype and have fun not only role-playing and adventuring together but also catching up and chatting and just create together. This leads me nicely to…
2) Creativity: Being ill has led me to struggle with getting the mental energy to work on my creative writing and story plans, my hands have been so painful that I’ve struggled to hold my pencils at the right pressure. I have so many ideas that I want to complete (or even start) and it’s frustrating as all hell to have stuff swirling round your head that you can’t enact. Enter D&D. Obviously my friends and I don’t know what we’re all going to do, so our role playing is a form of fantasy-themed improv, which allows me to be creative in a sense. I have designed and made a dice tray including a dragon, a sword made of dice, and the D&D logo, when I’d been really struggling to come up with pyrography designs for my wooden boxes. Designing the backstories for my characters and writing them up has helped me get back in touch with my writing because…you get to know your character so well so I just like to write it out in full so that it’s almost like a short story in itself to go over stuff that doesn’t/hasn’t yet come out in sessions, because their stories are so vivid in my mind. I have some more stuff planned I want to make (drawings, more dice trays, story about my other character) and it’s exciting to feel this imaginative and creative again.
3) FanDom: Now as well as my own game I play with my friends, I have got INTENSELY into Critical Role this year. If you don’t know what this is, it’s “a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors” (Matt Mercer, Liam O’Brien, Sam Riegal, Marisha Ray, Taliesin Jaffe, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, and Ashley Johnson, with the occasional nerdy guest) roll dice and play D&D for us to watch on Twitch or YouTube. You might think that watching people play a game that occurs for the most part in other people’s head wouldn’t be that interesting but you’d, in my opinion, be wrong. They’re a group of friends and they genuinely look like they’re having fun together, even during the painful parts of the story (they have genuinely cried during parts of the story, as have some of my friends in my game, just showing that D&D isn’t just dice and numbers, it’s characterisation and emotions). The DM creates incredibly vivid and varied worlds, which is part of what makes the show so alive as, without visuals like a normal show, Matt has to put in a lot of work to build it in our heads. This show has inspired fanfic, fan art, fan music/musicals, and clothing and accessories on places like Etsy. As I get somewhat socially anxious, having CR and D&D as a whole as interests means that with a proportion of people I have topics to talk about which makes me a little less stresses. Additionally, the cast of CR have inspired me to get more into D&D helping use my character to choose spells, not just choosing the ones that do the most damage. Being able to share in the CR fandom inspires me and makes me feel less alone in the world. Also nice to see other people with disaster characters 😀
4) Now my final reason is a bit bleak and maybe hard to explain, so settle in. I am disabled, mentally and physically so and despite the fact I’ve been living with these illnesses for between 1-8 years, I still haven’t come to terms with the restrictions, pain and general suckiness that is life as a spoonie. I know that I could be so much worse and I’m thankful for what I am currently still able to do, but there’s so much stuff I thought I’d have done or be doing by now and yet here we are. There’s not a day that I’m not in pain and it’s easy for that to wear a person down. Now all the reasons above make me feel better as a disabled person, but the act of playing D&D helps in and of itself. I think it’s because my imagination is still very active so it’s highlighting something that hasn’t been taken away by ill health. The characters I have made aren’t perfect, they have flaws, but they can do magic, they can fight monsters, if they want to, they can become heroes. It’s easy for me to think of all the stuff I can’t do in the real world, but my D&D characters can try and sometimes succeed in incredible adventures, that I could never do (even if I wasn’t disabled!).

I hope this all makes sense to those who play D&D or watch Critical Role. If you think you might want to play D&D, I’d really recommend watching some recorded games (Critical Role, High Rollers, Hells Belles are some names off the top of my head) or just going to find a group. It’s amazing how easy it is to talk to new people when you have a nerdy past time in common, especially when you don’t have to be you for much of the time.
The last thing I want to say is that if you have any mental ill health, there have been some evidence-based studies showing a decrease in some symptoms after regular playing of RPGs like D&D. I will try and find a link to this later if anyone is interested.

I won’t say that D&D has saved my life but I think it’s saved my mind…well, as much as it can be.

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Sharing Creative Writing – Poetry Edition

If you read my last post, you’ll have seen I shared my first piece of writing probably since I was still in education. Well I’ve shared a short story, and now I’m doing the only thing harder: sharing my poetry. My insecurity around this is super really high so if you aren’t into poetry that is still very raw then I’m really sorry for this tangent of content. But this is important to me, as is mental health awareness and outreach, as is talking about science, and gender, and feminism. This blog might be a bit of a jack of all trades but that’s probably a good summary of who I am!

So here’s three that I had typed up from my writing book. Enjoy and please let me know what you think (if you’re gentle!)

 

Storm A’Coming

Weather alert, flooding warning
Thunder and lightning, weather storming
Sky outside bitter & grey
It must end soon. We pray
Rumble above and a flash of light
Clouds rolling faster, gods shout and fight
It darkens further, yet it’s early day
Animals restless to go out and play
I make my way slowly outside:
I dance in the storm
Cry in the rain
Lose myself
I refuse to hide.

Process

Cold blank nothing
Glaring whiteness
Cursor beating like a cursed heart
Write write write

On it blinks like a mockery
Hours wasted on “research”? Please
Social media, nothing nothing
Writers block, head in hands

Type type type
Write write write

Beats of a drum
Demanding, do it now
Work time now
Complete me

Life

Is there life in a graveyard?
I’m not trying to be funny, or witty
But why else erect stones and monuments
If not to draw out the living?

Some columns have fresh flowers
Cards and pictures lined up too
If nothing else they brighten up this space
Until they collapse and are washed away

In a graveyard of course there are trees
And grass and birds and insects
These lives don’t understand the rules and expected behaviours
Ivy pulling on stones, cracked, lying broken

Is this life surrounded by death?
I’d suggest rather the opposite
Though we will pass and what we know will pass
Life, whatever it is, will find a way

© Kathy Hadfield 2017-2018

Life, death and what happens in between

TW: suicide

Sorry I’ve been quiet again, things have been busy at work and my health has been topsy-turvy, to say the least. (This is only going to be a short post.)
Additionally…I suffered the loss of a close friend. I lost her to depression and suicide. I’ve cried, I’ve been angry. This is the second friend I’ve lost to it, with two tohers (that I know about) who tried and came close). But I’m trying to take things from her life, instead of focusing on her death. But it is difficult and it is something I have to make a conscious choice to do every day.

She was a roller derby player; she was relentlessly trying to improve at it too. She will inspire me to keep pushing, to know I can always get up when I fall down (and it’s roller derby, there’s a lot of falling). She was a crafty person, she enjoyed making her own jewellery and doing crochet. I have a hundred projects I’m either yet to start or yet to finish. I’ll think of her and it’ll remind me to use my creativity, make something beautiful. She found it difficult being around people sometimes, found it hard to make friends. I know what this is like. But she started roller derby to meet people, to make friends. She will be my reminder to step out of my comfort zone. She was blunt; you always knew exactly where you stood with her. Sometimes I need to remember to just say what I feel, to channel her backbone.

I could do a whole post on suicide, on mental illness. I will in the future I imagine, when it’s a little less raw. But let’s just say I have first-hand experience of an illness and can offer some insight on suicide, from a mentally ill person’s perspective.

Things have been difficult with this going on. But the people left behind after suicide have to keep pushing on, going forward. She couldn’t carry on into the future. So we keep the memory of our lost ones with us, so they can continue forward with us.

Next time I’ll be writing about working when chronically ill; it’ll be more cheerful than it sounds I promise!

Any ideas for future blog posts are welcomed, otherwise I’ll just keep making it up as I go along.

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