New Horizons & How It’s Saving Me : ADHD

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So, as the title implies, I’m gonna tell you a little TRUE STORY. It might be a little long, so grab some popcorn if you want.

My dad has ADHD, and so does my older brother. I got diagnosed with ADHD when I was the ripe age of I-can’t-fucking-remember years old (so roughly 4 years old, give or take a year) and was slapped on Ritalin from that day on until I was 17 or 18, where my insurance company changed their policies and called my mom demanding that I either switch to Concerta or stop being medicated. This past April, I (22) switched to Vyvanse because I became too tolerant too quickly with Concerta and didn’t get the fix I wanted or expected. I am the only one in the family who is medicated for ADHD (my brother stopped at 15 and I doubt my father was ever medicated). I am also hella jobless. I graduated from college this past winter after 5 years, earning an Associate’s certification in Animal Industry with a lousy 2.5 GPA because I tanked productively, mentally, and emotionally after my first year and a half at college, failing my bachelor’s in Animal Science (Pre-Vet). A month later, the US announces its official lockdown due to COVID-19, with the next month or two filled with states ordering non-essential stores to indefinitely close its doors.

I am not an OG Animal Crossing fan by any means. My first Animal Crossing game was Wild World for the DS, but man was I all over it as a child. Now, at 22 with a Switch and shiny new Animal Crossing: New Horizons copy I gleefully preordered and was able to pick up on launch day at a different location, I cannot stress enough how much this game has literally saved my mental health and keeps my dopamine levels in check, especially during these times of COVID-19. I feel emotionally and mentally drained whenever I feel attacked or shamed when my dad keeps prodding me to find a job or apply to the college I want to attend way up north towards the Canadian border. I feel lazy and unproductive when I go to bed every day knowing I willingly chose to do anything else other than put in the effort to look for a job or apply to the college. I feel like crap when I can’t leave the house as often as I want to to go peruse the mall for a few hours, or go to my local comic book store to breathe some fresh air and get away from my family who I feel like just doesn’t get what it’s like living with ADHD and anxiety. But this game picks me up and tells me, “Hey! It’s okay to feel sad, but you want to know what else is okay to feel? How it feels to be productive by chipping away each and every day on your island by terraforming, moving trees/flowers/buildings, connecting with your neighbors, and trading with other players for recipes, furniture, clothes, or in-game currency!” This game taught me what happiness feels like when I’m productive and focused, and I’m more sociable in the game than I probably ever will be in real life. This game has taught me the values of friendships and working hard to overcome any hurdles and achieve your ideal island design, giving back to the neighborhood either through gift-giving or donating to build a bridge/incline. This game has grounded me and reminded me of who I can become and who I want to be during times where that probably can’t happen immediately. I wake up and go to bed playing this game, and I couldn’t be happier at the thought. It gives me something to do when there is nothing to do, and it’s a chore I’m more than willing to put the extra work, hours, and effort into. This game reminds me what being productive is and what it’s like to work had – and get the dopamine release that I so deeply crave out of it, even if it takes me weeks to finish what I want to do in the game. I’m currently terraforming my entire island, and after some planning and calculations, I’m spending a minimum of 21 total days doing terraforming, filled with nothing but cliff building, moving buildings, decommissioning bridges/inclines, relocating my river stream, and rebuilding bridges and inclines. As of this message, I have just completed day 4, which was a relatively relax-building day ,and I’m hoping day 5 will be just as relaxing. Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch gives me the hope I need, yet didn’t know I wanted or needed it.

In the end, if you’ve read my whole story, if there was anything I want you to take from this story, it’s this: it’s okay to constantly go back and enjoy doing a comfort activity during times where you find it a huge struggle to do anything productive. It could be TV series, movies, books (comics + mangas included), or even sleeping or browsing Facebook for 13 hours. All in all, it’s okay if what you wanted to get done today doesn’t get done today — or anytime soon, for that matter. Keep enjoying the things that are making you happy now, and while do continue trying to keep real-life duties prioritized, don’t beat yourself up too much if you end up 50 episodes deep into Supernatural, or 5 hours deep into the Harry Potter series, when you wanted to learn how to cook that amazing cheesecake recipe you saw online. Go at your own pace, and reward yourself when you can!

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