SLAY YOUR DEMONS

Living Adventurously with Mental Illness

I’ve struggled with my mental health for a long time, and I am always looking for new ways to help manage and maintain it. I’ve also always had an overactive imagination and was prone to picturing myself as the hero in all kinds of adventure stories, whether they be from a book, a movie, or a video game. Along with this, I have a degree in neuroscience and am fascinated by the potential games have as a healing and learning tool.

So putting all of this together, I have created Slay Your Demons,a card game designed to help people who struggle with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issues. It places you in the role of a hero, where you use power ups, perform spells, and complete real life quests to slay demons and feel better!

This game lends its name to the blog and reflects a philosophy I have stumbled upon when dealing with mental illness, which is to approach life like it’s an adventure, to imagine yourself as the hero in an epic tale, fighting bad guys and saving the world. Because although we may not be saving the world, if you struggle with mental illness you are definitely putting up one hell of a fight, whether people can see it or not.

So what Slay Your Demons does is give you a tangible monster to imagine fighting, instead of the ambiguous fighting yourself nonsense that is likely going on in your brain. It ascribes different cognitive distortions, or thinking traps, to various demons that you must defeat through acts of self care. It draws on various research models and techniques including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Positive Psychology, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help you hopefully overcome some of those cognitive distortions. (Yay, science!)

I find this approach of integrating adventure into the everyday struggles I face very helpful and inspiring, but of course it may not work for everyone. However, if you’re the type to get sucked into a good book, ravenously consume content on Netflix, or enjoy getting lost in the world of video games, this approach might be a good thing to throw into your toolbox.

Because there is no one answer to depression, or anxiety, or PTSD, or whatever it is you struggle with. There are many things that may help, and whenever you come across a new one you should definitely make use of it. So consider the adventure approach.

Got a paper to finish? Imagine you’re Hermione trying to master a new spell to help Harry save the world.

Need to exercise? You’re Frodo on his way to Mount Doom—just a little further.

Can’t force yourself to get that housework done? Now you’re Cinderella, and when it’s done give yourself a reward (heck, nab a prince (or princess!) if you can find one).

Think about your favorite characters and scenarios and use them to your advantage. They faced struggles too, and always managed to come out on top. If you put a little thought into it, you can twist almost any situation or challenge you are facing into some kind of adventure. But, you may say, they are more powerful/braver/smarter/better/saner/whatever than me! I can’t be like them! I’m not a hero!

Perhaps you can’t be exactly like them, no, but that is not the point. The point is to use them to inspire you. Because no one can ever be exactly like you either, and you have more potential than you realize.

Sure, some days the greatest thing you will accomplish is getting out of bed. Some days you may not even make it out of bed—and that’s ok.

You know what?

You are still a hero.

Because you are battling your own brain, and that is quite possibly the hardest battle anyone will ever undertake. And I am proud of you for trying. For fighting. For not giving up, even when you wanted to.

So next time you think it’s just too hard, consider going on an adventure. Bring some excitement into the everyday. Fight some baddies. Slay some demons. Save the world, or maybe just yourself. Whatever. But go be a hero.