Short story on chronic illness (due in 1 day!)


#1

I’m part of an online festival (http://www.notedfestival.com/) and I wrote a short, extremely autobiographical story to help people understand chronic illness/depression.

I just realised the due date is literally tomorrow, so I’m scrambling for testers.

If you’re vulnerable to depression, this is probably not the story for you. If you want to understand the choices a sick friend makes over the course of a day, then congratulations. You’re the target audience.

http://dashingdon.com/play/Felicity/counting-spoons/mygame/

Given that it’ll be linked through to dashingdon, I’ll probably be able to continue making changes for at least a week. The story will stay online (unless I decide to take it down for personal or professional reasons much later) and free.


Counting Spoons: CS short story on chronic illness/depression; discussion thread
#2

They has Attention Deficit Disorder.

It’s supposed to be have.

which explains why They sometimes forgets to give the kids food or water.

I feel like it should just be forget without the s.

But I get so jealous of his contentment sometimes.

I chose the one that said They not male or female.


#3

I’m not reading this because I already have depression, plus several other mental disorders, a disability and a chronic illness. But good on you thinking of it! Like Depression Quest? I hope it’s well received!


#4

There are a couple grammar errors with the nonbinary partner. One’s that are hard to avoid but still kind of take away from the game.

All in all, I think it was nice. I identified with it greatly. Nice going with this one. I think it will bring attention to depression and illness, like you intended.

Congratulations, you’ve left another mark on the world. This game might truly help someone.


#5

“If my misery stuck to she it would bounce right back to me”
-Should be her

He never gets to sleep in because it’s more than you can give. Maybe you can give him a little”"
-pronoun change, should be She and her


#6

“Nala must have told her to say she loves you. That’s sweet of she
-her

"Nala calls to check he’s ment to get two different-sized packs of anti-depressants. He is. "
-Pronoun change, should be she’s and she

“Until Nala came home at 3:00pm. He’s running about…”
-She’s

“Nala had better get home soon. You only have {spoons} spoons left.”
-Dont forget the $ sign

"Listening to your internal alarms, you ignore both kids and slip quietly into your room, closing the door behind you. Billy can’t open doors yet.

There are bananas. The smell makes you feel sick but they’re only just ripe so it’s relatively mild, and it’s an easier smell to get rid of than citrus or anything else juicy. All of those smells make you sick before you even eat anything. "
-I’m not sure what happened here, I snuck off to my room and then was feeding the kids?

“Ask your Dad.”
-Should be mum

" (your parents visited from Wagga Wagga"
-brackets don’t close at any point

That’s all I found on my playthrough. I started on 1 spoon, spent the majority of the game between -8 and -5 spoons and then ended the game on 1 spoon again. I’m not sure how I managed that or why I wasn’t more restricted due to my lack of spoons. I also found no real negative impact from going into negative spoons. My character kept berating himself for it but he was doing that when he was in positive numbers as well so it felt no different.

Maybe make the number of spoons restrict you further and the negative choices have a bigger impact. Im pretty sure my character was fat from the start (or at least thought he was) as so I really didn’t care too much about further chocolate consumption (which seemed to occur every other page).

Don’t know if you were looking for opinions or anything but that’s my surface opinion at least. Hope it helps


#7

I have never heard about the spoon theory myself and I guess that I have a lot of spoons to get through the day.
Or perhaps I just think I have enough, and I push myself too hard, even past the point where spoons don’t matter anymore…

I need to stop pushing myself past my spoons, day in and day out, I really need to stop doing that…


#8

My friends say it’s similar to “Depression Quest”, although I haven’t read it (I’m a bit scared to since reading stuff like this - including my own - has a high psychological price).


#9

Oh, well thanks for that.

Shuts down browser that previously had the demo on it


#10

Thank you everyone. You’ve fixed a bunch of embarrassing bugs, helped me get a sense of whether the game suits its purpose, and given me some more stuff to think about.


#11

Good to see people listening to the warning that the game isn’t “fun” but an experience, and not a pleasant one. The emotional impact (for better or worse) all depends on the player, of course.


#12

Felicity don’t read depression quest, it’s not anything like yours.

(Just to add to that, if you want to know why, have a look at the most upvoted helpful review on steam by msafi337 which is a fairly good summary. IMO Depression Quest sends some very misguided at best, dangerous at worst, messages out to both people trying to understand depression, or worse, someone who might play it while experiencing depression. It sort of makes me wonder if this is what they think depression should be like rather than either themselves or someone close to them experiencing it (although I could be wrong, it’s a hard subject to write about well).

The message seems to often imply lack of will and laziness if you have depression and “take your medication or it’s all your fault and you can’t possibly do anything else to deal with it” (so they remove options available to select such as talking it out with friends or family instead) and that in the end you’ll be miserable without much of a let up forever anyway so just sort of deal with it). Yes this game kind of made me angry/upset and I wished I hadn’t played it. I’d recommend against doing so, your book is in a completely different level and deals with it with a lot more sensitivity and reality.


#13

As a person with crippling depression (and the only child of a psychotherapist), it’s correct. That’s what depression is.

Let me explain: a lot of days before medication I couldn’t even get out of bed. Making myself a drink? Having a bath? Writing a letter? All out of the question. I barely had the spoons to get dressed. Depression is not sadness, and anyone who thinks otherwise is misguided. It is a distinct and uncontrollable lack of motivation - of mental energy - to do anything, coming from the low activity in the brain. To others this might seem like laziness, but it’s depression.

Which is why, for example, seratonin works; it helps relay messages from the low-activity brain to the body. The way you get the best ending in Depression Quest - which I did - was by being as productive as possible with the spoons you have, and actively seeking help rather than internalising.

I’ve had depression for five years (but I have a good friend who’s had it for twenty), and only recently started medication and looking for specialist therapy (autism lmao). It’s true. You can’t. Because once you’re depressed for years, you barely have the energy to do anything else to deal with it. It is, truly, the worst kind of sickness. Whether you seek therapy or medication or both or something similar, leaving it for long enough just lets it rule your life, and you end up doing nothing. Just sleeping all day.

Maybe it’s different for others! All mental illness varies, but this is what it was, and kind of still is, for me. I live a life very similar to DQ, lmao. (I do agree with the third review down that it’s quite pretentious and in-your-face about what the writer thinks, however).

Moving on! By comparing the two games, I never meant to imply this is a rip-off. It’s not! Just that they both portray similar subjects.


#14

(Sorry Felicity not trying to derail your thread)
It’s been a while since I read Depression Quest so I’m going on the impressions it left me since I don’t wish to revisit it, so there may be some paraphrasing.@Bagelthief, I actually agree with you. Just to clarify, I’ve worked in a profession that has one of the highest rates of suicide out there. Depression, burnout, Severe chronic stress, PTSD, Severe anxiety, you name it, sooner of later you’ll probably see it in to one degree or another in some of people you work with unfortunately. (And that’s just a subsection of the people I’m talking about it’s not like it’s that uncommon in the general community, it just remains hidden due to percieved weakness/stigma associated with it).

I’ve actually been very lucky, no one close to me has committed suicide. I’ve done grief and stress councilling, to be honest I was very under-prepaired for it at the start. Stress, anxiety and depression can be very individual and very complicated. Among other things I experienced long term severe bullying and the isolation that brings at one time in my life. I’m aware it’s more than sadness. As a very simplified form of stress induced depression, Stress to me, seems to be where there are things that are percieved to be beyond your control and are affecting you negatively. Depression is where you can’t see any end to it and have no idea how change it. There’s a degree of helplessness there, no matter how much someone might want to change what it happening, a dark hole that is isolating and hard to get out from. Anyway, what I’m getting at is I do understand to a degree at least. I hate the stigma and mis-understandings that are out there regarding the above conditions.

What people can’t see, they often deny exists. I listened into a conversation just the other day where a group of people were discussing something they’d seen in the media about stress and depression rates in high school kids and the opinion seemed to be that they just needed a solid kick up the butt to sort them out because “first world problems.” As if high school students had anything to worry about, I mean look at the starving kids in Africa." Obviously that’s wrong and a very harmful attitude to level at anyone with depression. Anything that can positively influence understanding, including Felicity’s work, gets a big thumbs up from me. Unfortuntely I personally don’t think Depression Quest is a good model at all and possibly does more harm than good.

Why is a few fold. Firstly, as you’ve said, some people who experience severe depression physically can’t make it out of bed. It’s not because they’re lazy or unmotivated. They just can’t. The way this is sort of thing is portrayed in Depression Quest is pretty shallow, it comes across to me as being more melodramatic, whiny and lazy, rather than the mc just CAN’T do it.

Secondly is it presents treatment of depression as having right and wrong answers which I personally feel is quite dangerous. It says you must go and talk to a doctor first and then you must go on medication. Anything else is the wrong path. Some people with depression also have denial, anxiety or trust issues. If you’re reading depression quest as a model for helping someone with depression, pushing them away with “you can’t talk to me until you’ve got professional help” (or on the flip side if you have depression, there’s no point in talking to a trusted friend because the only solution is medication and since you’re not confident enough to go there you might as well give up now because nothing else will be of any use) is an all round bad idea and this is what this game seems to be implying. Baby steps.

I know two instances where people were pressured into going to therapists when they didn’t want to, sure they went, however both ended very badly with both people refusing to ever go near one again after a couple of sessions. It caused a lot more grief rather than less. If it hadn’t been pushed on them so hard, perhaps it could have worked out differently.

What is right for one person, isn’t always for another. Not everyone requires therapy or medication, it depends on the person, the cause, duration and the degree of depression. Even if someone should seek professional help, that’s no reason to exclude the inclusion of other options, if fact it probably should be encouraged.

A third reason why I disliked this game is the ending I got at least (I don’t know if there are others since I couldn’t bring myself to play it more than once, from what you’re saying there is) was it ended with a “It’ll never get any better than this” sort of ending. Now while there are certainly people who struggle with depression their whole lives, that is not true for everyone, some of which will recover temporarily or permanently. Even for those for which it’s an ongoing process, there are ways that things can get better (therapy, medication, support structures (ie family, friends, groups etc), exercise, diet changes, meditation etc.). Making out like this is as good as it’ll ever get when the mc is in the depths of dispair, is positively dangerous in my opinion. If you already have someone close to the edge reading that, imagine the damage it could do.

So yeah anyway, I wasn’t intending to cheapen your experience @Bagelthief, I do realise that medication can be a very positive step in some cases, I just objected to the way Depression Quest seemed pretty shallow in places and made it about right and wrong paths as being potentially harmful. Anyway, moving on back to the topic discussion.


#15

Hhhmmm what more depressing things I shall uncover besides having SLE? (It’s a chronic illness) Lols. Explaining the spoon theory on the at the start and then repeating it again when played is a little annoying for me, sorry. I commend that you made game about people who has chronic illness and or depression. I played the game and I think it okay, but I don’t feel like it really made an emphatic appeal to explain chronic illness and or depression. It just my opinion, probably because I’m thinking about my experience as someone who is sick and then trying to see if this game does make me understand the sickness.

I would probably like the game better if the game started off with having a character that is healthy and normal to start. Then when everything is on a happy light you make that person slowly sick with either a mental illness or any chronic illness or both if you desire. Why? I think making someone play an already sick person and explaining the spoon theory is not really having the desired effect of explaining the sickness. In light most will not understand the sickness rather they know the sickness and feel depressed, sad, etc. but I bet they can’t understand the struggles of having a chronic illness and or depression on a day to day basis. I think forcing the player/s to experience the steps of having the sickness is much better.

Making the character healthy, slowly having the symptoms of the sickness showing on the character, going to the doctor/s, receiving the bad news about being sick, riding the denial or acceptance stage, relationship breakdowns (people not understanding that sickness), work problems arises, reminiscing the years without the sickness, stage when the character is on the verge of give up, last would be to show what the character has done, it can be if they give up or decided to fight the sickness.

Again it just my opinion, I commend you again for making this game, but it just lacks the empathic impact that I want the player to also feel like they themselves are sick. It just made me feel sorry for the mc of the game, but I don’t think the situation of the mc even went beyond the surface of explaining the sickness. It just like a frosting of the cake or something. I can’t explain it, the game is just lacking the empathic impact that I wanted.


#16

Thanks, boredhypocrite. I’ll have a think about what I can do to improve the game but I don’t think I can handle writing my entire life history.

This kind of discussion is probably a very good thing. I’ll go start a post just for discussion (not that I’ve fixed the negative-spoon glitch yet), and will open up my main fb page for discussion too.


#17

No mean to write whole life story, just the highlights that have impact. :grin:


#18

I put in a little bit, with photos of the MC looking healthy (and hot).