Perhaps this is informed by the fact that, prior to this week, I didn’t get out of the house all that much in the first place, but it only took me two days of social distancing for me to lose my entire fucking mind. While I understand the importance of the practice, I woke up this morning realizing how psychologically unprepared I am for this ordeal. There has been very little for me to do in the past couple of days that has not provided an immediate inroad to unwanted, paranoid, and occasionally paralyzing thoughts. These range from the necessary (planning meals strategically based on current inventory) to the unproductive (fretting over whether it’s ethically acceptable to run out and buy booze, cookies, and other indulgences) to the disgusting (considering ‘alternatives’ to toilet paper, should that need arise).
But like I said, I spend most of my days at home anyway, so when it comes to strategic isolation, I’ve got more coping mechanisms than your drug dealer. However, unless I monitor my mental state with great care, these mechanisms can become part of the problem so quickly, I don’t even notice until it’s obvious I am still going nuts. This is what happened to me yesterday, when I spent so much time playing Tecmo Super Bowl that come mid-afternoon, my brain became incapable of processing any and all external stimuli.
For the uninitiated, Tecmo Super Bowl is the finest sports video game ever made, full stop. It’s a perfect blend of simplistic gameplay and strategic depth, and it features all the actual NFL teams and rosters from the time (except, of course, for Randall Cunningham, Jim Kelly, and Bernie Kosar, but that’s a story that’s longer than it is interesting). Tecmo Super Bowl is endlessly playable and just about perfect, which means that the game is a potential death trap for mental health. On more than one (or one dozen) occasions, it has sucked me in to an endless loop of button mashing, asshole clenching, and utter madness, as I panic and twitch and scream and win and lose games joylessly, having received none of the rushes of psychological reward that drew me to the game in the first place.
Yesterday was awful in this respect. I started and aborted no less than three different seasons with three different teams, abandoning each out of nothing other than wrathful impatience. If I gave up more than 100 yards rushing in a win, it was time to abort (unlike pretty much everyone else I’ve ever met, I prioritize good defense above all else when I play football video games, which is great but not when I’m being that level of OCD about it). If I lost a game before week 10, it was time to abort. If I threw an interception before week 6, it was time to abort. If I was getting insufficient production out of my star players, thus jeopardizing their future chances of making the imaginary Tecmo Hall of Fame that only exists in my brain, it was time to abort.
By approximately 4 PM Eastern Daylight yesterday, I was no longer certain I could read. It was clear I needed to get the fuck away from Tecmo Super Bowl as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, everything else was a true struggle, including sitting. Eventually, I managed to chop lettuce, but only just barely. My brain pattern had become an incomprehensible slurry, reduced to ADHD-riddled goo after hours of quasi-mindful twitching. I pulled up and out of this fog just barely enough to function the rest of the day, but woke up this morning unsure of how to stay sane. It could be months before any of us can leave the house just for fun.
I don’t have any answers right this second. What I can say is I know from experience that if you’re spending all day at home, make sure you’re taking inventory of where your mental health is at. If you find yourself in a spot where you realize you need to be doing literally anything else, do literally anything else. It’s gonna be a bit until we can all sit down together with some Manhattans and laugh about this one, so in the meantime, know yourself and know what you need to take care of yourself. For me, that means taking some time off from Tecmo Super Bowl. As long as this doesn’t send me headlong into another Baldur’s Gate binge, I should be all set…