The Gamer Who Didn't Leave His House For Over A Year

The Gamer Who Didn't Leave His House For Over a Year

"I went to GameStop a couple of months ago and even that wasn't a far trip at all," says Troy. He pauses for a few seconds, as if lost in thought. "I wanted some Wii U games," he laughs. "That was interesting."

This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK.

Troy, a video game streamer from Pennsylvania who goes by the pseudonym Beef Erikson, suffers from agoraphobia - an extreme and irrational fear of open areas and/or public places. Before this jaunt some sixty-odd days ago to his local video game store, he hadn't left his house for over a year.

"I have a really hard time shutting my brain off for any length of time," Troy tells me. "Unless I've been through months of pretty heavy medication or something, I've always had that problem as far back as I can remember. The only thing that I can pinpoint is just that I can't stop my head. It's addiction to thought, I suppose."

For many, video games represent a safe place - a simulated reality that allows a break from the stress, responsibility or mundanity of everyday existence. In essence, the persuasive and interactive nature of video games serves to facilitate a degree of escapism that's otherwise unachievable. Troy understands this fact more than most. For Troy, however, video games are not just about departure from the banal: his streams are his only substantial form of contact with the outside world.

Raised on the Atari 2600, Troy fondly recalls sinking hours into classics such as Yar's Revenge in his fledgling years. His mother's absence from a young age, he says, is what drove him to form such a close relationship with video games - a bond he feels has become a "way of life" since. This passion for retro titles is reflected in his streams today, as he often returns to favourites from the NES, Super Nintendo, and Mega Drive eras. His stream avatar is a mannered take on the distinguished Sega logo.

Although relatively popular in his teens, Troy maintained a close-knit group of friends and considered himself a loner for the most part growing up. Put off by playground crowds and congested hallways at school, he often skipped classes, and, as he entered adolescence, would often turn to alcohol as a means of coping with his as-yet-undiagnosed social apprehension.

"When I was in my early 20s I did a lot of drinking and that actually took away the social anxiety, the agoraphobia etc.," he explains. "But I think I was self-medicating, even then."

In western culture, going to clubs, parties, holidays, and pubs is an integral part of growing up. So, Troy's predisposed resistance to such a lifestyle was naturally detrimental.

The Gamer Who Didn't Leave His House For Over a Year

This presented him with a dichotomy: use alcohol to distract or deflect his innate and burgeoning mental health issues; or hide away, taking a step back from everything and everyone. He chose the latter and quit drinking, realising he'd unwittingly become an alcoholic. "I didn't have a problem stopping," he admits. "It was almost like flipping a light switch, but it definitely brought the social anxiety back, and then some."

He continues: "As the years went on I found myself losing most of the people that I associated with as a result of my social anxiety - I'd keep blowing them off when they'd want to do something. Eventually I'm sure they got sick of it and left me alone. Many, many times people would want to do something, like go out or whatever, and many times I would make up an excuse and play video games instead. Video games have been, basically, my life. It's my fall back, I guess. I love 'em."

In the years that followed school, Troy made several attempts to enter the world of work. Here, he followed an unfortunate pattern: he'd generally make it past the learning phase of a new job, he'd start to get used to the routine, but then his fear and anxiety would become so overwhelming he'd be forced to call it off. There were a couple of occasions where he walked off the job site entirely.

Needless to say, this despondent cycle created problems for Troy financially. But it also had a profound effect on his mental wellbeing. He couldn't cope. He was depressed. As time went on, he found the intervals he was physically able to work becoming shorter and shorter. He was always broke. He was evicted on more than one occasion.

The Gamer Who Didn't Leave His House For Over a Year

Somewhat ironically, Troy's breaking point came after he secured a well-paying job operating from home. What seemed too good to be true was eventually just that: his inability to switch off led him to suffer a breakdown, preceded by daily anxiety-induced fevers and physical sickness. He was thereafter assigned a therapist and began a course of medication.

"Here's the typical scenario that happens when I decide to go out," says Troy. "It depends on how far and how long I'm away, but as soon as I leave, immediately in my brain starts a little bit of a panic mode because I know I can't just immediately return back home. That makes me anxious, which, the longer I'm out or the further away I am, the worse that gets."

"I start to shake and I get heart palpitations, which is very unpleasant. Sweaty palms, general sweating - it just gets worse to the point where I have to go back home. I would say that anxiety and agoraphobia go hand in hand. It starts off with anxiety and turns into a panic."

Nowadays, Troy doesn't leave home. But that's OK because he's since been able to face up to his illness. His breakdown, although unfortunate, was a turning point in his life. He now lives with his girlfriend Amy - a relationship forged in his school days that was rekindled in recent years via social media - and he has accepted his condition. He's on disability benefits and has a doctor who does home visits, as well as a pharmacy that operates a delivery service.

The Gamer Who Didn't Leave His House For Over a Year

He streams video games as a means to reach out to the outside world and over the last two and half years has found streaming as invaluable as medication. It gives him a sense of purpose and, as many of his viewers also suffer from anxiety conditions, it acts as a pseudo-therapeutic forum.

"Being in touch with people is the main drive and it's finding people who have the same interests as me," says Troy. "A lot of these people, I won't drop any names, have the same issues: anxiety, there's a couple of agoraphobic people that I know of that watch my stream. I think the majority of my viewers are in the same boat that I am, to varying degrees. I'm quite close to a lot of them and I've formed a lot of bonds through the common denominator of gaming - it brings us together and that's been really great."

Agoraphobia is generally something which cannot be 'cured' per se. Like all variations of mental illness, the condition affects each individual in different ways, but Troy is fairly certain he'll be on medication for the rest of his life. As such, he's dedicating himself to his streams, with a desire to "give back as much as possible," as a result of how "overwhelmingly generous" his viewers have been. The reason Troy found himself at GameStop two months back, shopping for Wii U games, was because a viewer sent him a Wii U console in the post.

Looking to the future, Troy hopes to continue his weekly game giveaways, and speaks excitedly about virtual reality and potential benefits the medium could herald for agoraphobic users. Trips overseas, for example, are out of the question for players like Troy. The transportative powers VR promises to deliver could literally open up new worlds of possibility.

Until then, Troy has this to say to anyone who may be in a similar position to him, but has yet to address their circumstances:

"To anyone else who is suffering from it, I know a problem that I had that I ran into that took a really long time to accept - it's OK to be this way," he says. "I had to embrace it. I was constantly fighting with myself, you know? This is wrong, it shouldn't be like this, I should be out working. I'd stress over that and it'd compound the problem."

"To those that are suffering from it: it's OK. You just have to rethink the way that you live and acceptance will definitely set you free."


More information on agoraphobia can be found via the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website.

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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour from the British isles.


Comments

    I'll just add my personal thoughts on the matter, having had similar issues with life in general.

    While Troy seems to have had major problems and he's decided that withdrawing is the only possible solution for his situation, it doesn't mean that everyone should follow suit. If you're an anxious person with low self-esteem, it might feel like you've got no options available and everything you do just makes things worse - but there're always ways of making life more bearable:

    Seek professional help. If you've got financial difficulties go to a GP first and see if you qualify for a treatment plan. If you don't feel like your therapist is helping, ask or look around for someone else.

    Don't just take medication. Even if you think you can handle your illness on your own, life can often make things more complicated than we expect. Having someone to talk to can help you get back on track.

    And remember you don't have to be perfect! Even if you screw up occasionally, trust that you'll learn from your mistakes and improve for the next time you face a similar situation.

      While some of this is true i don't agree with forcing a stigma upon medication.

      I have a long term girlfriend that suffers from anxiety and depression, these are generally not that simple to be able to "fix" with talking to people, I'm a firm believer of using holistic methods and psychological changes first rather than going straight to meds but with depression and anxiety it's because your brain receptors aren't working properly and/or not producing the correct amount or at all of certain hormones and chemicals.

      While this can be subbed with holistic methods usually this is either too difficult to manage into an every day life if you want to be able to work and do things, it's illegal or it's just far too hard to get a hold of.

      Of course this should be judged on a case by case basis but sometimes medication is honestly the answer and people should know that there's nothing wrong with that it comes down to the person and how they can fit the solve into their life to get the best quality out of their life that they can.

      I would also reinforce never taking on "your illness" on your own, whether it be a close friend our a counselor it is always best to have a good healthy line of communication and a solid relationship with someone to help you.

    Was very sick, bed ridden, for nearly a year and from that I developed anxiety being outdoors. Sought help and am on medication for it and while still getting a little anxious I can go out without much drama.
    Seek help, its there either via meds or counseling. Whatever helps you with life.

    I went through this during my later teenage years. Domestic abuse drove me to drop out of school and lose myself in video games to cope. Lost contact with what few friends I had. No job, no friends, no school, just abuse and video games. I did not keep track of how long I had not gone outside but it was for months at a time at the very least.

    Thankfully I picked myself up by the boot straps, sought medical help, got a student loan, moved out, eventually left the country to be with my partner here in Australia who I met online. I don't think I ever really recovered from it but I can fairly confidently say that I am in much better condition now, happier and on the route to a successful career.

    Still have issues socializing but I have my partner now and he keeps my head above water.

    For those of us in Australia who suffer from ill mental health, approach your GP and ask them about a mental health plan. This can actually net you a series of subsidised sessions with a psychologist. Please. Do it.

      which from personal experience is a grand total of 6 sessions with a waiting period of around 6 months and 12 months before you can get another 6 sessions

      but yes its better than nothing and you need to get on top of it early otherwise yeah you end up not being able to go out for going on 8 years

        When I did it it was a 2 month wait and 12 sessions, but that was a few years back. I remember my psychologist being upset they were reducing the plan to what you were on.

        I didn't get any benefit out of it to be honest, SNRI's helped though. Good idea to get your bloods done for thyroid, testosterone, iron etc because there may be a physical cause.

      If you're an employed Australian I'd also suggest looking into what your workplace offers - some workplaces do pay for counselling services with external providers for staff who seek it. Check out the following website for more information:

      http://www.lifeworks.com.au/eap.html

      A friend of mine accessed this program with their employer after experiencing a severe panic attack at work and received 4 sessions of counselling at no charge to them. They were then encouraged to access the mental health plan, so they ended up with 10 sessions of therapy over the course of a year for much less than the full cost would have been.

      It's far from a perfect system, but every little bit helps.

        Replied before I saw this. Much more informative too!

        This is it exactly. You recieve 10 subsidised sessions over the course of a year. That's nothing to sniff at, especially if you are lucky to find a good psych. Mine has helped me immensely.

      Also, if you are employed, many employers offer this as well. It's anonymous so they will just get a bill with no names. This sort of stuff is usually discussed in orientation.

      They really don't do anything. At most they'll give you some drugs to make you fuzzy. If they send you to a shrink, they'll just tell you to do sports and charge you $150 per hour (after your few free visits are up).

      best advice? accept it and just do what makes you happy.

    Must totally agree here, Mental Health plans can be life savers.
    I have the exact same issues as Troy here, with a bit of PTSD thrown in for sh!ts and giggles.
    I'm on DSP and see a psych every two weeks (One of only two external contacts) and without the mental health plan there is NO WAY I could afford the psychologist fees

    Awesome to see so much support down the bottom. Certainly a guy who doesn't deserve to be judged.

    Good bloke. Its true, accepting your problems and not letting others or society tell you what you "should" do is the key. People who say nah just get on with it! Dont have a clue.

    I have PTSD, major depression and abused opiates for the last 4 years. I'd finally had enough of being bounced around on pills, being told something different was wrong with me each week and other human beings being assholes. Sometimes life beats us down and makes things even worse.

    Now I'm married, getting off the opioid treatment program and having my meds changed by a competent doctor who actually cares. I'll be honest, I don't have a job but I am making progress. In the end, doing what enables you to cope without making life harder is usually the best thing.

    I still shit myself every time I know I have to go out and do something important outside of the house. That's the next step. Sympathy to everyone suffering from these types of problems; always remember that we're all in it together.

    weak. I haven't left the house in 5 years (apart from being forced to buy food once a month). Outside suuucks and you need lots of money to do anything worth doing out there anyway.

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