Because of Video Games, I Decided Not to Commit Suicide
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I know—what a grim title. But it’s true.
I’ve talked about my past in quite a few videos on my personal YouTube channel (wait, you are not subscribed?!) and how I lived with suicidal thoughts between the ages of 12 and 18. I nursed these thoughts for six years and they eventually turned into plans of action.
What I’ve never shared, or rather, never shared extensively, is what saved my life and actually kept me going back then. So I want to do that here in this blog post.
Indeed, what saved me were video games. You heard it right: Video games saved my life.
Now there are two reasons why I wanted to make this post.
The first one is simply for anyone reading this who feels that video games are doing the same good for you that they did for me. Where it is THE thing that is keeping you alive and making life at least a little bit fun.
In this blog post, I want to go through the four things I found in video games that I was longing for in real life but didn’t find, and which I thought were impossible to experience in real life.
Now, 11 years later, I’m 29 years old and things have changed for me—dramatically.
Therefore, I want to share how life is for me today alongside these four reasons. I didn’t know back then that life could be different. No one showed me. No one talked about it like I am doing so here—hopefully for anyone who is in the same place as I was back then.
The second reason is that this blog post is for anyone who simply wants to understand the reason why some people play video games a lot.
There seems to be some sort of a stigma, or at least a misconception, around video games and people who play them often.
Whenever I share what exactly saved me from what I was going through at that time, people seem to laugh about it.
What I noticed, however, is that people mainly laughed about it because they could not see how video games could save someone.
People back then had no clue and they merely thought that I was addicted to video games.
Look, I am not saying video games can’t be addictive for some, but, honestly, for me, it was truly a way of escaping from a life that I hated and a way out of this person that I simply did not want to be.
There are other reasons why some people play video games a lot, which is why I also wanted to write this blog post to bring that understanding.
Having clarified that, here are the four things that I didn’t have back then that I found in video games. I’ll give you an idea of how these helped me survive through those dark times, and how they compare to what my life is today.
1. The Thrill of Adventure and Freedom
When I was between 12 to 18 years old, life felt like a prison to me.
You’re so restricted.
Yes, I know there are reasons for this. One is simply because you are still very young.
I get that.
However, back then, I thought that life was always going to be like that.
The main routine I had for six years was going to school, doing homework, going to bed, waking up, and repeating that.
I hated it.
To me, school was extremely boring and dull. And this constant feeling of living in some sort of prison led to me thinking all the time: “Is this really all there is?! Is this life?!”
But video games… Well, they brought a whole opposite situation. They gave me freedom and adventure.
I was able to experience thrilling things in video games that real life absolutely did not offer.
In the games I played, like World of Warcraft, you embarked on all these quests, explored dangerous dungeons where you confronted other people, and enjoyed the complete freedom to go wherever you wanted to go.
There were so many exciting things to discover and experience in that world.
And absolutely none of them existed in my reality back then.
How It Is Today
At the age of 18, when I cracked and saw no way out, I took action on the plans that I had to commit suicide.
One night, alone in the middle of nowhere, when I was all set to carry out my plans, I broke emotionally. It was then, and only then, that I truly realized how far I had gone into this darkness.
I knew 100% that I had it in me to commit suicide right then and there. And that realization scared the shit out of me.
At that moment, in the dark, giving way to the tears that I had been holding back for years, I knew that I had to do something.
I had to save myself.
It was a moment of clarity in a moment of insanity.
A thought that comforted me and motivated me to do something was that death will eventually happen anyway. So I asked myself: Why not try to see what could still be done in the meantime?
In the weeks after that, I searched for possibilities of what I could do to change my life. Something that would spark interest and hold meaning for me. And something that would take me out of this prison cell, as far away as possible from the four walls of my room.
I stumbled upon a volunteering project to help build a school in South Africa. Sparks of interest and meaning lighted up my darkness. So I signed on, and it was for two months.
Some weeks later, I left school and embarked on the unknown.
To make a long story short, I came back as a completely different person.
In South Africa, I realized that all those things that I wanted to have in real life, such as adventure and freedom, are actually out there.
It wasn’t long after my return home that I realized this was exactly what I needed and what I was looking for. No less than a few weeks later, I was off again—this time to travel around the world for three years on a journey of healing and rediscovering myself and life.
Over the last 11 years, I have visited more than 35 countries, got certified as a divemaster, climbed several mountains (such as Mont Blanc, Grossglockner, Zugspitze, Triglav, Watzmann, the Matterhorn, and many more), and created my own company that, in its own way, led to so many more incredible adventures.
I am sharing this list of life events merely to show that you can find adventure and freedom in your life as well.
Of course, it can be more difficult when you’re not yet 18 to have the complete freedom that you would have once you become an adult. But that does not mean that you can’t get a taste of adventure and freedom while you’re younger either.
Find a volunteering project in an area that you’re interested in. From my personal experience, volunteering projects are a great first step for those who feel stuck in life but are afraid or unsure how to break out of their prison.
Volunteering projects offer a kind of stability and certainty yet at the same time enough unknowns for growth to happen.
You can also find volunteering projects wherever you’re living. Or in a country not so far from where you live.
The trick, in the end, is that you have to dare to take the leap. The best thing that helped me get started was to simply book the trip. Once I had scheduled my trip to South Africa and booked my plane ticket, the feeling that I had to go and do this was absolute.
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2. I Was Able to Be Someone Else
As you might have realized by now, I was not exactly the best pals with myself between the ages of 12 to 18. In fact, I hated myself.
It is too complicated to explain exactly the chain of events that led to me feeling this way about myself.
For the sake of brevity for this blog post, I won’t dig into all of it.
Besides the unhealed trauma of losing my dad when I was four years old, the lack of a father figure in my life to bring balance and the boredom that I was experiencing at school certainly were major contributors to why I hated myself.
Because I didn’t enjoy school, I also did not pay much attention to my studies. As a result, I was getting bad grades.
Teachers started to dislike me as I was putting no effort into school at all—and fair enough. But what do you expect from someone who was living with major depression…?
I just couldn’t care about it all.
This only led to me turning more and more to video games. For years, I would go to bed at 3 am or 4 am while I still had to get up for school at 7 am. I never wanted to go to bed, as this only meant I had to return to real life and to this person I disliked being. The result, however, was that I also went through life sleep-deprived.
This of course did not help with my general mood, nor with the number of destructive thoughts I had about myself.
The lack of sleep I experienced on a daily basis, together with some of the many other reasons I mentioned, were all major factors in the development of my depression as my thoughts turned darker and darker.
All this led to me feeling worthless and dumb—and my school grades were there to confirm it.
I found myself agreeing with these lowered opinions of me after a while.
This was who I was, I thought: a worthless and dumb person.
Meanwhile, in playing video games, you get many chances to start anew.
Especially with MMORPGs, you can create this character exactly the way you like (or at least within the limits of the game).
Every time that I logged in, I was able to become this different someone that I felt proud of and escape from who I was.
I didn’t have to show my face; I was able to chat with people and not talk about myself but instead talk about the game and the events that were happening in that world.
How It Is Today
When I went to South Africa to work at the school, to my surprise, I was able to help and contribute to many of the tasks we had to do.
Playing with the kids in the townships, building facilities like a book library, a toilet, and a classroom for them, I felt like I was able to provide something meaningful that had a direct impact on the environment around me.
I was also very surprised at the beginning that people seemed to sort of like me. They were interested in me and showed kindness that I hadn’t experienced before. It was… weird, yet oh so wonderful.
In those two months, I started to gain glimpses that what I had believed so deeply about myself—that I was worthless and dumb—was possibly not completely true.
Those glimpses happened more and more often as I continued to travel and challenge myself going through life.
Climbing all these mountains over the years had increased my confidence to a level that I once never thought possible.
They made me realize how capable I was in stressful and demanding situations.
Likewise, starting my own company—The IPS Project, an educational platform on life—when I was only 21 years old, showed me that I’m not as dumb as I thought I was.
I created something out of nothing that today has become my full-time job.
Finally, studying psychology at university and getting good grades made me realize that the idea that had been ingrained in my very being through the years—the idea of being worthless and dumb—is certainly not true.
It took a lot of years to get to this point. Today, I have a lot of respect and love for myself.
All this happened because I ventured out into the world, faced my demons, and, more importantly, did something about them.
Finding your potential, which means knowing your qualities, skills, and talents is the road to developing respect and love for yourself.
3. I Was Somebody: I Mattered to Others and the World
You’re the chosen one. You are the hero, the adventurer, the one who has to save people or, heck, even the world.
You matter greatly in video games. Whereas in real life, well, especially when you are young, you are kind of a nobody.
You don’t matter much. I mean, sure, you will likely mean a lot to your parents and other loved ones, so in a sense, you do matter. However, it just doesn’t always feel like that.
In video games, it feels so much more significant that you matter.
And, in truth, we all like to feel like we matter in life.
I just didn’t have that when I was young. I felt the complete opposite.
However, I kept on struggling through life because I knew I mattered somewhere else, which was, of course, in the video games I played.
How It Is Today
Through the years, I discovered that the way to feel like you matter is by doing something that brings meaning and gives you meaning.
For me, it was creating The IPS Project, the educational platform on life.
Since I started it eight years ago, it is still something that gives my life much meaning.
Developing a deep passion and love for a certain topic—in my case, psychology—also brought great meaning to my life. This passion led me to study psychology at university, become a therapist, and help people live a better life through the therapy that I do.
If you can marry your passion with your job, something we spend a lot of time doing every day, life becomes a whole lot more meaningful.
Again, I am only listing this reason in the hope that you can see how real life can be meaningful. It can be different. This was something that I absolutely never thought possible when I was younger.
I discovered what brought meaning to my life by first figuring out who I was and what I liked doing.
And figuring out who you are and what you like doing is best done by putting yourself out there in the world and trying everything that can possibly interest you.
That’s what I did when I was traveling.
I worked on various farms. I worked as a mechanic. I worked as a waiter. I rebuilt corals. I helped build a school. I worked as a chef. I worked as a park ranger. I worked as a painter… The list goes on. I worked at so many different jobs.
I know doing this is easier when you are still young. However, note that I am only sharing what helped me in the hopes that it will help someone to whom this speaks.
There are of course other ways than traveling to help you figure out what is meaningful to you and to find out what you like doing. However, if you do have the chance, traveling is a great real-life experience that will allow you to just go out there and try things out.
Also, travel opens up a lot of possibilities. I never knew that there was such a thing as a divemaster or a dive instructor.
I never knew that was a thing when I was younger.
And I never knew that I can create my own job as I have obviously done.
No one showed me these things.
Once you find what brings meaning to your life, you will also learn how you matter in life, that you matter to other people, and that you do have a place in this world.
4. Friendship and a Community Where I Belong
The nature of an MMO game is that you can play it with thousands of other people.
It is, in fact, quite social.
I remember so well how exciting it was to enter World of Warcraft for the very first time.
Seeing hundreds of strangers, all doing their own thing.
By facing common enemies and overcoming challenges with a team, I started to make some actual friends in that world.
Shared experiences connect people.
And it was so much easier to connect in video games than in real life.
Also, because no one saw the actual me but instead saw this avatar, a character that I had molded in a way that I liked, I was able to talk more openly and show others little glimpses of the real-life me that I didn’t dare to share with anyone in real life, as I was too ashamed and uncertain about the real me.
This was definitely the fourth big way that video games saved me. They gave me friends and a community and made me feel that I was not as lonely as I thought.
How It Is Today
What I know today—and this is very cool to realize—is that there is a community for everyone.
For literally anything.
Yes, even if it is extremely niche. Like bird-calling.
Ohh no, I am not kidding. Look up the competitions where people do the best impressions of their favorite birds! It is entertaining and, actually, impressive.
But as funny as this sounds, how cool is this? Why? Because, this shows that whoever you are and whatever you are into, there is a tribe, a community of people like you waiting for you to join them.
And this is through shared experiences: doing something you really enjoy together—whether it’s work, sports, or another hobby.
Still, it is important that we have that person-to-person connection to not feel lonely in life.
Online games can lessen the pain of loneliness to a degree, but they can never completely take it away because we are still human beings.
Meaning, we need an in-person connection.
It matters greatly that you do that or work towards this. While video games made me less lonely, there was still a void of loneliness, a craving for real-life friends. And I think this is true for most people who only have friends online.
Today, I know to which tribe I belong, and that void of loneliness is long gone.
I found my tribe in a few ways.
While I was traveling, I hung out often at coworking places where other entrepreneurs were working. There, I met many inspiring people, and some of them are still my really good friends to this day.
After many years of living as a digital nomad, I’m now living permanently in Antwerp, Belgium. Here, I continue to put myself in places where like-minded people would be.
For example, I have found another coworking place, which now feels almost like my second home after I have spent years working from there.
It has given me a community and friends that I never thought I would ever find.
Another way to find your tribe is by finding and engaging in a sport that you love. Like with me and climbing. This has led to me finding many of my closest friends.
When I think about it, I was able to meet new people and gain good friends in the exact same way that I did in video games.
And this is through shared experiences. Doing something you really enjoy together—whether it’s work, sports, or another hobby.
Now, as you might have noticed, everything that I’ve shared and talked about in this article ties together.
Because here is, once again, the crux of it all:
Finding friends and a community in real life is about knowing who you are and knowing which community you are looking for.
And one way to know who you are is by getting out there in the world and discovering your qualities, talents, skills, and what brings meaning to your life.
A Few Last Words
If what you are reading resonates in some way because video games are doing the same for you as they did for me, you have to realize the following: At some point, you need to make a decision.
I made that decision when I was 18 because I was terribly miserable.
Yes, you can keep logging in online and escape from unhappiness, boredom, or whatever reason you may have.
But in the end, you will always have to log out sometime.
Real life is still going to be the place where you will always end up.
I do not think I could have kept living with how I felt back then. At some point, even video games would not have continued to save me.
Looking back, it was the four walls of my room that were my prison cell. And it was by breaking out of those four walls, breaking out of that room, and getting out of there into the world that I started to see how life can be different.
Oftentimes, it’s our own environment and the people surrounding us that keep us stuck in a certain mindset or in a certain way of living.
So take a chance at life and leave your prison cell. That is the only way to truly discover what opportunities life may have in store for you.
I hope that, in some way, this blog post was able to show you something that no one ever showed me back then: that life can be different. And that life can be awesome in so many ways.