How in times of isolation I found hope, solace and connection

How in times of isolation I found hope, solace and connection

Author: Francisco Toldy

On March 7th the university I study at in Portugal announced it was going to close for a period of time due to the outbreak of COVID-19 on campus. This measure was one of many, which included a nationwide state of emergency, that effectively overhauled the way our nation and, to a greater scope, the world, lived its day to day lives. As a person with anxiety and depressive tendencies, this was one of the most triggering periods of my life. Before this I had spent 3 years in therapy, finding ways to cope and to reduce the way my anxiety controlled some aspects of my personality. I was making progress, with some setbacks, but the changes were noticeable.

Then the lockdown started and it was like all that momentum ground to a halt. I lost complete sense of my daily routine and for weeks I avoided having quality time with my parents, effectively isolating myself from them. I didn’t leave my room for weeks except for meals, spending some days in bed, feeling completely unfocused and without any drive to do anything.

I’d rarely experienced that in my life, and surely never for such a long period of time. And it wasn’t for any lack of support: I had my friends, my family and an understanding and loving girlfriend, all worried about me and trying to help me in the best way they could.

Beyond all that support, something that kept me going were the 2 hours of “me time” that I had in front of the tv late at night after my parents went to sleep. Since I’m a story-focused player, the game I chose was Death Stranding. It was an oddly fitting game. Much like everybody right now, Sam Porter Bridges avoided human touch; he spent his days traversing an empty landscape completely alone, connecting people across the country, delivering packages, rarely interacting with other people through other means than screens or holograms. With clear recommendations to not leave my house, it was in-game, while connecting the remnants of America, that I had my chance to stretch my legs, to “see” something outside my apartment. On a smaller scale, there was also a side mission that hit close to home about a couple stranded in different outposts. In such an empty gameworld, I was able to use the tools left by other players to progress my own story, and that felt like I was interacting with other players out there in the same situation as me. Thinking about that filled me with hope.

Complementing that lonely gaming experience was a shared one: a game I didn’t play, but actually watched someone I care about play while away from me. Early into the quarantine, my girlfriend and I (who is living 1 hour away), found a screen sharing app, which we first used to watch some movies but then decided to try something new. That led us to “Life is Strange 2”, the sequel to a game we held very dearly, “Life is Strange”. Since only one of us could play it, we decided that she would play while I watched.There were difficulties: the connection didn’t work very well sometimes and I’d find myself watching “slideshows” of the gameplay. But after 15 hours and as credits rolled, I felt as if she was right beside me, watching and feeling every story beat that we had just experienced. In a time where physical connection isn’t possible, those were some of the hours where I felt closer to her.

Now, with both those games stories done and the quarantine slowly winding down, the fear is still there, the anxiety is still there and I’m still depressed some days. But I overall feel more hopeful and more productive everyday and I’m starting to build a more consistent routine.

Also, “Life is Strange 2“ is done but since then we’ve found some other games to play, (Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” is up next). However I’m still not done with Death Stranding as it has taken a place in my routine. No matter how good or bad the day was – I still go to the couch, boot up the PS4 and walk those hills, travel those roads, connecting people on my way to the platinum trophy and finding another way of not letting go of that comfort so soon, at least until I find another world to lose myself into.

Thanks to my girlfriend for walking with me on this journey.