Onyx Shortclaw was the first character I ever made for Dungeons and Dragons when my friends and I started playing. Onyx didn’t talk much. She still doesn’t. But Onyx was my safe place, so I could still step outside (metaphorically) and socialise, even when I was having a bad day. Having the excuse not to have to talk if I didn’t feel up to it, to be able to sit there and soak up the atmosphere without any pressure to jump into the fold.
Even with my closest friends, I find it difficult to start a conversation. I’ve always been convinced that they’d have more fun without me. That they’re just humouring me, out of pity or obligation. But Onyx helped me through that. For me, role playing games have had a massive impact on my ability and willingness to move forward. It helped me explore things I usually shied away from, safe and secure in the illusion of separation.
Nobody likes to talk about mental health.
I spent a long time thinking that I couldn’t talk about depression or anxiety. That I hadn’t suffered enough to have these conditions. That I must be weak to feel the way I do when so many people go through worse and come out better. Sometimes I still believe that.
It’s easy to hide behind a screen and tell my story. It’s easy to pretend to be someone else, so that I don’t have to face everything I hate about myself. It’s easy to step into the shoes of one of my characters. Someone strong and independent. Someone with “real” problems that they somehow overcome with grace and flair. And maybe, just maybe, when my characters learn to accept their flaws, I can learn with them.
I have scars that I am still afraid to wear with pride. I am a survivor, but I still can’t see myself that way. But I’m at the point in my life that I want to see it. I want to love myself, because that’s what I deserve. It’s what we all deserve.
I come to you as Onyx Shortclaw, because even hiding behind my screen isn’t quite enough to make this feel safe. I have never been good at taking risks or putting myself out there. But Onyx has always overcome her anxiety in order to help people. More than anything else, my hope is that the words I write can reach someone. Even just one person, needing to hear that they aren’t alone.