Dystonia and Dice

I’ve been teasing this for a while, so here it is.

People who know me in real life know that I have a neurological disorder called dystonia. On the grand scale of things, it’s one of the more common, uncommon disorders. Put simply, my brain sends conflicting signals to opposing muscle groups and tells them both to contract at the same time, this produces a pronounced twitch, spasm or seizure of the muscles.

Normally, other than a tremor in my hands, you wouldn’t be able to tell so a lot of people don’t realise I’m disabled. I’m also lucky in that, unlike some sufferers, I don’t experience chronic pain as a result of the disorder. On the other hand, unlike many other sufferers, my dystonia isn’t located in any one specific muscle group. As a result, the tremor can become a mild twitch in my forearm, the complete seizure of my back muscles, a pronounced spasm of my neck muscles or (in the worst cases) a stutter/difficulty pronouncing certain letters as my mouth and throat muscles are affected.

As you can probably imagine, the condition itself has caused me to be very self-aware of how I come across to others resulting in increased anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression on rare occasions.

I’ve already spoken about the benefits of a gaming group in terms of a support network for mental health issues and this post is more of a supporting coda to that one.

Frequently, on bad days, my condition leaves me drained (mentally and physically). As a result, I struggle to focus on things, I find it difficult to remember things and generally my state of mind isn’t all that suitable for role-playing.

With all the above in mind, here are some of the coping mechanisms I’ve developed to help my role-playing with a neurological disorder that affects motor functions.

1: Laugh.

With the pretty much constant tremor in my hand(s), I’ve already got a built in dice-roller. On a more serious note though, if I weren’t able to laugh about the obvious signs of my disability, I would suffer even worse mental health problems. It’s difficult to laugh things off all the time, but it helps me to remain optimistic about what I can and can’t do outside of the game.

2: Focus on what you can focus on.

Habitually, I keep in character journals as a way of internalising my notes and developing my ability to write in a different voice. It also helps me to work out the intricacies of my character’s mental state.

When I’m having a bad day and my mind struggles to focus on the game as a whole, I try to listen to what’s happening and summarise it as best I can whilst other players are engaging in role-play. This means that I can check what has happened already when I come to role-play and allows me to have a rough idea of what is happening.

On the down side, this approach means that I don’t always know what has been said in group conversations, and I do appear distracted, but my group thankfully understands the problem and is forgiving.

3: Immerse yourself.

The journal keeping helps with this, but it helps to fully immerse myself in the character. I’m one of those role-players who acts things out where possible (complete with silly voices) because that’s what I enjoy about role-playing. The improv aspect of the hobby helps distract me from my own problems and helps me realise my character as well as I can.

On top of this, I’m more focused on not corpsing at the absurdity of the things I’m saying and the odd voices I’m using that the tremors, the twitches and the other problems fade away for a while.

I might return to this subject in the future, but for now, this is as much an in-depth examination of my condition as I am comfortable with. I hope it has been enlightening, or helpful to those in a similar situation. For now though, thank you for reading.

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