What a difference a year makes: Gaming edition

Last week at 18xx, Alex commented he would’ve never suspected I’d only been playing heavier games for a year.  I was pretty nonchalant in response, but his comment has really stuck with me.  It’s a big deal!  I was looking at my profile and noticed I joined Greater Boston Cube Cartel  almost exactly a year ago on March 29, 2014.   A year ago, I don’t think I would’ve imagined GBCC would so quickly become my favorite gaming group, and the regulars would be among my favorite folks with whom to game.

Thanks to my paradoxical reaction to Baclofen in April 2013, which lifted the veil of chronic fatigue*, I joined Boston Social Strategy (and Slightly Silly) Gamers in May 2013.  I hadn’t realized I joined so quickly after starting Baclofen, but the changes it made to my quality of life were nearly instant.  I still had a lot of executive functioning issues (and still do at times), but I felt really comfortable at BSSG.  I’d been hosting a monthly gaming group since 2011.  At the time, I owned Ticket to Ride, Forbidden Island, Citadels, San Juan and a host of traditional games.  BSSG played games of that caliber and above.  I attended most of the meetups and stuck mostly with lighter games while I continued working to increase my executive functioning.

I joined Beantown Bridge around the same time as BSSG.  I remember how difficult it was initially for me to focus when playing bridge.  I also had problems learning rules when gaming.  But slowly and consistently my ability to employ critical thinking skills improved. I’d been a philosophy PhD student in the 90’s, so the ability used to be there.  After being so isolated and brain fogged since 2003, it felt like such an accomplishment to attend these gaming Meetups a few times a week.

Few people in general, and no gamers, knew how difficult it was for me.  I’d been seeing Lynda, my “disability therapist,” weekly since 2004.  My ability to make decisions was so compromised that we’d talk about what I most needed to do.  On an index card, she’d make a list of three things I was to accomplish in the next week.  We’re talking about simple tasks, e.g. make a phone call or find checks, envelopes and stamps to pay bills, tasks I struggled to concentrate long enough to complete.   In my last neuropsych eval in 2008, several areas of cognitive functioning were deficient, none more than my reading ability. I’d noticed an inability to read subtitles when watching movies and specifically asked that it be tested as part of the eval. It came back that my reading comprehension was in the 6th percentile and reading speed in the 3rd percentile. I also had problems with memory, concentration and processing speed.

Over time I started expressing interest in playing heavier games.  It was difficult at first, but slowly I began to adapt. By March I was playing mostly medium to heavier games and rarely wanting to play lighter games any longer, which led to me joining GBCC. Recently I had a chance to play 18xx and loved it. I’m looking forward to playing many more 18xx games.

In addition to the cognitive improvements, I was also able to go out for the first time in several years. Prior to 2013, if I went out socially a couple of times a month, it was a lot. I was usually too fatigued to even have an interest in going out. Beginning to game and joining Beantown Bridge and GBCC really improved my social life too.

I’m so grateful for the gamers who’ve been patient with me when I struggle to comprehend rules, patiently repeating rules until I eventually get them. Gaming has become a new phase of my recovery. I’m so grateful for all the progress it’s helping me make in not only regaining cognitive function, but in giving me back some confidence that I am able to think strategically and thoughtfully and in helping me develop a social life.

 

  • From November 2012 until April 2013, I was in the longest and worst chronic fatigue relapse/fibro flare I’d experienced since the accident.  I’d been taking Flexeril nightly since the car accident in 2002 for muscle spasms, but my insurance formulary changed, and it was no longer covered.  Baclofen is typically prescribed for MS patients who suffer from spasticity, but my muscle spasms were severe enough (and I’d already tried most other muscle relaxers) that we decided to try it.  Almost from the first dose, I felt as though Baclofen had given me back a quality of life worth living.  It felt like a wet blanket of chronic fatigue was lifted off me. Without the pain and fatigue to cloud my thinking, over time my ability to game significantly improved.

 

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