Woman Wishes Her Depressed BF Cared As Much About His Life And Appearance As He Did Pokémon Go
Love is hard. It's even harder when life stacks the deck against you. One woman was so frustrated by her situation that she turned to Reddit for help. Her back story involves a partner with depression and questionable hygiene, an extended period of separation because of work, Pokemon Go and some dead mice in the kitchen. Yeah, it kinda took a turn for the unexpected there at the end.
The 31 year-old woman posted that she was concerned for her 34 year-old boyfriend. He had always struggled with insecurities and depression, but things really fell apart when she had to move away for six months for work. They kept in constant communication and saw each other once a month, but as time went on things started to get worse. He stopped showering, his hair was so filthy that it had actual chunks falling out of it. His visits devolved into her forcing him to take care of himself. When she was able to move back into their home, it was a wreck. He let things get so bad that she found several dead mice in the kitchen and it took her an entire month to clean and restore their home.
That's not to say that he didn't do anything while she was gone. He poured himself heart and soul into Pokemon Go. His obsession got him in trouble at work because he was playing and coordinating raids when he should have been working. He stopped coming to bed so he could play. It got to the point where a simple trip to the grocery store involved several stops or detours so he could play. He started skipping work to play. When they had days off together he would plan Pokemon raids rather than spend time with her or help with chores. Long story short, Pokemon Go became his entire world and she was understandably worried.
Here's her original post
My SO is currently dealing with some depression issues, but his Pokemon Go choices are starting to make me wonder how much of his life is in turmoil because of depression and how much is because he just doesn't care.
I've known my SO for 8 years, dating for 3.5 (knew each other through previous relationships, same friend group). Before we dated, I always thought he was a cool guy who was good at everything. And it's true, he IS handsome and has great style and he IS smart and good at many things. But the person we all thought he was is actually a front for an insecure, scared human being. He projects being "good" at things because he was raised that way—son of immigrant parents who are VERY hard on him personally and culturally—and he feels like he needs to be the best, all the time.
I noticed early on that he gets overwhelmed easily. He pretends to know things then researches the crap out of them to get by doing whatever he's doing. He survives purely on intuition and fake confidence, but he crumbles in secret. He gets sick ALL the time from lack of sleep and stress. He started therapy at my request to help him learn coping mechanisms and because I suspected he was struggling with depression.
Anyway, things fell apart this summer for him when I left for a 6-month academic stint back east (2,000 miles apart). We saw each other once a month and it was good each time, but the last time he visited, his hair was so dirty from not showering that it had actual chunks of dry shampoo falling out of it...I made him shower as soon as he got to my apartment. I came home from my 6-month program and our home was in shambles. I smelled something dead and there were THREE dead mice in the kitchen! It was disgusting. Everything was dirty. I spent the entire month of November cleaning, reorganizing the house, and generally trying to pull him back together. He made an appointment this week to get medication for his depression at the recommendation of his therapist.
Now, this all sounds like standard depression stuff, right? Okay, but imagine in the background of all of this, he somehow reached level 40 in Pokemon Go and spends ALL his time playing it. I mean, he gets the bare minimum done to survive in life and work his good full-time job, but he got in trouble at his job for having Pokemon on his iPad and being distracted by it. When he's not doing Pokemon, he's on discord trying to get people together to do raids and shit. While I'm sleeping, he puts together Pokemon 'teams' to raid and stuff, trying to get the best combos. We can't go to the grocery store without him making me stop for at least 2 gyms or raid battles. I have an account, which I made in June as a way of staying connected while I was away at school, and he obsesses over leveling up my character (which I got to level 30 by myself, by the way, it's not like I need help). On the weekends, we don't plan things, he just looks for raids and does them instead of doing chores or running errands.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Pokemon Go. I think community days are fun and I like walking around, but this is like, next-level shit. Why is he so able to succeed in the Pokemon game but real life is a HUGE struggle for him? He calls out of work at least 4 times a month because he's "sick," the house is disgusting if I'm not here, and he gained 10 lbs from only eating take out while I was away and not working out because "he's sick"... but he can literally spend the entire day playing Pokemon? I do not understand. If he put 10% of the effort into his life that he puts into that game, his shit would be together! He's planning on going back to school next year for a career change and I'm truly worried that he's going to sit on campus playing Pokemon instead of doing the schoolwork, then he'll get stressed out about his procrastination and then he'll break down. It's a cycle and I don't know what to do to help him.
At this point, we've talked about his Pokemon obsession but he's extremely fragile right now and everything I say feels like criticism. I'm trying hard to be gentle with him since I essentially flipped out over the dirty house full of dead mice and made him feel horrible about himself. I just wish life was like Pokemon and he would spend time doing tasks and getting rewarded the same as the game.
Yeah ... that's a lot to take in. Reddit kind of collectively took a deep breath and reached out to help, though. Here are some of the more popular responses.
Gamify Real Life
PoGo is, at this point, a realm in which he doesn't have to pretend. He doesn't feel he has to fake anything, because he is good at it and the game doesn't really require any skill. Anyone who just keeps grinding can get to level 40.
I just wish life was like Pokemon and he would spend time doing tasks and getting rewarded the same as the game.
I mean, if you both think that could help there's no reason why you can't set up some kind of reward system. He might also like HabitRPG or any of the other apps that gamify getting your adult sh*t done.
What he is doing is super super common with depression. He is obsessing over something outside of his "miserable life" reality and that he is good at. Luckily he isn't gambling or overspending, etc. This is something he should talk to his therapist about because it is interfering with his ability to perform in real life.
Oh. This is easy. Pokemon Go is his hideaway. It's his safe place to feel like a success. He knows it all, the variables in it are limited, he can figure it all out.
The whole world overwhelms him, so he lives in Pokemon Go. It gives him a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
You need to talk to him.
Reading through the comments and responses we learn a few new things. Evidently boyfriend had made an attempt on his own life several years ago, just after high school. He was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and prescribed medication. His mother refused to believe the diagnosis, particularly because she considered it shameful in her culture. Mom convinced him that the doctor was just trying to sell him pills so he could make a profit. He spent his twenties getting no mental health treatment.
The original poster took some time to consider people's advice and put some stuff into practice. After about two weeks, we got an update.
After posting here, I took some of the comments about depression and talked to my SO about how he feels and what I can do to be a better support system for him. He's still continuing therapy and his medication is slightly helping (although it'll take a few more weeks to really kick in) but he registered for his prereq classes without me saying anything or reminding him and he has been trying to help with cleaning when he can. So there has been some overall improvement.
We also talked about Pokemon Go, how he's using it as a coping mechanism and how that's okay (I cannot stress enough how I want him to still feel okay playing), but also how we can't just drop everything all the time for it. We just got back from a small holiday trip and the entire time, he kept the Pokemon Go under control and played when we wanted but not when we were doing dinner, taking parents places, and such. He showed a lot of restraint and a lot of respect for the stuff we talked about.
I have also done a few raids with him and his people from discord, and I'm really glad he has this group of random Pokemon people that he knows by their Pokemon nicknames and stuff. It's actually very sweet, and not forced socialization or awkward adult-friend-making...they just go do raids, trade pokemon and know each other from these small moments. It's good for him, especially as his social circle has shrunk over the past few years. It's all so low key and low pressure that I really do think it's healthy for him to do these raids and talk to people about his hobby.
I'm also trying to be receptive that his way of "giving" to me right now is by helping me with the game. He really likes to play PoGo with me and gets excited when I get a shiny or catch a legendary in a raid. I have to realize that while the depression stops him from acting like he cares about stuff like cleaning or eating, this is a small glimpse into what he can be like once he gets better again (and also, a glimpse of his old self).
I wanted to thank everyone who shared their stories of depression and opened my eyes to the fact that there is so much more to being depressed than just being unmotivated/sad/empty. I had no idea that his motivation in the game was part of the depression and part of coping with life. Thanks for all the stories, seriously, they meant so much.