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Anxiety and Burnout

  • Red_Nova
  • 07/02/2019 12:58 AM
  • 2816 views
This blog took me three hours to write, for reasons that will become very clear soon. Strap in, folks. This isn't gonna be a fun one.

All day today, I was racking my brain over what I wanted to talk about for this month's blog. So far, it was looking like this was gonna be yet another "I'm still at it, y'all, I swear!" blog where I'd throw out the same lines about making slow progress but can't go into detail because it's the very end of the game and it's chock full of spoilers. I wanted to draw up a progress diagram to show off what was left to do before release, but one look at the list of tasks that I had tried (and failed) to complete last month made my stomach churn. I thought I'd show off some new areas or pixel art I had made, but I then realized I actually had nothing to show off for reasons of either spoilers or my inner critic drowning out any confidence I had in what I DID make.

This is normally where I'd shrug it off, remember that I'm not in the most exciting phase of development right now, and simply apologize for not having anything substantial to talk about. Today, however, something felt different. I just couldn't bring myself to do that. The pressure to keep working felt far heavier, my mood was at a near record low (which, considering the tone of the game I'm working on, is saying something), and the anxiety over the constant delays was so overbearing I could almost feel it in my gut. My brain has been refusing to cooperate with me today, instead forcing me to relive every single failure I've ever had over the course of this game's development, each one piling on top of the previous ones to become a mountain of crushing guilt and shame that I couldn't shake off no matter how hard I tried. And the more I tried to divert attention from it all, the more sharper the pain became.

"Okay, fine," I thought. "So I'm a little burned out. Seems fair enough. I have been at this game for over four years now almost nonstop. I'll just sprint to the finish line with the last tester's build for round 1, and then I'll take a break while they go through the end game."

And that was going to be the plan. At least, until the moment I stared brainstorming the topic of this blog, recounting exactly what was going on earlier today, when I realized the truth about what happened to me: I had an anxiety attack.

Looking back now, it's so obvious it's almost pathetic. This is not the first time I've had one, especially recently. I've never felt the need to bring them up in the past because, well, who ENJOYS writing or reading about something like this? In fact, the only reason why I'm bringing this up now is because the causes of this particular attack are clear as day: Prayer of the Faithless, and the weight of my own expectations.

Once I realized what was happening, I knew I couldn't wait until I was done with this last chapter before taking a break. I needed time away from this game, and I needed it now. I'm going to eject myself from PotF, the sheer soul-crushing negativity of where I'm at in the story, and just get away from RPG Maker for a while. A week, at the bare minimum. After seven days have gone by, I'll check in with myself, see how I feel, and decide where to go from there. I always tell people that they need to put themselves first and foremost, and I think it's time to finally take my own advice.

I'll still be around. In fact, I plan on making more of an effort to interact with RMN during my time off. I've been a lurker these past, uh *checks post history* few months, but with all that's been going on, actually taking the time to post just... fell by the wayside.

Just to be clear, PotF isn't cancelled. I wouldn't even put it on hiatus. This is just a short, one week break that will probably pass in the blink of an eye for most of you. But it's a blink I really need right now. I hope you understand.

Posts

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unity
You're magical to me.
12188
*huuuuugs* Burnout is real, and while I don't think I've ever had a panic attack, I know that feeling in your gut when your own expectations are crushing you and you've been thinking about nothing except a single project for a looooong period of time.

Take all the time you need! PotF will be awesome no matter when it gets done, and it'll absolutely be worth the wait! :DDD
zDS
Besr Richard Slayer
5044
I've been in an extreme state of burnout for like 8 months now. I advise not to set time limits for your break. Break as long as you need. Game development is not worth becoming utterly miserable.

Delays are not pissing anyone off. We all understand.

When you do finish, it will set off another set of anxiety. Not trying to make this worse for you, more like I'm trying to say: it will vastly help to be clear of head and ready to fight.

Take all the time you need to ENJOY making it again. It doesn't matter if you're close to the finish line. Those last steps can be the most intense and that intensity is draining.

When you're ready to get back into the ring, I'll back ya up and tell you the crucial stuff I learned since I released my thing into the commercial market. Take all the time you need first, my friend. Try to forget this project even exists until you can clearly breathe the fresh air again.
Cap_H
DIGITAL IDENTITY CRISIS
6615
Anxiety sucks.
Take a break and get little social. Chill with others around here and talk about your game casually. Other people talking about their projects is what usually motivates me in a positive way.
zDs is right. Take all the time you need! I think it's a great idea to just reset in a week's time and see how you feel then, and decide from there. Just know more break is always an option
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7616
Thanks for all the support, everyone! It means a lot to see all this positive reception from you all!

unity: thanks. I feel confidant that, once I get back into it, I'll be kicking this game's butt. Yesterday was just a perfect storm of a low mood, the unfinished milestones, and the emotional weight of where I was in PotF's story that triggered a panic attack. I'm already looking forward to getting back to work after the break.

zDS: I understand that there's still a lot to do when I come back. That's just one of the many factors that lead to the attack. I'm not assigning a hard one week deadline for a break, but just checking in with myself and seeing where I need to go from there.

Cap: honestly, I'd rather talk about OTHER people's games for a while instead of my own. Last time I got a boost of motivation to work on PotF was when I was testinv Weird and Unfortunate Things are Happening. I'm gonna spend this week looking at other people's games and see where that takes me.

Kylaila: thanks. I planned out a week specifically with the understanding that more time could very well be added on. A week is just a check in period to see how I am.
CashmereCat
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
10992
Have a good rest, Red_Nova. Much love <3
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
19694
You can't rest here! Monsters are near!



I kid, of course. I'm very much aware of the need to take a step back, taking a breather from things, only to come back full force (if not more so) when you're Ready.
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
26973
It's boring to go alone! Take this! (Hands you a pina colada)

Rest your weary soul and return to us renewed my friend!
Speaking as someone who's barely lifted a finger since my last project: If you're ever feeling guilty about taking this break, don't forget that you're in a pretty good position to justify doing so. You don't have backers, or stakeholders, or have a $200,000 kickstarter that was supposed to ship in 2014 or whatever. One of the benefits of being super small is that the risk for these much-needed breaks is much lower than projects with bigger budgets or clout surrounding them and you can take all the time you need to get where you need to be.

The opportunity is there. Absolutely go for it and pat yourself on the back for powering through this as long as you have. It's a well-earned rest.
Anxiety and panic attacks suck, and stepping away and taking care of your mental health first is the right call! I hope you enjoy your break!

All I can give is:
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7616
author=CashmereCat
Have a good rest, Red_Nova. Much love <3

Thanks Cash!

author=pianotm
It's boring to go alone! Take this! (Hands you a pina colada)

Rest your weary soul and return to us renewed my friend!


I will. I'm feeling better each day!

author=Sgt M
Speaking as someone who's barely lifted a finger since my last project: If you're ever feeling guilty about taking this break, don't forget that you're in a pretty good position to justify doing so. You don't have backers, or stakeholders, or have a $200,000 kickstarter that was supposed to ship in 2014 or whatever. One of the benefits of being super small is that the risk for these much-needed breaks is much lower than projects with bigger budgets or clout surrounding them and you can take all the time you need to get where you need to be.

The opportunity is there. Absolutely go for it and pat yourself on the back for powering through this as long as you have. It's a well-earned rest.


Yeah, I think about this every now and then. The idea of doing a Kickstarter for this game to commission some more professional assets had crossed my mind a long time ago, but I chose not to go that route because of exactly what you described. Even if I had a successful Kickstarter, the pressure that would have put on me probably would have been too much without a serious overhaul of my development process (a process that I'm STILL trying to nail down, even now). Not going for crowdfunding was the best route to take, I feel.

For those that haven't seen the trailer, this game was supposed to come out a year ago. At the time, I really thought I could do it. But, of course, life decided to kick me in the nuts not too long after the trailer came out and, well, here we are.

author=GreatRedSpirit
Anxiety and panic attacks suck, and stepping away and taking care of your mental health first is the right call! I hope you enjoy your break!

All I can give is:


This is... perfect! Exactly what I need!
Your game is awesome, and it's awesome even if you never finish it.

No game is worth burning yourself out for. Rest up, feel better, and if you want to take a look at my new game for some reason, lemme know. It's dumb tabletop stuff so it's just, like, MANY WORDS, but I guess there's technically variety to that.
Take your time. The game can wait as long as you need, and we can wait too. Don't overdo yourself. While we care about the game, we care more about you and your health. Take it easy, have a pleasant break!
I hope you're feeling better! : )
Remember: You are making this game for yourself and your creative fulfillment first and foremost, also this is a community where a 10+ year project with multi year hiatuses are normal. Crunch & grind all your need, hold yourself to a high standard if that motivates you. But guilt & shame are anathema to creativity.

I tend to do Gam Mak when I'm burnt out on writing, writing when I'm burnt out on Gam Mak. I get so little done, and also lead a stressful adult life full of adulting. As do we all. You should be proud of what you've accomplished and do what you need to do when you need to do it. Panic attacks suck & makers can be stressful because there's always so much to do, it's easy to get in that maker hole and miss the forest for the trees. But your first responsibility is to enjoy yourself :D
kentona
I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
21237
Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding in the face of mistakes and failures.

"In fact, several studies show that self-compassion supports motivation and personal growth. Not only does it decrease psychological distress, which we now know is a primary culprit for procrastination, it also actively boosts motivation, enhances feelings of self-worth and fosters positive emotions like optimism, wisdom, curiosity and personal initiative. Best of all, self-compassion doesn't require anything external — just a commitment to meeting your challenges with greater acceptance and kindness rather than rumination and regret."

I still haven't quite figured out how to do this for myself, but maybe you'll have better luck than I did.
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7616
Holy shit the amount of support shown here is incredible. Thanks so much for your kind words, everyone! You all are amazing.

As I said in the blog, this is not the first time I've had an anxiety attack (though they aren't usually caused by gam mak). I'm usually ready to get back in the fight the following day, and I feel like I could get back to being productive if I really wanted to. However, this time I wanted to give myself extra time to make absolutely sure I'm ready to go at this last sequence at my best.

Your kind words have contributed to a much quicker recovery, though, I promise you that. I actually feel excited to get back to work once the time comes. But I said I'd check in after a week, and that's what I'm gonna do. Just know that I can't possibly express the true depth of my appreciation for you all through words alone.

author=kumada
Your game is awesome, and it's awesome even if you never finish it.

No game is worth burning yourself out for. Rest up, feel better, and if you want to take a look at my new game for some reason, lemme know. It's dumb tabletop stuff so it's just, like, MANY WORDS, but I guess there's technically variety to that.


Thanks kumada, but I have every intention of finishing PotF. I'm close enough to the finish line that I know I can do it with one last burst of energy.

Your offer sounds really nice, actually. I have zero experience in tabletop RPGs, so I'm not sure how helpful I can be, but I'd like to give it a try.

author=SilviuTM
Take your time. The game can wait as long as you need, and we can wait too. Don't overdo yourself. While we care about the game, we care more about you and your health. Take it easy, have a pleasant break!
I hope you're feeling better! : )


Thanks SilviuTM. I really appreciate it. I already feel loads better now than I did a few months ago.


author=nemojbatkastle
Remember: You are making this game for yourself and your creative fulfillment first and foremost, also this is a community where a 10+ year project with multi year hiatuses are normal. Crunch & grind all your need, hold yourself to a high standard if that motivates you. But guilt & shame are anathema to creativity.

I tend to do Gam Mak when I'm burnt out on writing, writing when I'm burnt out on Gam Mak. I get so little done, and also lead a stressful adult life full of adulting. As do we all. You should be proud of what you've accomplished and do what you need to do when you need to do it. Panic attacks suck & makers can be stressful because there's always so much to do, it's easy to get in that maker hole and miss the forest for the trees. But your first responsibility is to enjoy yourself :D


Your burnout process sounds kinda familiar with my own. I draw when I'm tired of coding, which I do when I'm tired of writing, etc. That worked for the 4+ years of PotF development, so I thought I was doing fine.

It's only now that I realize that I was getting burnt out of PotF after 4+ years and could have used a break sooner. Of course, now that I'm writing this, I can't help but think "well, DUH, idiot!" but at least I know now for future projects.

author=kentona
Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding in the face of mistakes and failures.

"In fact, several studies show that self-compassion supports motivation and personal growth. Not only does it decrease psychological distress, which we now know is a primary culprit for procrastination, it also actively boosts motivation, enhances feelings of self-worth and fosters positive emotions like optimism, wisdom, curiosity and personal initiative. Best of all, self-compassion doesn't require anything external — just a commitment to meeting your challenges with greater acceptance and kindness rather than rumination and regret."

I still haven't quite figured out how to do this for myself, but maybe you'll have better luck than I did.


We'll figure it out, eventually.
I'll PM you. Never-played-tabletop feedback would be helpful, since it'll be a good test of whether I'm explaining the rules clearly.
You wouldn't be surprised when you can't speak fluent Japanese when you didn't practice it, nor learned much about it, same is true for that. Y'all know that though, just saying it's ok to suck at good things too. Can't say it often enough! I know I do many a time. For example, I kinda put off doing real things most of the day, and managed to do it in the late afternoon/early evening - actually, reading kentona's article prompted me right into that. Stopped reading and did fun things, so thanks kentona! I feel sooo much better now. I just have to kind of be nice to me for waiting so long when I knew full well.. WELP it's ok.
AHEM, the point is! Any area that's getting better is an awesome revelation to witness. There or not *shrugs* ain't no perfect human alive.
NeverSilent
Got any Dexreth amulets?
6132
You made the right decision. If it takes you two weeks to recover, take those two weeks. If it takes three weeks, take those. The feeling of obligation can be a strong source of motivation, but nobody deserves to feel guilty for putting their own well-being above the production of an entertainment product.

Here's a stupid story: Before today, I hadn't logged into RMN for weeks. The reason for this was: I had neglected to do things I felt I was obliged to do around here, like test and give feedback on games, upload videos, or comment on the previous PotF blog, for example. The feeling of guilt over what I considered me having let people down just kept piling up, until I didn't even want to open the site up any more.

Why talk about myself when this is clearly about you? Well, looking back now, I realise immediately that my thought process was absurd, and that I most likely didn't utterly fail you and proved myself to be a bad person for being unable to think of anything meaningful to post on your previous blog. That doesn't mean the feeling of anxiety isn't real, though.

What I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't even feel the need to apologise for wanting to take a break, or for not posting some sort of elaborate blog. You are allowed to pour your heart and soul into your game and its presentation; and your work is very much appreciated; but you are not obliged to do any of that. Nobody is going to be upset with you if you're not perfect all the time, and nobody is going to blame you if you don't feel up to a task sometimes. That feeling of obligation stops being a useful motivator once it crosses the line of ambitious goals into the territory of unrealistic and harmful expectations. Especially when all this pressure comes from within, it's useful to take a step back and consider what it is that actually matters. And I'm glad you did that. Enjoy your break!
Take the break you need. Your health is more important than any game development progress. Do the things you like: you know, those activities you used to enjoy doing but got eaten up by PotF. It's maybe the right time to re-balance the amount of time spent on game development and the other things you like. A better balance will give you more satisfaction overall.
Lately, I've spent a lot of time on a single project (not a game) and feel the need to spend time on activities I left on the side. I should apply my own advice more before suggesting it to you but I hope it helps you get better.
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