What Dungeons And Dragons Taught Me About Social Anxiety

What Dungeons And Dragons Taught Me About Social Anxiety

Can role-play really help the mind overcome its own barriers?

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When you think of Dungeons and Dragons, you probably think of socially awkward nerds gathered around a table in a basement, dressed in magical robes, eating Cheetos and drinking soda . Well, I resent that statement. Because we gather around my kitchen table, thank you very much. Last week, I wore my LuLaRoe leggings, and we partook in pizza and alcohol. But this isn't necessarily about how DND has changed, but how it has changed me.

I've struggled with anxiety my whole life, a large portion of it being social. Being afraid of new people not liking me has been the norm for years and I've learned to live with that. A few years ago I fell into a group of friends that shared my awkward and nerdy ideals, and we started a role playing group to play DND. It was then that I discovered a whole new world. A world where my personality, my background, my entire character was my own creation.

For anyone who doesn't know, the entire basis of DND is that you can be anything. You get to make up your entire personality and decide if you want to be primarily wise, strong, charismatic, etc. Your backstory is an open book waiting for your imagination to fill it in. Angry dwarf with a soft spot for music? Sneaky rogue who fights for social justice? Juggling elf with a mean Blueberry pie recipe? It's all fair game. And therein lies the magic.

When I'm playing DND, I'm not confined to my anxiety. I'm only confined by my own imagination. I get to act out everything as if I was my own character and that means I can be a total badass. My character is nothing like me - she's sassy yet kind, apathetic yet adventurous. She has quirks and hobbies that are nothing like mine. She's the farthest thing from the anxious mess that I am. That one day a week when I can gather with other people and pull her out is what I look forward to whenever I'm struggling. I pull from her strength when I need an extra push, and getting to portray her every week is an escape for me.

My DND character, Lucinda, has been a teacher to me. Sure, she's fun to play. But she's so much more. She's a reminder that I can be anything. That my character flaws don't define me. That I can be bigger than my doubts and fears. She's a lesson in acting and in perseverance. As long as she exists, my anxiety doesn't. I can fit in better with people and have fun easier. I can escape from the real world and find strength in hers. So while it may be true that DND is a game for nerds, that we gather around and eat terrible food and drink sugary drinks; it's also an escape and a life changing experience. It's overcoming hurdles and putting my anxiety on the back burner so I can be an adventurer, a dancer, a fighter, or anything I want to be. My social anxiety may never fully go away, but I can at least let it dissolve while I role-play... and that's the best thing I could hope for.

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