The 30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge is made up of a series of writing prompts that focus on chronic illness and what it is like to live with one. It was created by @cfs_zombie. I first learned about it when someone reblogged it onto my Tumblr dashboard. I am now working on the second half of the project. There have been some days when the most difficult part of the Challenge was coming up with enough energy to write about it.

Day 16: What is your favorite inspirational quote?

My favorite inspirational quote is: What doesn’t kill me gives me XP. I’ve no idea who originally said that particular quote. The image of it that you see in this blog comes from the Keep Calm and Carry On Image Generator. I’ve also seen this quote floating around the internet in a slightly different version: That which does not kill me gives me XP.

That second variation is itself a variation of a quote by Friedrich Nietzche. He said: That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

I prefer the “XP” version to the original mostly because it is a gamer reference. Instead of writing out the phrase “experience points” you just type XP. I’ve been playing video games since I was a little kid. (I’m also part of the Shattered Soulstone podcast, which is about Diablo III).

I used to refer to myself as a “gamer girl” because I felt that it made it more obvious that I was a female who liked to play video games. When I was a kid, there were very few girls who liked to play video games (and a few who did like to play but wanted to keep that a secret). Video games were considered “boys toys”.

I thought that if I made it clear that I was a “gamer girl”, perhaps it would encourage the little girls of today to go ahead and play video games. I wanted to be the example that I didn’t have when I was a kid.

Also, I hoped that women could wrest the meaning of “gamer girl” away from the negative connotation that has been attached to it. There are those who identify “gamer girl” as a female who doesn’t really like video games, and has little idea of how to play them, but who does it for the attention she gets… from guys, I suppose. That conception of the phrase “gamer girl” sucks because it implies that all girls and women who play video games are less valid than the boys and men that they game with.

The alternative is to refer to everyone as a “gamer” regardless of gender. The problem I have with this is that a lot of people automatically assume a non-gendered title refers to a male person. It makes the girls and women who are gamers rather invisible.

That’s pretty much the opposite of what I was going for when I referred to myself as a “gamer girl”. I want the people who make video games, and the people who play video games, to know that there are plenty of female players out there.

But, when I turned 40, I stopped calling myself a “gamer girl”. I still play a lot of video games, and enjoy them. Let’s get real, though, a 40 year old is not a “girl” anymore. So, I guess I’m a “gamer woman” now? (That doesn’t flow as nicely as “gamer girl”, though).

You may be wondering how this particular choice of favorite quote relates to chronic illness. Video games are a popular pastime for people who have chronic illnesses (and/or disabilities).  My illnesses cause me to have days when I have absolutely no energy. My immune system could be accurately described as a “lemon”, and I am sick all the time.  I end up with a sinus infection and/or bronchitis at least a couple of times a year.  What can you do when you are that sick and cannot get better quickly?  Sit down and play some video games!

Video games provide an “escape” into a world where I am just as healthy as everyone else. Running around in a virtual world enables me to do things I can’t do in real life.

For example, I can play World of Warcraft and run through a field of grass and fight with sentient flowers without requiring an additional dose of allergy medication.  I can eat chocolate cake without worrying about the gluten it contains.  I can play Diablo III and attack and kill the damned trees that are spitting out “cabbage” flowers that spew poison – and be just as effective at it as any other player (whose character is at the same level as I am).  Video games help me to feel like I am “normal”.

Sometimes, video games provide me with an “escape” from feeling sick or from focusing on the side effects of medication.  A lot of people find fishing in World of Warcraft to be boring.  Give me a day when my allergies are horrible, and I’m stoned out of my mind on antihistamines… and suddenly, fishing is intoxicatingly interesting!

That’s just one example.  Playing a video game, even a simplistic one, helps me to “escape” from the pain, cramps, nausea, or sinus pressure that I am feeling due to whichever of my chronic illnesses are plaguing me at the moment.

Another great thing about video games is that it includes social interaction.  You get to interact with other people who are also playing the video game.  I’ve met a whole lot of wonderful and interesting people through World of Warcraft and Diablo III.  When I’m too sick to go outside, I can visit Azeroth or Sanctuary and hang out with my friends.  If it wasn’t for video games, I would feel very alone and isolated (especially when I’m having a really bad health day).

What happens when you play a game like World of Warcraft or Diablo III?  Your character accrues experience points.  They “level up”.  This is how they get stronger,  become able to use better weapons and armor than before, and learn new skills and spells.  You can earn XP in a number of ways, but the most common one is by fighting monsters/enemies.  

IRL (in real life) there are also plenty of battles to fight.  There have been times when I’ve gotten really sick from a food that I thought was safe (and allergen-free).  The speed of the symptoms can be scary.  People who become scared of something tend to avoid it.  I could easily decide that I will never, ever, try any new foods – in order to avoid a scary allergic reaction.

Or, I could look at it like a video game.  The experience didn’t kill me, so it made me stronger.  “Stronger” typically means “more knowledgeable about what to avoid in the future” instead of physically stronger.  What doesn’t kill me gives me XP.

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