I’m Ms. Pac-Man
When I was growing up I absolutely loved playing the video game Ms. Pac-Man and I played it to perfection. It may, at the time have been considered my earliest addiction, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t even come close to comparison when meeting today’s standard of video game obsessions; I mean I didn’t exactly need rehab or anything of the sort like many individuals nowadays do who are addicted to such games like Candy Crush or Fortnite.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the video game Ms. Pac-Man (you could live under a rock for all I know), it was developed from the original and extremely popular arcade game Pac-Man only this time around they used a female protagonist instead which at the time was a welcome addition to the gaming world. The object of the game is for the player to skillfully maneuver Ms. Pac-Man through a series of mazes by trying to eat as many pellets as possible without being attacked by a ghost who in turn would cause you to lose one of your lives and eventually the game. Throughout each maze level there are several opportunities for Ms. Pac-Man to re-energize herself by eating a “power pellet” which allows her to attack the ghosts for a short period of time. She is also given chances to earn extra points by eating some delicious fruit, escaping from the wrath of the ghosts by going through tunnels and obtaining new lives but you better watch out because the higher the level the faster the antagonists move.
So you are probably wondering by now why the heck I am wasting your time telling you all this? Well, metaphorically speaking, I feel as though Ms. Pac-Man is a representation of who I used to be and who I am today, and that I have somehow become trapped inside of her gameplay (sounds like a big box-office hit to me); much of which seems destined to fail. When you first look at Ms. Pac-Man she seems to emulate a strong, independent and self-empowered woman; qualities which I may have once identified as my own but then you begin playing the game and you quickly see those qualities dissipate, well at least they do for me.
At first glance Ms. Pac-Man seems to glide through the maze with such confidence and ease but as the game progresses she no longer seems to be strong, independent or self-empowered but instead she begins to lose herself inside of the maze and at times she may feel imprisoned. This is of course one of the best ways to describe how depression feels to me every single day, both lost and imprisoned in my own mind; a mind controlled by my unrelenting illness.
Metaphorically speaking, my gameplay has left me feeling like I can no longer skillfully maneuver my way through a series of mazes with confidence and ease, eager to eat up as many pellets along the way as I can. Instead I continually feel like I am being chased in circles by these ghosts who are stronger than me, more independent than me and definitely more empowered than me, leaving me feeling more and more lifeless each time one captures me.
Sure some days I am able to find the strength to re-energize and eat a few “power pellets” allowing me the ability to attack these ghosts head on even if it’s only for a brief moment in time. But unfortunately when those moments disappear I am left once again trying to figure out what my next maneuver will be in order for me to stay alive because you see, these ghosts are so much faster than I am.
I still do love to play Ms. Pac-Man any chance I get (do you think it’s still a quarter at the arcade?) but now I see it as an even more challenging game than I did before (sure it’s no Candy Crush or Fortnite). Now when I play it, it is no longer just a game, it is no longer about how many lives I can sustain at once, it is no longer Ms. Pac-Man trying to gain momentum by eating lots of fruit and engineering her way through tunnels, now instead it’s about procuring the art of survival by skillfully manipulating my illness into gobbling up each and every ghost that gets in my way of becoming a stronger me, a more independent me and a more empowered me…metaphorically speaking.