I can’t remember how I found Egg Baby. It’s possible I could have stumbled across a well-placed Tumblr post – or else Rachel showed it to me one fortuitous lunch time as we laid about in the sixth-form common room trying desperately to nap between lessons. I didn’t get a lot of sleep back then. I don’t think either of us did.
Rach and I were cursed with the unfortunate affliction of being profoundly allergic to secondary education. I won’t attempt to speak for Rachel any more than necessary. That said, it would be remiss of me to talk about video games, and Egg Baby in particular, without mentioning her. For every game that I clung to and mined for motivation to make it through the week, Rach was right beside me playing along too. And at the points when I was at my lowest, that company – that community – meant everything to me. More on that later.
The concept behind Egg Baby is relatively simple, particularly to those who are veterans of the virtual pet scene. It was a mobile app housing what was essentially a Tamagotchi but rounder, eggier, and less inclined to leave piles of poo spattered over the screen. Advancements in technology being what they were, you could also enjoy your egg-friend in full technicolour as you dressed, fed, and bathed them. Revolutionary stuff. I loved it all the same.
I loved it.
The thing about depression is this: it makes you dangerously apathetic. I was 16 when my first depressive episode started. At that time I didn’t possess the language to articulate what was happening to me. Why did my appetite increase tenfold but I never felt full? Why couldn’t I motivate myself to get out of bed and go take a shower? Why was my body refusing to sleep at night? I didn’t know enough to answer any of these questions.
What I did know was that inside my phone there lived a tiny egg with wide anime eyes and the need to be fed and washed several times a day. I also knew that – despite everything else the apathy had eaten away at – I genuinely cared about this stupid, beautiful egg. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t an egg. Or perhaps it was due to a more complex set of reasons. Whatever the cause, at the time I was caring for this egg I hadn’t yet mustered the ability to care for myself. The egg did prove to be a help with that, though.
Did this egg feed me, encourage me to wash, or hug me as I cried at night? No. Of course not. It was a virtual egg and a virtual egg baby at that.
But what it did do was plant the seeds of motivation in me.
When the things you care about have been whittled down to a razor-slim list, and nowhere on that list are rudimentary things such as – let’s say – your own wellbeing, then it’s pretty easy to see the allure in giving up. There’s an attraction in dismissing the project of plodding through life, refusing to put one foot in front of the other, and climbing into bed and staying there until someone drags you out.
Alluring stuff. At least it is if you’re depressed.
I eventually learnt that the trick to not giving in to this allure was reasonably simple, at least superficially. I had to be motivated. I had to care about something more than I cared about crawling into bed and living out the rest of my days as a festering duvet gremlin.
Of course, finding that all important motivation was just as easy as deciding to be motivated and then pulling myself up by my bootstraps and getting on with it, right?
I trust I don’t need to answer that one for you.
There are a plethora of factors that led me down the path of finding my motivation. I would love to say accessing well-funded mental health services was one of them, but sadly that is seldom a reality in this country these days. Still, I wasn’t without support. Cooking someone a meal. Helping them book a doctor’s appointment. Doing their washing up. Giving them the money they don’t have for the therapy or prescriptions that they need. These are all things we must do for each other if we can. These are all things people have done for me when they could.
There was a time before I had access to this bountiful community. Back then all I had was an egg and a friend.
And I had this … feeling.
It was there when Rachel and I would curl in our corner of the common room deciding what foods our eggs would like best. And when I would break out of an hour-long stint of staring at the ceiling to remember my egg needed bathing. I felt it on the occasions I would save up in-game currency for days and weeks to buy my egg a cute hat.
It was a little tickle in the pit of my stomach. A warm thrum in the depths of my heart. Not fully realised yet but it was growing. A seedling being soaked, sucking rich nutrients into its core. It was my motivation. Waiting for a little more fertiliser and for the season to be ripe. It was preparing to one day – finally – bloom.