When I installed Pokemon Go on 14th July 2016 it would be the first Pokemon game I had ever played. I’d never seen any of the series or films and barely knew any the Gen 1 names.
I downloaded it because my buddy, Kayne, did and I thought I’d see what it was like. Little did I know how much I would love it and how much it would positively effect my mental health.
On the face of it Pokemon Go got a lot of negativity at the beginning, and even now I expect too. Being an adult (albeit to use that term loosely in referring to myself!) I’ve been classed as ‘sad’. Seeing me standing around with groups of other people tapping our phones to try to catch an animated character, or walking around with our phones in our hands and slowing down when we see a new pokemon
But let me tell you a few things about its benefits.
Firstly, the most obvious one is it is good exercise.
Yes I may have just left my house to go down the road just to catch a Pokemon or battle in a raid but that is a few extra steps I wouldn’t have taken that day.
On lunch break I’ll walk around the town centre playing to hatch eggs, complete tasks, battle in raids or casually catch Pokemon.
This encourages me to leave my desk at lunch and will often be walking around for the full hour.
Essentially if it weren’t for Pokemon Go I wouldn’t get in half the exercise or steps in each day, especially at weekends and double especially on Sundays!
Secondly, it helps with pushing boundaries and comfort zones of social anxiety.
I have two prime examples of myself doing this :
1 – About 18 months ago I went to a MewTwo EX – raid which is an invite to a specific raid at a special time and place.
Kayne and I both got one, but his was for a different location to me. Normally I am his little tag along, he lets me know where and when and I’ll just turn up with him
A few faces had become familiar at this point and seemed nice but my social anxiety was loud. It just kept me smiling and only answering when spoken to.
First of all my raid was at a near by town and didn’t know anyone to ask for a lift. Kayne convinced me to add one of the women I have met a few times on Facebook. She said she was going to the same raid and would give me directions from the train station.
Okay, I was doing this I had train times, directions and was going to meet her there. I really wanted to go but I was so nervous and anxious about it. I was going alone and could end up in wrong place. There would be small talk, lots of people,etc. That said, it was something I wanted to do as it was quite rare to get a MewTwo pass. Especially for me and at a time when I would be able to make the Ex-Raid.
A couple of hours before I was due to get the train I checked the times for train home. Wouldn’t be for 2 hours!! I couldn’t wait around for 2 hours, so I resigned myself to not going as I couldn’t get back.
Part of me was relieved I had an excuse, another part of me was frustrated. I had built myself up to go out of my comfort zone, I was ready but now I can’t.
Kayne extremely kindly offered to leave his raid in another town ASAP to pick me up. Okay, so it was on again. I was going, this was it.
I went to the train station and got on the train and followed the wonderful directions to the location. Making sure to double, triple and quadruple check them to make sure I was reading them correctly. When I got there there was about 5 other people, so I went to sit on a wall. Until not too long after the lovely lady who sent me directions turned up. She sat with me and we chatted away.
More people filtered to us and when the time came we split in to our relevant teams and we began.
We all said our goodbyes and I trotted on back to the station for Kayne to collect me.
I was so pleased I actually did that, really was a big step for me. Nothing went wrong, everything was fine, nothing was weird and I managed to go by myself.
That afternoon I was extremely tired though, the exhaustion of the build up of all that anxiety was kicking in. There was a massive sense of happy relief and accomplishment within me but I needed some quiet time. So I had a nice nap!
2 – A few months later I was off work with my anxiety, just couldn’t leave the house.
After Niantic introduced adding friends on Pokemon Go we were all adding each other, to send gifts, do trades and (quite importantly) get more XP to level up.
I was due to level up a friendship with someone local. Even though you didn’t have to physically meet up, trying to get an agreed time to put a lucky egg on (double XP) and open each others gifts was often a bit of a covert operation.
A time was agreed, but I realised I didn’t havs any gifts to send, so to get one, I needed to go outside to a pokestop.
I could feel the anxiety building up, but decided that I could go to the pokestop and back home in about 2minutes. I could do that.
So, I went to the pokestop, got the gift, put lucky egg on, and levelled up with my friend. Now lucky eggs last 30 mins, so I thought while I was out I may as well make the most of it and catch more Pokemon.
From not being able to leave the house to go to work, I got dressed and ended up going out for a 45 minute walk, all because of Pokemon Go.
So say what you like about Pokemon Go – laugh when you see us walking the long way home just so we can hit a few extra PokeStops – we laugh at ourselves too, it’s funny.
But, please rethink about referring to us as “sad” or “losers” because Pokemon Go had done more for my mental health that past 12 months than any local service (for which I was on the waiting list for for 5 months).
I am now more confident, I’ll join raids without Kayne and I’ll stop and speak to fellow Pokemon Go-ears by my self.
One final thing I’ll also say about the social aspect is, I started a new job last year and didn’t take long to find out one of my colleagues is a Pokemon Go player (and probably the biggest Pokemon fan I know!) and talking about PoGo made starting my new job a much less stressful and anxious and I made a genuine friendship with her too.
Feel free to add me on Pokemon Go, my code is 983950946044 🙂
Peace, Love and Geek stuff