On Friday, Dr. Jane McGonigal’s game SuperBetter went live. SuperBetter is a game designed to help people heal from injuries and traumas, improve their social relationships, make healthier life choices, conquer depression, or face any life problem. The game works by distilling scientific research into small, digestible tidbits of information that the player can use to begin making steps toward improvement. Those steps are “quests,” recurring challenges are “bad guys,” activities that are relaxing or energizing are “power-ups.”
It’s a good thing SuperBetter is built to be so flexible because I am using it to tackle a plethora of issues.
First and foremost, I need to make better life choices. This morning, I learned that I am absolutely prediabetic, edging very close to diabetes itself, with insulin resistance thrown into the mix. I need to learn how to actively choose better things to eat. I’ve known for years how I should fuel my body but putting knowledge into practice has been difficult. Achieving better habits will help me with my second goal.
Second, I need to lose weight. I am built along stocky lines but I have been qualified as morbidly obese since I was a child. This problem has increased in recent years but I remember first seeing those words, “morbidly obese,” on a report written by my pediatrician when I was about nine years old. At the time, I was incredibly active and considered myself athletic and those words were crushing and fed into my third problem.
Third, I have been battling depression for the vast majority of my life. My depression started emerging as shyness and lack of self-confidence during puberty, caused by events like that doctor’s report and my competitive dance coach ordering me a different version of the costume for one number “so that (I) wouldn’t be uncomfortable with (my) belly showing.” About six years ago, chronic depression bloomed into severe chronic depression. About two and a half years ago, I suffered a complete nervous breakdown that changed my thought patterns in terrifying ways. I was lucky; I had been in therapy for a couple of years already and I had close friends at hand, so I had a support network to lean on while my mother drove overnight to get to me. More therapy and some very hard work have me functioning and even thriving again but every day has its struggle and I will never look away from a tool that could help me conquer this disease.
Fourth and stemming in no small part from the third, I need to overcome my fear of the world. I need to tackle my social anxiety, my reclusiveness, my poor sense of self-worth and my reluctance to put myself out there and see what life has to offer. I hope to use SuperBetter to encounter people who can help me overcome my fears and whom I might be able to help in return.
I have already completed a handful of introductory quests and I am proud to report that I am a level 6 superhero, ready to start moving into the meaty challenges and changing my life. I’m also thrilled to say that I have been selected as a member of the SuperBetter All-Star Team, which means that I will be responsible for sharing my experience with the world. [What can I say, it’s a head start on issue number four!]
Please consider becoming an ally in my journey to improve my health. Allies can come up with quests, suggest power-ups or bad guys, and keep me on track and honest. I encourage you learn more about SuperBetter and I’m certainly willing to answer any questions I can from my limited experience so far (or
pass questions on to the game design team, who are all incredibly friendly and awesome people). If you’d like to join me in my fight, please let me know and I will invite you into my superhero lair.
Expect lots of blogs about SuperBetter, people, because I am jazzed about it. Also, I will keep doing chores at you. Watch out for both.