Pinball, Depression, and cleansing breaths

Pinball, Depression, and cleansing breaths

By agodfrey

August 24, 2018

5 months ago

When I re-discovered pinball about 4 years ago I thought I was walking back into my childhood, and more so, my childhood dream.  It's a feeling many if not all of us have felt. When you realize you can in fact OWN a pinball machine. And not just that but 2, 4, 6, 8, 10! It quick became, as with others, an obsession.  So much so that I really started getting in way too far, way too fast. Mods, a podcast, streaming, fixing, buying, selling, trading, talking, living.....and during some period very little playing.  I spent so much time IN the pinball world I wasn't actually PLAYING pinball. I still find myself slipping away during a game, only to be snapped back into when my ball comes flying towards the outlane.  It's something I'm consonantly working on. Presence of mind. Being IN the moment. Thinking about the game, the ball, and my next step, instead of just drifting off to somewhere deep in my mind.

Shortly before my rediscovery I got married, started a family, and bought a house.  All in a very very very short time. This alone would be stressful. But add learning a new skill, heck 100 skills, buying machines, fixing them, breaking them, fixing them again, being consonantly terrified of the machine breaking again, buying, selling, flipping, walking into an unfamiliar house with THOUSANDS of dollars. Driving 5 hours to haul 300 pounds up a set of stairs, and then turn around and drive 5 more hours home.  This is insanity!

Let's add to all of this intense feelings of anxiety and depression. Oh yeah and OCD.  Shortly after getting married my wife suggested, in part by my desire, to see someone about my drastic mood swings and general feelings of unwell.  At first I was diagnosed with OCD. After 3 years of treatment for OCD I come to find out I'm actually suffering from severe Anxiety which leads to depression and OCD as coping mechanisms.

So I turned to pinball to make me feel better.  But every machine I got and tried to fix up, but fails, made me feel worse.  Every ball that would drain prematurely was devastating.

Couple THAT with a fairly volatile  forum community here on Pinside lead me to take multiple breaks. This past one for about 6 months. Both from Pinside and pinball in general.

But what are you going to do.  That's life, that's anxiety, depression, and internet forums. I guess I'm writing this to tell people out there like me that it's ok.  It's not just you. Have fun and when the fun stops take a break, spend time on yourself, your family, and your other interests.

And with that I'm in the process of cleansing.  Selling all my major titles, just about all my machines, and taking a break.  Seeing what else is out there. Finding happiness elsewhere. I'll see you in the spring.

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4 months ago
Hey man, I can relate! Thanks for sharing your story thus far, enjoy your break and I do hope that pinball will be able to help bring you and yours continued joy in the future.
4 months ago
I don't know what to tell you here! I only got into pinball at age 50 because I never had kids, had everything payed off, had a good nest egg for retirement saved, and a wife that also likes pinball. I bought an F-14 to restore and did a full restore with repro playfield to keep from getting bored in the winter. Then a Sharkey's Shootout next and did a ton of work on it as well. From that I started to enjoy playing more and sold both to get a new used Star Trek pro which I modded. I refuse to own more than two at a time even though I have the room. I worry about financial security and responsibility more than any Millennial I have ever met. You need to think about your kids well being and education and your marriage more and less about pinball games. This will make you happy. If you can't be happy with 2 or 3 pins, then 12 isn't going to do it either and with that comes the anxiety! Responsibility gives your life meaning, not toys.
4 months ago
I too am OCD and somewhat ADD and as I understand, they are within the same neighborhood of issue / gift / curse / ability.
While I have always enjoyed pinball and arcade machines in general, I have owned and have been tinkering with these machines for about 15 years. I fixed my first (and only) pinball machine (Black Knight) and almost immediately started into buying and fixing arcade classics. I did the same thing. I was obsessed. In addition to my work (50+ hours a week) I would probably put another 20-30 in as arcade repair man. I couldn't wait to get home, run past the family, and get to work on the machines. I would then hear of an auction coming up soon, I would get excited as to the possibilities, so I would work harder to fix up and shine up the machines, sell them on ebay, and then run out and buy more. There was some satisfaction in seeing these things come back to life, but like you, I wasn't playing the games I had wanted for so long. I built a MAME machine figuring that if I had all the games, it would lessen the need for fixing up the old machines. The MAME machine took me close to a year to build. But I did it right. I was methodical about the wiring. I spent a crazy mount of time working on the art. And when it was finished. I played it... some. I was off to build other things.

A couple of years ago, I became an amateur radio operator. I heard someone speak something that smacked me in the head. It was SO CLEAR... SO OBVIOUS. But I totally missed it. What I came to realize is that some people are in it for listening (talking the radio here, but I am getting back to the pins). Some people are interested in working on satellites. Some people are wanting to talk to other people in other countries. Some people just like building / repairing / modding their radios. The old phrase "Different strokes for different folks" rings true here. Well, the same goes for the pins and arcade. I love the sound of an arcade. I mean, a real arcade, back in the day with a hundred games all chortling their unique sounds. The warmth of the monitor glow. The flashing lights of the pins. I loved the ambience. It brings me back to my childhood. Knowing that these things should all be dead by now makes me a little sad. Fixing them back up gives me a little hope that they will be around a little longer.

The thing is, I got good and burned out. Sadly, I haven't touched my machines for a very long time. My MAME machine (which is based upon a windows computer) no longer works (something I find interesting given that the arcade machines still function). My Black Knight has all sorts of issues which need many hours of board work to remedy and then who knows. My Centipede works for short periods of time and then gets squirly. So... The drive to keep things working somehow died.
I was working on my radio several weeks back and my son came downstairs. While he was down and snooping around at the machines and the various projects I have laying about, he asked about could he play the pinball machine. I told him no. He asked why, and I replied because it doesn't work. What's wrong with it? I was trying to focus on the radio and I got somewhat short with him. I DON'T KNOW. Can I turn it on. NO!....

Afterwards I felt really bad about it. It wasn't his fault. But I realized something else too... There was hurt surrounding these machines. I don't know why, or how it got there, but the hurt was certainly there. Perhaps it was hurt that I hadn't cared for them as I should. I don't know. But I felt the need to apologize to him. I then told him that I would fix it and asked if he would help me. He seemed to like the idea. So... This is why I am here on Pinside now. Looking for answers to fix the machine so when my son asks if he can play it, I can say yes. not NO!

So yeah, sometimes you need a break. Get some perspective. I am very interested in fixing the game. But interestingly, I am not going it as obsessed like I was when I first started. It's methodical... I am reading everything I can to make sure I do it correctly. But in the past, I would have owned half of radio shack by now getting ready to go at it. I am reading about the symptoms, buying exactly what I need for right now, and moving slowly.
4 months ago
life threatening situations keep anxiety and depression at bay, that's why adrenaline junkies exist. for tens of thousands of years humans evolved with danger around every corner. our modern environment causes anxiety because it is essentially stress free. we're hunters locked in cages. we all go through it. i have no advice for you, but i'm told the stress of having kids can (not will) dispel some of the anxiety. don't know. everything in life is trade offs. you can manage your misery or make sport of it. as for online bullshit, it's the internet forget about. find me one person who spends any time on the internet that hasn't been insulted by other people. let that shit slide off you like water off a duck's back.
3 months ago
Thanks for the great words to read and thanks to the others for adding more words of wisdom. I can really relate. It's such a great unique hobby that you can get so involved that other areas of life start to be neglected. I've been having a break lately too. There's more to life.

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