It is 1:30am and I am in pain.
It goes all down my right leg but radiates from a section in my lower back, one of the damned disc bulges. I live with chronic pain and illness, and, like many, I use Magic the Gathering as a form of distraction therapy.
Anyone who lives with chronic pain or illness knows that one way to deal with the sheer relentlessness of the pain or discomfort is to focus your mind elsewhere.
For me, if I focus on the pain, that makes me stressed and my muscles tense up, which is the opposite of what I need them to do. I need to relax. It is hard, when the pain is very bad, but I need to relax. And Magic the Gathering helps me do so.
I will often need to lie on the floor, with either a heat pack or cold pack on my back. The best thing for me is sleep, but sometimes sleep does not come. When that is the case I have a small device of wonderment, a modern ‘smart’ phone, which has connection to the internet, and hence all kinds of knowledge and sources of distraction.
My distraction of choice is Magic the Gathering because it feeds many different areas of my brain at once. Sometimes it is the community itself that helps take my focus away from the pain. On twitter, seeing Erin Campbell making one of her sassy comments about salami, or The Professor and Josh Lee Kwai engaging in good-natured ribbing makes me giggle, and laughter is a kind of medicine.
Other times I don’t want to interact with others, because pain can make me snappish, and I find solace in deck brewing. I use scryfall or MTG familiar (or both) and sometimes just lose myself in discovering cards I never knew existed, or setting myself a particular challenge (can I make a kithkin tribal deck? Let’s see!). I play about with the cards, and in doing so get a great insight into the history of the game and how it mechanically works. Increased knowledge and decreased pain. Win.
The thing about Magic is there are so many elements you can explore. There are articles, podcasts, videos, live streams, tumblr jokes, twitter rants, discord chats, facebook groups, reddit threads… all stemming from one thing: a passion and enthusiasm for a game that we share together.
From the community I often see messages of support for one another when times are hard. Be it a job loss, a break up, health problems- we all care for one another and extend compassion to one another. I think many of us use Magic the Gathering as a form of medicine in some way. Many of us are wounded.
Life is very hard sometimes, and having a world you can escape to that is full of wonder, and problems to solve, and things to build and create, and games to compete in and try to succeed, and people who celebrate you successes and commiserate with you on your losses- well, that is very helpful.
Thank you, Magic the Gathering, for helping me breathe through the pain. Thank you, person who also plays Magic the Gathering, for sharing this medicine with me.
It is 2:05am, and I am no longer in pain.