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What Playing Pokemon Go Reminded Me as a Black Woman With Anxiety

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This past week caused me to feel anxious, depressed, and angry.

I have dealt with anxiety and depression. I’ve been doing well. I may have my moments, but I know how to get through them. I know my triggers, but how does one prepare themselves for the reminder that hate in the world is still alive, and it threatens the livelihood of people who look like me in America?

I was on my way out the door when I logged into Twitter, and the first thing I saw was a name as a hashtag, Alton Sterling, and I knew exactly what that meant. I closed it and tried to shut it out of my mind. Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful. As my day went on, I learned more.

I found myself fighting tears all day. Then I saw the clip of his son crying out for his father. The next day was worse. My sunglasses hid my tears; I kept them on even as I rode into the dark metro tunnel. I felt like Audrey in the young adult fiction book, “Finding Audrey,” where the main character experiences social anxiety and wears sunglasses to give her added strength to talk to strangers.

The next day another black man, Philando Castile, was shot and killed by a police officer in the car in front of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter. I spent the day again fighting tears, crying in public, upset, not understanding why everyone around me seemed so happy while I was so concerned.

That night I had insomnia. I couldn’t put my phone down, and that’s when the Dallas shooting happened. I was watching the tweets and the image of a black man being shared as the person of interest. It just didn’t sit right with me, and not long after, social media was doing the investigating, showing video clips that this man was not the suspect. But it was too late. His photo was all over the news. I was so upset. I kept crying. I finally logged off and tried to relax.

The next day my boyfriend and I decided to walk to get dinner. As we began to walk I suggested we give Pokemon Go a try…

Right across the street was a Poke stop, and there were a few people sitting down outside. I had a feeling they could be playing too. My boyfriend (the social one) asked, “Pokemon Go?”

Within a few minutes, an African American woman walked towards us and asked if we were playing, and we all laughed. There is something about grown adults playing a game. There’s a moment of slight embarrassment and then instant joy because we were all just having fun. She also gave us newbies a tip. Across the street, we could find a Goldeen. Before we left to continue exploring, another African American man walked over and shook hands with my boyfriend as if they’ve met before. My boyfriend later told me they’d seen each other around but he didn’t know him. He too was playing.

We left to go find the Goldeen. We had to find the exact area, and there it was near this marble bench. I’d just downloaded the app so I wasn’t ready to catch it, but my boyfriend was successful. I watched on his screen. It said, “Gotcha!”  We sat down so I could set up my own app. I guess he was tired of me hovering over his phone screen. I enjoyed every second of creating my persona. I’m pretty sure I was swinging my legs as I chose a girl with brown skin, blue hair, and a matching blue outfit. I was ready to go “Catch em’ all!”

We continued our walk to dinner. I turned up the volume so I could hear the music as we walked. I was almost skipping at this point. We saw a large group of people walking toward us. They weren’t all together, but they had the look. Smiles, focusing on their phones and standing around in one area. We got closer and my boyfriend asked, “Are you guys playing  Pokemon Go?” They answered in laughter. I was laughing, smiling and talking to people in my community. I’m not one to talk to people I don’t know. But this one commonality removed that cautious barrier.

As our night continued, the feeling of community was all around us. A man held a large white sign with the words “Free Hugs” in black letters. My boyfriend said I’m going to go over there and hug him. I walked away because that socially awkward feeling was back, but I watched from afar. It warmed my heart to see it. We heard this great voice singing and saw a large crowd of people. They were singing along, children were dancing; it was a mixture of people of different generations and ethnicities.

Yes, the world is causing me to feel distressed and angry, but I let myself reflect on all the moments that occurred when I walked outside.

I was reminded that love remains.

I know there are risks with playing the game and people should research before they begin. But it gave me a moment to feel joy and have that joyed shared with people I would have never even spoken to otherwise. I had my moment of sunshine amongst days of darkness.

Image via Pokemon Go.

Originally published: July 13, 2016
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