Back in 2017, I suffered a major anxiety attack that left me feeling miserable for the better part of two days. My heart was pounding in my chest, I was sweating profusely, and it became difficult to breathe. This attack was one of the worst I’ve ever had and one of my favorite video games caused it. As a prolific player of the Destiny franchise, there was no challenge I hadn’t overcome. Having experienced the entirety of the first title with a clan of close friends, it was rare that I ever needed to play with strangers.

Destiny 2 was a different story.

When the sequel launched most of my clan had dispersed, forcing me to tackle this new game alone. I should be fine though, right? I’ve killed the Taken King dozens of times, visited the Lighthouse during the Trials of Osiris, and collected every piece of Exotic loot in the game. The original Destiny was a game I completely mastered without any issues. So when I booted up Destiny 2 for the first time I dove right in, blasting my way through hordes of aggressive aliens.

The first few dozen hours went by without a hitch, as my Guardian quickly grew in power. But then came the Leviathan raid one week later. Set on a massive spaceship, this endgame activity is extremely demanding and requires 6 players to even complete. Since one person messing up can ruin an encounter, there’s a lot of pressure to perform at the top of your game. So without a clan, I joined up with five random players and launched into the raid.

Within 20 minutes of starting the raid, my anxiety took ahold of me. I made a terrible excuse for leaving that I’m certain no one believed and quickly closed the game. It was a miserable feeling, one that is almost impossible to accurately describe. All of my years of experience felt thrown out of a window in the blink of an eye. Anxiety and depression sat on my shoulder like a small devil, constantly whispering all of the things that would go wrong in the raid if I played. 

Fear turned to self-doubt. What if I keep messing up and waste everyone’s time? What if I miss the callouts? What if I’m the reason we don’t finish the raid? Sure, it sounds silly now. Life is full of uncomfortable moments that can trigger an anxiety attack, most of them are far more important than shooting some Cabal in Destiny 2. But this feeling of inadequacy didn’t just vanish after turning off the game; it persisted every time I scoured the internet for a fireteam to play with. I felt isolated, unable to enjoy one of my favorite games.

It took nearly two months before I mustered up the courage to try the Leviathan raid again, this time I dragged a friend along with me. With every other player now more experienced than I, my job was relatively easy – do whatever they tell me too. All I had to do was listen, shoot monsters, and occasionally yell out something. Somehow, by the luck of The Traveler, I finished the Leviathan raid. Defeating the final boss was a cathartic experience, even if my teammates had killed Calus many, many times prior. 

With one completion done and my confidence soaring, I defeated the raid a second time. Then a third and a fourth, each time learning a different aspect of the activity until I mastered every aspect. I wasn’t raiding for the loot – in fact, I still find most of the armor atrocious looking – but to prove to myself that I was capable enough. Every raid was with a new batch of players, many were polite, others not so much. Each time this gaggle of fresh faces grouped together I’d take a deep breath and remind myself that I belong here.

Playing with strangers can be terrifying, especially when everyone is so dependant on one another. Everyone has their own quirks and issues, forcing you to adapt on the fly to suit their needs. However, as I played more alongside random Guardians I started to learn that I wasn’t the only one with these issues. Multiple times I’d have someone furiously apologizing to the raid team for messing up. I’ve been in those shoes many times before. Raids can be especially nerve wracking when five players are staring you down after wiping for the eighth time.

Unfortunately, anxiety doesn’t just vanish into thin air and every new raid forced me to be that guy with his head down saying “I’m so sorry” a dozen times in a row. But I didn’t quit. I refused to let my fear of inadequacy win, so I forced my way through the Eater of Worlds, Leviathan, and Scourge of the Past raids. Each one a terrifying flashback to those moments when I let my doubt get the best of me. With every raid conquered my anxiety got a little better, not “cured,” but more manageable.

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Now, almost three years to the day when I fled a raid in fear, I act as a sherpa in a Destiny 2 clan. My job is to help others learn the raid and make their experience as enjoyable as possible. I’m still anxious though, how could I not be? I’m not only responsible for my part but helping others learn theirs. Yet, I also acutely understand what it’s like to set foot in a raid without any experience or friends.

Just because Destiny 2 is a game doesn’t make cooperating with strangers any less frightening. If I can alleviate that fear, even for a few hours, then I know it’s worth it. Because I’m sure I will need someone to help me again in the future.

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