No, I’m not talking about the debuff.
One of those things they never mention in the “How to Be a Good Guild Master” handbook is what to do when you suddenly find yourself all out of fucks to give. You don’t have to have a particularly problematic, conflict-intense guild to have this happen. Sometimes, some days, you just can’t care. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make you callous or horrible. It is something that happens to all of us, especially those of us guild leaders who lead with our sense of compassion and empathy.
Last Saturday, I was in a foul black mood. This kind of mood comes on really swiftly with me and it makes dealing with people really hard. I cannot tell if this is a function of some of the mental health problems I have or if it is something other people experience. It blankets how I feel about everyone and kinda sucks out all the concern and caring I have for them. Everyone is stupid, annoying and a pain to deal with. Everything is a hassle and a chore. No one is as smart or capable as me, and so I have to babysit/herd cats through anything. Above all, I just don’t have an ounce of empathy. Unfortunately this kind of cloud settled on me on the same night that we do one of our weekly guild events. A night that is supposed to be dedicated to fun and getting people neat mounts and vanity items is not a good night to be a grim, hateful person. However, unlike when we raid, I am the person who organizes this stuff and keeps the momentum going, so I had to be there. Because of this, I spent most of the night being stonily silent on Mumble unless I absolutely had to talk and I wasn’t my usual jokey, bubbly self. I often felt my directions bordering on being barked and the frustration I felt with even routine, normal questions or mistakes (on retro raid content no less!) was way off the charts. If this had been even 3 months ago, I don’t think I would have said anything to my officer squad, who were all present that night. But I took the advice I so often ignored in the past and told my officers as a heads up that I was a in terrible, awful mood. Suddenly the pressure of being an ugly monster was somewhat lessened. My officers urged me that I could leave if I wanted to, but I stuck to my guns. I’m glad that I did, regardless, as we saw one of our members get the second glaive from Illidan for her set and we got the guild achievement “The Ultimate Collection.” I had to be there, right?
I brought it up with my therapist several days later and he mentioned something called “compassion fatigue” as a possible source for my suddenly on-coming mood. “Compassion fatigue” is something that people who are exposed to trauma often feel, such as victims or caregivers. It increases the persons stress, cynicism and shortens their ability to feel concern towards others over time. While I don’t feel that neither my personal experiences with trauma or something like guild leading is quite on the same level as what my therapist was talking about, it definitely got the wheels turning for two reasons.
Firstly, I think that it is entirely believable that guild leading can max out your ability to care about others. On top of all the other relationships and responsibilities we might have in our lives (partners, spouses, and children are a big one), leading a guild with your whole heart can tax an already dwindling supply of caring for others. There are just some days when the problems of people in World of Warcraft might cease to be as important as other stuff going on and you feel like you have “no fucks to give” essentially. It can make you feel empty or even downright mean. This is not an ideal state of mind for leading anything, much less a guild. Having a group of officers or maybe even just one other person take the reins for a little while, whether for a couple of hours, or a couple days, can be good for not lashing out at people or to refill your compassion for others. Let your officers know how you feel and what is going on so no panic ensues. Delegation is something I think a lot of new guild leaders like myself forget about because we expect ourselves to run and do everything. There’s very little in-game that can’t be done by someone else at least once. Give yourself a time out and recharge the ol’ batteries.
Secondly, it’s a little scary to be in a position of power but feel out of control of your own feelings. I’ve had way less problems with this since some of the breakthroughs I’ve made lately with therapy, but it’s pretty apparent to me that I will sometimes slip into moods without any provocation whatsoever. It’s hard, as someone who’s struggled with mental illness all her adult life, to accept that you can be a good person and a decent guild leader when you feel so broken. Part of being the leader I think everyone deserves is convincing myself of the fact that I’m not subhuman or un-repairable. It is hard sometimes, what with the stories I’ve from neurotypical people talking rudely about guild leaders that suffer from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and “going off the rails.” A lot of times these GMs in question have been women, I’ve noticed. I know there’s quite a lot of words I could squeeze in here about perceptions of people with mental illness and gender but I’ll save them for another time. The fact of the matter is that guild leading is a stressful, tiresome job even in the best guild (which my guild is, naturally) for even the best person, much less someone who feels deeply and sometimes in a volatile fashion. Having a mental illness or mental health problems doesn’t make me or anyone else unfit for a leadership role, provided that you communicate.
These are things that happen to everyone, I think, and I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn’t make me less of a person, or less of a leader. It makes me human. When your way of approaching the world is through how you feel and how you care about others, you’ll get tired. It is an exhaustion that comes regardless. The point of this is just accepting that this might happen and act accordingly.