According to the NHS there is no conclusive link between stress or diet and gastric or duodenal ulcers. Bollocks, do more research. I once had a boss who said that stress was a good thing, he thrived under stress. He was a low grade moron. He probably meant pressure, we can all raise our game under pressure and it can bring a team together and the best out of individuals. Stress triggers the release of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, into the body, speeding heartbeat and the circulation of blood, mobilizing fat and sugar for fast energy, focusing attention, preparing muscles for action, and more. It generally takes some time for the body to calm down after the stress response has been triggered. Lifesaving as the stress response is, it was meant to solve short-term, life-threatening problems, not extended difficulties such as daily traffic jams or marital problems.

Long term stress is not tolerated well by the body. Common symptoms include anxiety, which can in turn lead to sleeplessness, chronic need to pass urine and ulcers (so sue me!) It can trigger poor decision making due to constant over-thinking and second guessing yourself. Anxiety will cause you to fear future events that may not happen, dread what is “coming next” and fear making mistakes so much you make more. It can create an emotional paralysis that dis-empowers the sufferer from taking positive action. I have a gastric ulcer. I had my first, a duodenal, twenty five years ago at university. It’s fair to say I feel stressed. If this has not been obvious to you, thank you, I have been doing my best to struggle through it.

I find that people a) don’t listen and b) often hear what they want, or expect to hear. So even when you feel like you’ve explained yourself reasonably well you still hear people firing cannon across the bows of your problems, which sail on intact unscathed. If things are pretty good, but not quite right it, wouldn’t it be nice to just sit back accept the minor shortcomings in the situation and make do? When arguments are done to death, with no resolution, wouldn’t it be great to just agree to disagree and let it lie? Yes. I agree that it would, often…most of the time…be better just to let it go.

Getting this advice from people is just like them advising me not to snap back with replies. “Don’t rise to it,” “Just bite your tongue,” or “Count to ten before you answer…” Oh that is such good advice, advice I could never have possibly tried because I am an idiot. It wouldn’t be a problem if I could actually restrain myself. If I bite my tongue I end up with a piece of bitten off tongue, a mouthful of blood and if I waited ten seconds I will have thought of something much more vicious to respond with. Great advice. If I could just let it go and make the best of it then my life would be much happier than it is now. However, I am incapable of doing that – that is my problem. Not letting go is not my problem, not being able to let go is my problem.

I think this is a an essential reason for why people despair. They advise and advise and try to help and their help and advice doesn’t bear fruit. I apparently do not listen and cannot help myself. “You’re on your own.” Yes. I frequently am. I am painfully aware of that. It isn’t easy to be my friend and friendships rarely last as long as I would like. “We’ve all tried…” I know I appreciate the thought “…and all failed,” no one is more disappointed than me, I have been struggling to change, to mitigate, to control my thoughts and the words that boil out of me against my better judgement for more than thirty five years. Sometimes I make myself stressed just keeping the words inside, suppressed. Then they boil out of me anyway, in rage, anguish or despair. “We’re getting closer now to being apart, I kinda knew that people right from the start.”

While I’m on the subject of well worn, paint chipped, hobby horses…

Raiding. Raiding isn’t just for children. I’m 50, I love raiding. I love being part of a raid team. I love building unity and cooperation. Finding people’s strengths and building on them, finding their weaknesses, reassuring them and fostering overcoming them. I have a job, it is not raiding. I do raiding, like all my gaming, exclusively for fun. I don’t do it for gear (helps a bit), I don’t do it for progression (I do want to kill new things frequently though), I don’t do it for kudos (you cleared this tier on Mythic? Really…and what?) When I fuck up at work I don’t expect my boss shout, they’d be an arsehole, I don’t expect them to name and shame in front of the team, I do not expect a badge that mockingly proclaims I messed up – this isn’t motivating, this wouldn’t make me work better. It would make say “Fuck you, you fucking cunt, I’m fucking out of here.”

Given that I would quit a job in this fashion you should think yourself lucky I have never quit a raid like this…recently. I don’t tolerate that kind of bullying and aggression at work. You can bet your bottom dollar I do not tolerate it in a raid. Some people can tolerate it, they expect it in a raid. “Who fucked up?” or words to this affect. “We’ve done this a thousand times, does anyone not know what they should be doing?” you’re an idiot for messing up. “Put a nipple on the nipple. What, it’s a joke it’s for fun,” fuck you. “If we don’t do this we won’t progress, the raid will stagnate and we will lose raiders.” Are you sure? What evidence do you have for this? If this is how you lead your raid and you are not getting the results you want do you think that carrying on exactly as you are, but selecting only your best raiders and barring those that aren’t “pulling their weight” or doing as much HPS/DPS/TPS as you wanted is the answer?

What about trying something more inclusive and friendly that may deliver even better results? How about toning it down, actually no, how about cutting out all the shouty, disappointed, irritated, finger pointing, bullying behaviour? You are leading not dragging people through a raid, show some fucking leadership. Encourage an atmosphere of fun, laughter, mutual respect and camaraderie. People will want to be there, do their best, not because they’ll get shouted at or whispered or have someone crawling up their arse with raid logs telling them they’re doing it wrong, but because everyone else is. Everyone else is and they want to cooperate and get to the shared goal. You might find people are too embarrassed to slack and are consequently highly motivated to do their best with and for people they like and respect.

I’ll tell you something: in this soppy, casual utopia I’m describing people own their own mistakes, own up to them apologise and try harder. Others will commiserate, claim they messed up too, declare everyone could probably do a bit better, claim single individual mistakes could be worked through and we all make them so no big deal. People are less afraid to fail and those who are dispirited by fear of making mistakes and letting everyone down will make less, get better and thrive. If people are performing badly in your raid it may not be their rotation or talent build that is at fault. It may be the raid, the atmosphere and ethos you have created.

And another thing! I get together will friends on a Friday night and run Mythic+. We have chosen to call it Wine Night. The way we do things seems to confuse some people. We do Mythic+, sometimes with pretty high level keys and we do it for fun. We don’t care if we do it before the timer expires, we don’t really care if we get any loot. We.Do.It.For.Fun. I know! It’s difficult to comprehend. We play a game for fun and we do it together in our little group so we don’t have to deal with toxic arseholes who take gaming seriously and have nerd rage if there’s a wipe. Sometimes…we actually collapse into laughter if we fuck up. We usually Leeroy a dungeon, throw ourselves at bosses with gay abandon, run up multi-thousand gold repair bills and burn through runes and potions (we make ourselves) like they cost no money or effort to produc…(oh yeah).

Tactics!? Not on Wine Night. “Shut up Saby!” Well, not the first or second time. After a couple of wipes we will stop and ask “OK, what are the tactics here then?” Like everyone we do not want to wipe on one boss all night. No really balls of evil were funny once, but mostly we just want to have a relaxed fight though more challenging content, if we fail we fail, but we are not trying to wipe and we will revert to discussing tactics, organise and focus to slapping down a troublesome boss if we have to. Mostly we’ll just rock up, the warlock will pull and we muddle through it. Which works a lot more than you’d imagine. Wine is fine, any alcohol is a suitable alternative. However, like wiping and no tactics, drinking is optional. Swearing, however, is fucking compulsory. One of our crew’s superpower is swearing. Fucking A.

On a Friday Night anything goes. It’s chilled it’s relaxed. We do OK. Level 8 is about our level right now. We do do higher, but they can be a bit joyless. We like 8 because our gear has gotten better, we know the dungeons and it presents just enough of a challenge. We do Mythic+ because we like a challenge, we push higher keys all the time because we don’t want to do easy content. We like doing it in our group because no one rages or gives anyone shit for failing. If you don’t like this approach, that’s OK, don’t come along. If you do come along don’t impose your way on us. Vice versa if I come along to one of your runs I will focus hard, listen to tactics, try hard and not pull the boss with my infernal.

I’m too old to play with people who care more about the outcome than they do the people they’re playing with. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about the outcome, just that I only care because it’s a shared objective that we’re all working towards. I’d rather not get Ahead of the Curve if all of us can’t get it…together. If you read this and thought it might be about you, you’re wrong. It’s about me.

Well, in lieu of Ahead of the Curve here’s just Curve.