After returning from an amazing trip that I took for the 4th of July is when a friend told me the news about Byron Bernstein AKA Reckful.
Reckful was a prolific streamer on Twitch. Many people consider him to be one of the greatest because of the role that he played in the earlier days of streaming and his continued content creation in the years since. Since I hadn’t been online in about a week, I hadn’t heard.
Well, Reckful committed suicide a few days ago. I know that in the past he’s talked about depression and his experiences with it. You can watch a 2-hour video about that here. It’s an interview with a psychiatrist named Dr. K – the founder of a platform called Healthy Gamer.
But when I hear about someone committing suicide, I get a sick feeling. I just hate to hear it. I didn’t know him personally. I never actively watched his streams. I only know parts of who he is and some of what he’s done, but it hurts just the same.
He was in such a dark place that the only solution he could think of was to take his own life to escape the pain. I know that he was in pain, I’m just sorry that he couldn’t fight through it. And it’s tough because I can empathize with so much of Reckful’s story. We were close in age. We both grew up playing video games. We both played obsessively to escape reality. We were both diagnosed with depression and bipolar (although I am fine these days and don’t suffer from either). There were many parallels between our lives.
I’ve done some research trying to figure out what might have happened. Some people reference the horrible things that people would type to him while he streamed. Telling him horrible things, calling him horrible names, and even going as far as to just tell him to follow in the footsteps of his brother and kill himself (his brother committed suicide when Reckful was 6 years old). Reckful looked up to his brother and his suicide crushed the entire family.
Humans can be evil creatures. Especially when given a veil of anonymity to hide behind. That’s when the worst that humanity has to offer comes out.
Reckful spent much of his time and resources trying to develop an MMORPG called Everland. From what I understand it was supposed to be a heavily community-based game focused on building relationships, connecting with people, and helping people who felt as alone as he did when he was a kid. By the sounds of it, inexperience and a lack of financial backing became too much to overcome and the project was left unfinished.
So between the underlying mental health issues, people saying horrible things to him, and a growing hopelessness about his passion project, Everland, he might have simply become overwhelmed. I can’t speak to exactly what happened. I know that he struggled with mental health off and on since he was a teenager and it pains me that he was never able to get the help that he needed. He often spoke about the meaninglessness of life and how he struggled with motivation daily.
As someone who has been there, I know how difficult that can be and my mission is to help. I want to help people learn about and master their mental health. I want to show people who are feeling bad or hopeless ways of coping or that they can change. I want to show them that by changing the way that they think, they can ultimately change their lives.
It’s a difficult situation – one that I’m not going to even pretend to fully understand. Depression and other mental health issues are complex issues. I imagine that reading horrible messages hundreds of times a day and unwittingly letting them soak into your unconscious takes a toll on your mental health. And if you’re not actively combating it, I can see how it could just take over. It can reorient your thoughts and beliefs so gradually that you don’t even realize it’s happening in the background.
These are difficult issues, but we can solve them.
Out of sight, out of mind
This expression is true enough and can even be a reasonable strategy for dealing with certain things. But in the case of ticking time bombs like deep depression, we have to be careful. We tend to push the ideas and feelings that we don’t want to deal with out of our heads. We occupy ourselves, distract ourselves, or otherwise ignore what we know to be problematic.
Sometimes this can work. It’s not always going to end in a catastrophic failure. But I would make the point that it’s not the healthiest way to deal with these sorts of issues. We shove things down when we don’t want to think about them. But it often turns out that the things you don’t want to think about are the things you need to think about the most.
What I’ve found is that the obstacle is the way. That thing that you’re avoiding. The note that you don’t want to look at. Or that project you’ve been putting off because you’re too unsure. I’ve found is when I take these fears, put them on center stage, and truly give them my attention, they’re never as scary or difficult as I thought. The thing that was so scary about them was the level of unknown that accompanied the thought.
It reminds me of a story Joseph Campbell likes to tell from an Arthurian romance, La Queste del Saint Graal. Written by an anonymous thirteenth-century monk, it best illustrates the need to face your fears.
It’s a story of King Arthur and his knights are seated at a round table, when the Holy Grail appears before them, covered in a great and radiant cloth. Then it suddenly disappears. Arthur’s nephew, Gawain, proposes a quest to find the Holy Grail.
“They thought it would be a disgrace to go forth in a group. Each entered the Forest Adventurous at the point he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no way or path.’
You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path; each human being is a unique phenomenon.
The idea is to find your own pathway to bliss.”
The point of this little story is to show the importance of picking whatever part of the forest is darkest to you because that is your path. The way to conquer your fears is by facing them. Everyone’s path is different. It’s personal. What scares me may not scare you. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do it. It means that I have to do it. It’s not an obstacle to avoid, it’s the first step on my journey of conquering my fears. I just have to embrace failure, accept the discomfort in facing my fears, and just go for it.
We always have a choice whether or not we face our fears. Sometimes we’ve been avoiding them for so long that we forget that it’s even an option. We get into a habit of avoidance and no longer question whether or not we can do it. We decided we couldn’t at some point in the past and never came back to readdress the issue. But we’re constantly evolving, growing, and changing. Just because you couldn’t do something a year ago doesn’t mean that you can’t do it now.
Maybe you’ve been afraid of something for so long that you forgot about the possibility of not being afraid of it.
Much of what I’ve talked about is easier said than done. Fearing your fears is uncomfortable. It’s difficult.
But it is possible and it’s also one of the best ways to promote growth and positive changes.
I started this piece talking about Reckful, mental health, depression, and suicide. And I wrapped it up by talking about fear, growth, mindset, and belief. I don’t know Reckful’s entire story and I can’t speak to exactly what was going on in his head. And I certainly don’t have all of the answers.
What I do know is that it’s a tough world out there.
I will leave you with what I consider to be six important rules for dealing with mental health and your well-being.
- You are responsible for yourself and your well-being.
- Vet your thoughts regularly.
- Take time to think about your feelings, emotions, and mentality. Talk to someone if that helps.
- Understand that change is not only possible but inevitable.
- Reaching out when you need help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- The best way to get support is to give support.
*Please note that I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. These are my opinions. I strongly encourage anyone who is feeling seriously depressed or suicidal to contact a mental health professional. There are various resources, just Google the suicide hotline for your country.*
Reckful gave us the best parts of himself. He provided millions of people with thousands of hours of entertainment, joy, and companionship. He was open about his struggles and used his platform to promote community and connection. He struggled for many years and ultimately lost his battle. But his work was not in vain. His message and his mission of trying to build a better world for the children of the future to protect them from what he went through will not die with him. His story will live on serving to help other lost souls on their journey.
Be kind to yourself, be kind to other people, and never underestimate the power of hope.
I’ve not much more to say.
Thank you Reckful for everything that you did and I hope that you found peace.
RIP Byron “Reckful” Bernstein 1989 – 2020
“In the end, everything will be OK.
If it’s not OK, it’s not yet the end.”-Fernando Sabino
“Talking Depression with Reckful” – A 2-hour conversation between Reckful and Dr. K about mental health, depression, and more.
“Twitch’s First Big Streamer – The History of Reckful” – A 1.5-hour document on the life of Reckful
That’s all for this one. This one was different than my normal articles, but I felt deeply compelled to write this piece. At times it was difficult to write, but I think it’s important. I hope you enjoyed it. Please let me know your thoughts.
If you did enjoy it, please consider following, liking, or checking out my other articles at http://www.mindpowergrow.com