There are a number of shut-in characters in anime. Some even in shows that aired recently: Shinichi from Outbreak Company for example, or Sora and Shiro from No Game, No Life. These characters often have their shut-in status played up for laughs. "Look at how pathetic they are, isn't that hilarious?" These shows tend to throw this idea around a bit with their random hijinks. But is it really that funny? No, not really. Not to me.

In a way, I guess I should be thankful that these characters are also depicted to be just as human as everyone else, if not more so - they have their flaws, but even if that's often all you can see at first, that's not all there is to them. Like Sora - I hated him at first because he seemed like a giant asshole. But the more you observe the character, the more you realize that if you look hard enough, behind his flaws is a brilliant individual with a good heart where it counts. Why does that matter to me? Because I'm one of these people. Yes, I'm a shut-in. When I'm not working, for the most part I'm cooped up in a room in front of my computer or a game console. This has been my life for years.

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Not all of us act like the characters in these shows, though. We don't all comically shrink away from sunlight or even enjoy the confines of a small, dark room. Some, like me, aren't even happy with their way of life and feel trapped within it. Some, like me, even have a job, and are able to function in society on some level. While some things about me deviate from typical hikikomori tropes, I still consider myself a shut-in. The thing is, I don't want to remain this way - I want out.

I've been trying to write about this for a while, but I keep hitting a wall when doing so. Thus I'm just going to try to write up a shorter version of what's going on with me recently, leaving out any extraneous details. This is still going to be kind of long though, which explains why it's been so hard to write up.

About a year ago I became very aware of my current situation, it was honestly like being handed a mirror, looking at myself, and being horrified by what I saw. I'm 30 years old and still living with my parents. I never meant for my life to turn out this way, and now I desperately want out, but I haven't been able to find my way out. I want to learn how to drive, so that I can go pretty much anywhere I want, whenever I want, plus this would free me of the one thing I'm still dependent on my parents for. This would also open the door for me to finally live on my own.

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But I keep running into things that keep me from accomplishing this goal, and I still haven't been behind the wheel even once. Part of it has been a lot of depression and anxiety working against me and holding me back, but beyond that there's been other things going on as well that keep getting in the way.

In September, my mother fractured her foot and that just turned everything upside down. Already under massive stress at work, I now had to help out with pretty much everything around the house because my mother couldn't walk, which meant at times I was effectively still working and focusing on everything but my own needs even at home. This went on for months until she finally had surgery on her foot in January, at which point it temporarily got even worse for several more months. All of this combined with the brutally cold winter nearly killed me. I was under so much stress that it took everything I had at times just to remain functional. I wish this could be one of those "games helped me through it" stories, but while that's kind of true, at times I was so depressed and stressed out that I couldn't even pick up a controller. That's right, it got so bad that at times I didn't even want to play a video game, and for me, that's a new low.

Even now, nearly a year since my mother fractured her foot, she can now walk but not for very long, and is about to start physical therapy. Meanwhile, my father is not only getting old but he's always had heart problems and every time he helps me shovel the driveway in winter he gets so out of breath it scares the crap out of me. He's ridiculously stubborn and prideful and won't allow himself to NOT help because it will "make him feel bad", and refuses to understand that he should feel bad FOR helping because not only is he going to kill himself doing this but a lot of the time he's... honestly not even really helping and just making things worse.

Currently my father is also busy with a project he got roped into even when he's not at work right now, I try to approach him so that I can get on with learning how to drive and he's always working on it. My mother isn't driving yet due to her foot, and even if I were to get behind the wheel and work on my license now everything surrounding me is telling me I CAN'T LEAVE because my mother still can't walk very far or for very long and my father would never make it through a single winter without me.

But I know I can't stay here. I'm never happy here anymore, the only scenery I ever see is my desk at work and a house that no longer feels like home anymore. All of my friends are scattered across the US and Canada (some even overseas) with not a single local/offline friend in sight - well okay, there's one former coworker but we still only stay in touch online anyway. I'm tired of feeling trapped where I no longer belong and all the depression and anxiety makes it nearly impossible at times to remain functional at work - it's gotten so bad I don't even know how much longer I can keep myself employed, and now I'm constantly worried about that too. My thoughts often get garbled because of all the stress, especially when I try to even think about my situation or how I'm supposed to work my way out of it, which is why it's been so hard not just to do anything about it, but write about it as well.

About the only saving grace has been a number of incredibly supportive online friends. They're practically the only lifeline I've had, and are the reason I can cling so desperately and tightly to life, believing that as long as I keep going, eventually I will make it to where I need to be. In a little over a week I'll be flying out to meet some of them at Anime Expo 2014 and I can't wait. For six days I'll finally be away from all the stress, and actually meeting face to face some of the friends that mean so much to me. Then, rather than flying straight home, I'll be heading off to visit my sister for 5 more days.

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When I think about it, this long overdue vacation is incredibly significant. For the first time in years I'm just saying, "Screw it, for 11 days I'm leaving behind the same scenery and 20 or so people I've been stuck with for years and doing what I really want for a change." On top of that I'll be going out and actually being social, and not just outside the house but all the way on the west coast of the U.S.

I'm a little worried about what I'm going to do once my vacation is over and I have to return to everything I've been so desperate to escape. But maybe, just maybe, it'll be the recharge I need to jump-start everything I need to do to reclaim my life.