Maladaptive Daydreams

I haven’t written in a while, but this is a realization I came to recently, which I am trying to put into words, which I am trying to remember… because in a lot of ways, it’s the key and last hope to change.


I live in a state of perpetual fantasy.

Since I was old enough to hold a pencil, I’ve been writing or drawing to escape the various cruelties of reality. These disappointments involve the usual boring clichés of early childhood; being overweight, daddy issues, not speaking the dominant language very well, pathological lack of self-confidence, anxiety, schoolyard bullying. Everyone has their burdens which ultimately carry through to adulthood. And everyone has their coping mechanisms. I long thought that didn’t have any. That I’d somehow been spared the perilous challenges of dangerous addictions and other destructive means of escape, for those like me who hadn’t learned how to properly deconstruct and deal with issues. I sort of wore that fact with a badge of honour, for a long time. “I’m better than you, I don’t self-harm to deal with my problems,” I thought.

But then I realized that was because I didn’t deal with them at all, because I was never really there to deal with them at all.

I would write love stories by hand, in secret notebooks carefully stashed between textbooks under my bed. I learned to draw so that I could insert my characters into the various romantic or adventurous situations that I never could, but that I craved. On commutes to the schools or jobs I hated, I’d pretend to sleep and instead retreat into my mind, where my fantasy world allowed me to create the reality I truly wanted. Instead of classes and responsibilities, there were quests and beauty. Instead of dealing with the endless potential for disappointment and neglect which humans have in regards to the planet and each other, I’d imagine worlds where everyone was respectful, close to nature and each other. My worlds are beautiful, accepting and enriching… and I still spend as much time there as I possibly can.

This was something I’d done subconsciously for the better part of my life.

I realized recently, that I’ve been living almost exclusively  in my head for over 25 years, since those first experiences when I learned about the true, harsh nature of reality. When I realized that Princes don’t come and save you, that there isn’t some magical cat that’s going to grant me magical powers, that I can’t just become an award-winning career person through sheer force of wishing. 

Living is hard. People are cruel, competitive, untrustworthy. Disappointing. Heartbreaking. I still don’t understand how people are able to get over this. I never have been able to. People live for the hustle. I live for avoiding it. And yes, I know how disgusting that sounds. 

I was excited and hopeful once. However, as I progressed through my teens and into my twenties, I found myself rocked and traumatized every single time, by people’s ability to hurt others; by the overwhelming heartbreak which seems to be woven into life, and my shameful inability to work hard enough, or to be strong enough to deal with any of its fabric. To live is to hurt and be devastated time and time again, I realized, and though I was told that the upside was “becoming stronger”, I have never found this sort of lesson alluring. Call me sensitive or weak, but while the educational nature of these abrasive experiences might strengthen some people, they have only served to cause me to retreat even further into the safety of my mind. 

I’m smarter now maybe, but I’m further from reality than I’ve ever been. The older and more unaccomplished I get, the further and further away my mind drifts. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle. I’m trying to figure out what ultimately was the catalyst of this retreat. I still haven’t. I’m still trying. 

I’m still trying because in those moments when I am faced with my true reality, I am impossibly disappointed and ashamed of myself, and somewhere deep inside, I still haven’t given up on the idea that I might be able to function normally in the real world. I’m writing this at work, so clearly I haven’t figured it out yet. 

I have never worked hard on my real life, because it has always hurt or bored me. Instead, I have toiled on the joyful tasks of constructing such a rich fantasy life that my real life has become an exercise of minimal effort. Of “good enough”s and of lowest common denominators. Of scraping by as fast as I can, just so I can spend more time in my head, where things are loving and easy. The only positive sides are the creative skills I have developed to help craft this fantasy life into representations in reality, to be able to share these with some others who understand. Those are the only useful applications of myself I have been able to translate into reality. The only joys I find in reality, are those which come from my head and sharing them with the few other people who understand this affliction.  

As such,  I am ill-prepared for the perpetual challenges of real life. I am weak. I don’t wish to fight, because the promise of better things is but a daydream away. In my mind, I don’t have to try so hard to fit in, to be accepted, to love myself, which are all seeming impossibilities in the real world. But unfortunately, everyone has to live in the real world and ultimately, my imagination has become a band-aid. A crutch. An addiction. 

As such, I live in the ironically dual state of perpetual fantasy and permanent disappointment with myself.

In some sense, it’s a relief to understand it. To put it in writing. But in another way, it might as well be a pre-emptive epitaph explaining why my life was an utter failure.

I am no better than the addicts, than those who drink or do drugs, or watch television to escape. And I have realized that to progress in the real world, I might have to to destroy all I have created. To let go of the freedom and joys of childhood that have grown up inside me into beautiful, comforting things. I’m not sure I am willing. 

And so, I am in a perpetual state of flight.

And nothing flies forever. 

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Maladaptive Daydreams

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