Living in a Fantasy World? You’re Not Alone

Back in April of last year, I published a post on a special and – until I announced it on my blog – private experience. The post was called Living in a Fantasy World, and it was my way of finally revealing this place to where I go when I need to escape from this world of reality. I tried my best to explain what such an experience feels like and how it looks when my mind is lost in this world of imagination. It’s a unique place in which to be, that’s for certain, and it’s something that I wish I could bring you all into for at least a day. Then again, it’s also quite personal and a place of refuge and meditation, so it’s probably best it stays that way. However, I’m so glad that I decided to share it on my blog, because it has been a place for others to feel comfort. I have received many comments on my post since April, but especially in more recent months, which has inspired me to want to write this follow-up.

Refuge and Meditation

Refuge and meditation… those are two words that I hadn’t really associated with my fantasy world until I finally told my therapist about it, and posted here on my blog. When I first revealed my fantasy world to my therapist a couple of years ago, I was so worried that she would think of me as being completely crazy and in dire need of more help than previously realized. I mean think about it. When I enter this world, I become lost inside of it. I’m not just this world in my mind as I lay down on my bed. No, I am ‘lost’ inside of it in every sense of the word. I am mentally, emotionally and physically there. I see it, feel it, touch it, and even more dramatically… live it. It is my world for that time being. It becomes my reality and it is the most magnificent place to be, because I become free of all pain, stress, and feelings of being the hopeless and pitiful loser that I so often feel like in the real world. Therefore, when the time came that I revealed this private world to my therapist, I expected the worst reaction. Although, she had proved herself trustworthy to me, which is why I finally felt I could tell her. So, I guess there was a part of me that hoped that she’d respond in a different way. Well, she didn’t let me down.

The telling of my world to my therapist was a wonderful experience. It started off nerve-wracking as heck, as I recall not even being able to look at her when I talked about it. I also read to her a description about it that I thought would help to better express this world to her. That helps with the no eye contact thing too. And, her response was so supportive that it made me feel like such a better person than I had before that day. Prior to that day, I felt as if there was something seriously wrong with me. Ok, yeah, I have bipolar, so it’s not like I can say that I’m all ok in the head. My family and friends can tell you just how bad I can be at times. But, this isn’t anything about mental illness. My worries weren’t of having a mental illness (as this was prior to my diagnosis anyway), but rather, that I was somehow becoming distanced from reality and heading to a bad place of losing touch with it all together. I worried that I was somehow stuck in some unending childhood. I felt almost as if I was stunted somehow and that I was unable to leave this world of make-believe that I should have left by the time I hit my teenage years. I felt that it was time to grow up, and yet I was struggling to do so.

Well, my therapist – over the course of quite some time of discussing it in the sessions to follow – helped me to realize quite the opposite. She told me that there wasn’t anything wrong with having a fantasy world. She thought it was such a great and beautiful thing to have in my life and I should embrace it. Wow! Embrace it? Really? I never expected that to come out of her mouth, that’s for sure. Yet, it did. She had also began to help me understand just how important this world had become for me. I wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar until late 2009, and up until that point I was lost for years in a downward spiral into what can only be described as my own personal hell on earth. It’s quite an upside-down-topsy-turvy-complete-loss-of-control feeling when the world continues to move along normally around you, while you are slowly disintegrating into nothingness.

So, what does this have to do with my fantasy world? Well, my therapist helped me to finally see that my world of imagination was in actuality a refuge for me. It had become the place that would save my life. I can’t say that I would have ended my life without it. I know I wanted to many times, but I can’t say that I really would have done so, because obviously I didn’t. But, I also wonder now, thanks to my therapist, if maybe my fantasy world saved me too. When I was too depressed, then my mind was too exhausted and numb to be able to imagine my place of happiness. Happiness was gone. Before I even reached those points, though, I would sometimes head into that world and it would help me during those times. I would feel good for that period of time. As I wrote in my initial post back in April, coming out of that world was a different story. If I was interrupted somehow, then it was jarring and I was left angry and not the most pleasant person to be around. That’s still the case. If I naturally come out of it, though, I do not feel like that. Unfortunately, though, the depression will return and often sometimes worse knowing that my world of success is only in my head.

However, through it all back then, that world still provided me with a refuge during times that could have otherwise been spent obsessing on the negative that surrounded me. It did indeed save my life during those times when I had no therapist, no psychiatrist, no meds, and no diagnosis as for what on earth was happening to me. It gave me a place to go where my life was not upside down. That is where what my therapist described makes so much sense. And, I thank her for helping me to view my world as more than just some childish, losing-control-of-my-reality type of experience. And, then there is the blogging community. After my posting, I had several responses from people who read my post and not only appreciated me sharing, but helped me to feel like it was a place of meditation and importance that was creative. They, along with my therapist, helped me to see just how much creativity it takes to go into such a world in my mind, and that it was something that I should embrace and of which I should be proud as well.

I now realize, loud and clear, that being able to escape into my fantasy world is a gift that God has given me. He knew I would need some way to survive through some of the most tormented times of my life. And, having that place allows me to escape from a world that does not understand me. No matter how much my loved ones may try (for which I appreciate and love them dearly, and hope they never leave me), they just can’t understand what I feel inside. What those thoughts are that drill into my skull and cause pain that makes me want to use a sledgehammer to shatter my dysfunctional brain. The pain it feels to be high on top of the world. To feel happy, carefree, and enjoying life like I have the right. But then, suddenly crash to the bottom and wind up curled up on the couch in tears and exhaustion, and many times not even know what triggers it. It’s not fair, but mental illness isn’t fair. It sucks beyond all meaning of the word ‘suck’.

Why I Wrote This Post

As I stated in the beginning of this post, I wanted to write a follow up to my previous post back in April on this subject. The reason for this is due to all of the recent feedback I’ve had on it. I feel that lately, people have been suddenly hitting on the post again and a few have commented recently, and that tells me that people are searching for the topic. These people want answers to what I also so long wanted answers. I couldn’t find many responses or articles on this topic back when I used to search for it, and so it makes me feel good that my post can help others to not feel so alone. I felt alone when I couldn’t find any, and that just made me feel – even more so – that I was losing touch with reality.

One person, in a recent comment, talked about his/her own experience with their fantasy world, and then followed that up with, “Am I crazy?” I assured them that they are not, and thankfully, due to the loving support and advice that I have received from many of you and my therapist, I was able to say that with confidence.

I find it quite telling that such a post has been hit on so much recently. I think more people out there have these worlds, and want an answer to that same question… “Am I crazy?” I know I always wanted that same answer. I want each and every one of those people out there who are searching for answers on this subject to realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a fantasy world. Take it from someone who has one and has been in that boat of worrying about my sanity due to it… there isn’t anything wrong with it. I love that I can finally say that. It’s OK. It’s our normal. It may not be the normal for most people in this world, but it is for many more than who come forward. And, that’s ok. No one has to reveal this place of private pleasure to anyone. It’s your world and no one else’s. If you choose to share about it, then great! If not, then great too! It’s great, because that is your choice, and you need to do what is best for yourself.

It’s important for me to emphasize that just because you may have a fantasy world, that doesn’t mean you have a mental illness. Such worlds can be a place for all people, no matter what is the source of his or her stress, pain, and need for a refuge. My therapist told me that. So, please don’t think that just because you have a special fantasy world that you go to, that it means you are suffering from bipolar like myself, or any other mental illness. It can just mean that you have a wonderful imagination of which you should be proud. And, hey, if you do happen to have a mental illness too… well, that’s OK too. You are not alone. We are all in this together. Mental illness or not, you are not alone.

Tap Into Your Imagination’s Energy

One of my favorite artists, Greg Olsen, and his perfect illustration of imagination.

One of my favorite artists and writers, Greg Olsen, and his perfect illustration of imagination.

Fantasy worlds can be a place for great material for books too. Think about it… our imaginations are taking us to places of happiness and enjoyment. Or, maybe for some, it takes them to places of darkness and scary scenarios, but if that’s what provides them with some sort of response that they desire, then that’s a place which is welcomed. It can be a place where one gathers up all of his or her creative thoughts and turns it into material for art, writing, music, or even interpretive dance. Basically, wherever your heart and mind can take you. So many places can be reached in reality with the content that comes out of our imaginative minds during these periods of fantasy. When you come out of those places, write it down. Have a notebook or journal nearby, and just jot down different parts if you can. And, who knows, someday you may come up with your own way of expressing it all to the world to share with others. Suddenly, the world can go into your world and experience the same joy, fear, or wherever you want to take them.

My therapist told me that another way to view it all, along with my dark thoughts that stem from my obsessive-compulsive disorder, is that Mary Shelly, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, and many others, all had to get their ideas from somewhere. Sure, the culture around them can inspire them, but without their own dark thoughts and imaginations of their own, they wouldn’t have been able to sculpt those inspirations into the works of Frankenstein, The Shining, and The Tell-Tale Heart. Those works have entertained generations, and in some cases for over one hundred years. That says a lot. I can now understand what my therapist meant by, ‘embrace it’.

Those of use who can relate to having a fantasy world have so much in common. We have a shared experience that not all can say they have. So, be proud of your fantasy worlds, no matter what they may be. Take them for what they are and enjoy every minute of your experiences, because it truly is a special place to have the ability to visit. And, even better than that… you own it! It’s your world! Your mind created it, no one else! You took inspirations from around you and created a world of your own. How freakin’ awesomely amazing is that!?!? EMBRACE IT!

In closing, I would just like to add that to those who do not go to these places of wonder and enjoyment, please do not look down upon those of us who do. For we may just be the people that provide the entertainment that you may one day add to your list of all-time favorites.

 

A song about loving imagination, by one of my favorite musicians, Adam Young (Owl City). Please give it a listen… it’s a beautiful song.

 

 

People in the Sky

As I sit here in the middle of the night, an experience from my childhood has entered my mind. So, I decided to write about it. It took place when I was a four-year-old toddler, and I’ve been told this story time and again ever since.

I was not like most four-year-olds. I rarely slept more than a few hours every night, and sometimes not even that much. I was full of energy, going on small amounts of sleep, and that one particular night was no exception. It was 4am and my mom was trying to do all she could to stay awake and keep an eye on her freakishly active little girl. To make her time productive, she would often go outside to do laundry. Back then, our laundry room was outside. She felt safe to do so with our trusted dog by her side. He was half collie and half german sheperd. Oh, what a beautiful, loving dog he was, and such a wonderful protector. For this reason only, my mom felt comfortable going out to wash at that late hour.

I would usually stay inside playing while she went outside to wash, but this one night I followed her outside. She said that I was just staring up at the sky. My mom could tell that my attention was fixed upon something, but figured it was just the moon or the stars. I always admired the moon and it would often be the source of my gazing as a child. So, she didn’t pay any further attention to my distraction.

Finally, she finished putting the clothes in the washer, and began to head back toward the house. It was then when I spoke the very words that I have heard repeated back to me ever since. “Mama, there are people in the sky.” My mom said that she turned to look at me and asked, “What?” I responded once again, “There are people in the sky, look mama!” It was at that moment that fear took hold of my mom. At the time, we had particularly tall hedges in our back yard. So, the first thought that went through my mom’s head was that an intruder must be jumping over the hedges into our yard. My mom, trying to keep her composure as not to scare me, just said, “Okay, let’s hurry inside, now.” I went inside very calmly, not sensing my mom’s worry, and not noticing her looking out the window once we were safe inside. My mom has always said that she never saw any sign of an intruder while looking out, and that our very good watch dog, who was sitting quite contently, never barked once. She figured that it must have just been a figment of her little girl’s imagination, and never spoke of it again for the next week.

All seemed to be forgotten about the incident that night, until one day my mom was reading her Bible that had some illustrations on some of the pages. As she read, I came into the room and stood by her side. She continued to read and then turned the page. It was then that I said, “Mama, that’s it.” My mom just looked at me, not knowing to what I was referring. She asked, “What are you talking about?” My mom has always said, that at that moment I pointed my four-year-old finger at a picture of an angel in the Bible and said, “That was the people in the sky.” My mom has told me that she stood silent for a moment, and then asked, “What did you see that night, Summer?” It was then, that my mom said I raised my arms into the praise position, looked up into the air and smiled. I then, looked back at her, and said, “That’s what the people were doing in the sky.” My mom knew that my knowledge of my faith, were limited at that point. I was four, and I knew only the bare basics about angels, Jesus, and other information that she had taught me. She also knew that the image in the Bible was one that I had not seen prior to that day.

My mom did not know what to think, but she did know that something was different about what I displayed for her in my description. She’s told me that I was serious as I repeated what I had seen, as if I was truly recalling something, and it wasn’t just my toddler mind creating it. She began telling several people the story, and all but my dad were convinced that I saw an angel. My dad is a man with deep faith, but he also has a analytical mindset. He prefers to rule out all possibliities, before placing his opinion or answer into the discussion. So, when he heard what I had told my mom, he began trying to figure it out. His final theory was in regard to our neighbor’s tree. They had a huge tree in their backyard, which I could see clearly that night. My dad figured that the branches and leaves, as well as the gaps in between them, were what formed an angel in my four year old mind.

Others had different theories. The mother of one of my sister’s friends told her that she believed it was definitely an angel. She said that it is known for children to see angels at such a young age. It’s an age of innocence, and a time when angels appear to them. Good points were made too about our dog. He was a great watch dog. He would bark and growl at the slightest sense of danger. That night, he was next to me while I stood outside by the door, and he never flinched. In addition, at that young age, I was frightened of the dark. I was near my mom and our dog at the time, so that is why I was calm. But, for me to see something in the sky, and remain calm and not get frightened, was another point that was brought up. My mom said that I was relaxed and content with what I saw. I didn’t cry, or show any signs of fear. I was just telling her about the people that I saw in the sky.

I wish that I couuld dig deep into my memories and remember that night. I want to know what I saw. My dad’s point is a good one, and I do think it is possible that it was merely our neighbor’s tree. But, at the same time, my mom said that I saw details in the angel. I saw the angel smiling, and she said that the look on my face as I showed her what I saw that night, was one of such peace.

I’ll never know what I really saw that night, but I’d like to think that it was indeed an angel. I mean how awesome is that? I believe God watches over me always, and my mom has often said that she feels it might have been a sign for her. She had become quite content with going out in the middle of the night to do laundry while I kept her awake. She had become so content that she didn’t even pay attention to her surroundings much anymore. After all, it was our backyard, in a nice and safe neighborhood, and we had our trusted dog who would attack anyone who tried to hurt us. However, after that experience, my mom no longer went outside that late at night again. She took it as a sign that God was saying, “No more. It’s not safe.” She saw the angel as a guardian angel, and she wasn’t going to ignore Him.

Maybe I saw an angel back then, or maybe I did not. However, what is certain is that my mom was safer each night after that experience. That is the only fact that I have from that night, but that is fact enough.

Besides, angel or not, I know that God is still watching over me, and that’s all that really matters in the end.