It’s been May for the past 23 days. I feel late in hopping on the bandwagon with May’s theme of Mental Health Awareness. I knew I wanted to contribute – how, when, were the real questions. Howwill be through here, trying to spin my logic through a blog I’m not sure if anyone reads. When was decided upon literally five minutes ago, deciding that all that is currently choking me must come out.
When I was in second grade, my teacher told me that’d I’d be famous one day. I wasn’t after fame. I just loved to write. The topic in class had been medieval history, and over that time period the students had to write a fairy tale – just a little book, complete with a cover and illustrations.
Mine was the only one that needed to be spiral bound because it was too fat for the normality of staples.
Those moments, her words, have remained with me for the past eighteen years. That’s a long time to think about, Well… what happened before then that caused me to pour my eight-year-old heart into something so miniscule?
My mother once told me that I was always a depressed child. I’m not sure what that means, even today. I’m not sure what she saw, what she heard, but I know that I struggle with depression now, along with bouts of anger-anxiety. Anxiety in general. What I learned though, in my coming to understand myself as an adult, was that I was also something else.
Back to me at eight, my spare time consisted of reading, drawing, and writing. Drawing would consist of drawing out the characters of the books I was reading. Writing would consist of fanfiction of said books, or writing my own comparative fiction in the same genre. Or it was running around like the characters I’d read about, and it was mainly some sort of animal MC. (main character).
Me at nine, ten, eleven, those habits had become engrained, though the genre had changed from pretty horses and housedogs saving the world to horse racing jockeys and young adults saving the world. Time changed my interests. Time failed to change me.
My mother always told me I’d obsessed too much. And I had. These books were real. These people were real. Playing in my room would be the best thing ever, even as an only child, because I never was mentally alone. I was there with all these awesome people. I’d mentally include myself in their world, rewrite their story to adopt me.
Me at fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. Engrained habits, still there. Writing, drawing, only this time my mental friends had changed to real living people, not the people in the books. I’d rewrite music interviews, fanfiction became an explosion of new characters based on lyrics and scenes I’d see from listening to the same song, the same CD, for hours on end, and then I’d act out these scenes or dialogue behind closed doors.
Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, I still did the same things. I’d hide in the bathroom, take extra-long showers, and act or say everything out that was in my head. Writing had been my escape, but it was done on my phone notes in unholy hours of the night, because stars forbid my parents find it and call me crazy-er. I felt crazy.
Twenty and married… Twenty-five and a housewife… All this is still very much so the same me. More tamed, yes, but it’s all still me.
The depressed, obsessed, daydreaming child turned into the depressed, obsessed, daydreaming adult.
And you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with being a writer. Probably wondering how this applies to Mental Health Awareness month.
Daydreaming is what made me into the writer that I am. Without these vivid tv-like scenes in my head, I’m not sure if I’d have an imagination worthy enough of a writer. And there’s some times that I’d rather sit there and daydream about my own book than actually write it because the things I see in my head, like, how can you get that on paper? How can I make this more real than it already is in my head? Writing is frustrating. Not writing is frustrating. Writing is life.
Life. This is where my emotions derail, and my fantasies come to a cliff-hanging halt. I’ll contemplate a life – a normal life – where I’m not a writer, where I’m independent of my daydreams, where I’m just… living, I guess. I don’t know, I guess, just what normal people do. Gawd, what would I do with my life? What would I do all day? How would I cope? Who would I talk to? Oh, people? There’s actual people out there? Those contemplations are quickly shot down because I know that there will be the numbness to follow. The detachment. The lack of feelings or purpose.
But I guess I’ve come to understand – The numbness was always there, and my MD was just a way of dealing with it. Looking back, childhood, teenage-hood… I wasn’t me. I was living an idealized me. I was a fictional character come to life. I was trying to be like whoever it was that I was emotionally attaching to, why? I have no idea. Heck, I still live an idealized me.
I sit back and I think – I know – That I would be detached from myself if I ever tried to go cold turkey with eighteen years of daydreaming.
Who am I? Whatam I?
But I don’t think like that. I’m a writer by nature. I was a writer long before I knew my condition had a name, as I just finished telling you. I write because I’m compelled to. I write because it brings me happiness. Because it’s a passion, a dream, I have a yearning. And I care about how words effect people. I care about how things are said. I care about the tone of voice in howit’s said.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that MD is a form of escapism. I don’t know what I’m escaping. I don’t know if somehow my DNA was just always meant to carry a little heartbeat of darkness and that’s why I struggle with depression. I don’t know if it’s because somewhere along the way, I became insecure with myself that I used my mental characters as a crutch of acceptance and therefore I have an idealized me that lives a separate life in my head. Basically, I think vicariously through this idealized person, and honestly, sometimes he helps me get through the day. There’s a mentally stronger person under the anxious me.
Maladaptive Daydreaming is still being researched. I’ve taken the first step in admitting I have the problem. I’ve taken the second in pinpointing where it started. The third step? Remember to stay active in the real world.
And you know what? I’m truly trying.
Schedule a coffee date. Schedule a paint and sip with a friend at your own home. Remember those dogs you own? Take them for a longer walk. You get invited to hang out at someone’s house? Go. Just go. Go do. Remember the grass in your yard? Yeah, it feels good underneath your bare feet, right?
These things – all of the above – are the mastery rules of finding feeling again through the murk of depression. They happen to be the same rules in getting the mastery of daydreaming, too.
Mental Health Awareness Month is almost over. But that doesn’t mean we stop engaging in activities that make us better than our problems. Everyone has problems. Embrace it. Whether than means fixing it, or just taming it. We’re all a little broken, we’re all a little crumpled page in a big book. But we’re the writers of our own page, and I’m not about to let anyone write my words for me. That’s my ink. Don’t touch it.
Because I’m a writer. It’s what I was born to do. My page just happens to be written with the help of fictional characters.
Cover artwork is not of my own originality. https://alexandralevasseur.com/2014