When daydreams are your solace

What happens when a fantasy life is more compelling to you than your own present or even potential future? I’m not talking about visualizing your future – seeing yourself financially and emotionally stable, for instance. Of course that is more compelling. Of course you would long for that and dream of the day it could become reality. I’m talking about when your depression has so thoroughly overtaken you that the only way out is complete separation from self: the imagining of oneself as someone entirely other, entirely different. These sorts of fierce and often episodic daydreams rely on the dreamer’s complete acceptance of the impossibility of said dream: in order to become lost in the beautiful details of the day-to-day life of an Irish ballerina with two different-coloured eyes and long spiraling yellow curls (to cite one of my own), we must first inevitably accept that this can never be. (In high school, I got around this necessity by convincing myself of the possibility of reincarnation.) But now I’m 26 and can’t convince myself that things must be real just because I feel in the deepest cavity of my chest that I need them to be.

Once the impossibility has been accepted (though nothing will mute the physical longing to make it otherwise), characters and dialogue, physical sensations, even previously unfamiliar feelings, grow like wild blueberries. Suddenly you are a child, binging yourself on these sweets, standing barefoot and purple-fingered beside the blueberry bushes. I was enchanted, happy, free, believing (and seeing evidence of) my own prettiness in the exhaustive details of an imagined face (freckles, rosebud lips, large eyes shifting in colour and meaning). What was biting would become gorgeous, tender, symphonic. I could be Christine Daaé, Lizzie Bennett, Elizabeth Swann, Kitty Shcherbatsky, Bathsheba Everdene, Valentine Wannop. I could be a young girl with long black eyelashes and an unspeakably beautiful face, and I could be loved with the ferocity of a Heathcliff or a Rochester, a Vronsky or a Maxim de Winter.

This is the part where anyone else would warn you about the dangers of becoming too consumed by these daydreams, these rich almost literary fantasies. But I can’t, because I don’t know a suitable (or even efficacious) alternative, nor have I ever turned from them entirely. When life (your life) offers you gifts, gifts based in reality, stark, plain, real, you wake up momentarily, you engage, you touch, you feel. Sweet faces and snowfalls and lovers with brown eyes. But when the gifts are taken away again, you close your eyes and you pretend.

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I'm a former student of English literature, an editor and a creative writer who has been attempting to live with body dysmorphic disorder as well as severe anxiety and a recent diagnosis of Bipolar II. I believe that struggles with mental health are often lifelong and people in these situations need comfort, support and occasional moments of peace granted to them in order to survive.

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