How I Learned I Was An Escapist, And Why I’m Better For It

Your mental needs can change, and sometimes your coping mechanisms change with it.

Unsplash | @rithika_gopal

Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I claim to be, a medical professional. The information below comes from personal experience. Please do not use this in place of professional care.

Escapism (es·cap·ism):

Noun

The tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.


When you’ve dealt with consistent, and somehow irregular, fluctuations in your mental health, it can be easy to fall further and further into negative ruts. The older we get the more we change, and so do our mental needs and hardships. From a personal standpoint, I can honestly say my depression now is nothing like it was a few years ago; oddly enough it’s both worse AND better. As for my anxiety? Let’s just say it’s a gift from college that I’m ready to return.


Yes, these things are rough on their own, and sure, they suck ass. But I was someone who’d been used to dealing with a negative mindset.

Notice the past tense there?


As I got older and traveled further down my path of healing, I’d realized that now, more than ever, feeling miserable seemed to be my default setting.


Where my depression had been somewhat contained in the past, the recent introduction to anxiety broke that mold. Suddenly I wasn’t just feeling controlled bursts of negativity: it flowed like a constant stream in the back of my mind, randomly peaking but never leaving. Talking didn’t make me feel better, art was never more than a distraction, and the isolation I endured (both physically and mentally) just ate away at my strength. I found myself losing touch with my identity.


I knew who I was, but I felt like I was just going through the motions. The fire that fueled my ambition—that made me proud of my creativity, and let me hope for the future—barely felt like a spark.


I was spiralling and struggling, trying every technique I could to feel connected again but nothing worked. That is, until my saving grace came to me in the most unexpected ways: an anxiety attack, a friend, and some personal realizations.


I had a tendency for escapism without even realizing it.


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My friends aren’t the best at helping me deal with my anxiety, but I’ll never claim they don’t try their hardest. In the midst of one of my more severe attacks, my good friend adopted a system that I told her worked well for me: get me to stop freaking out, then try and figure out the problem together when I’m calmer. It was usually the same method every time too. She’d tell me to go take a shower then watch some Supernatural, Voltron, or any show she knew I’d seen over and over.


The shows helped distract my mind from my problems, but diverting my attention wasn’t the only thing it did for me.

As an extremely creative person (and weeb and geek) I live for the world of fantasy. I spend hours doing character studies on Draco Malfoy; I’m constantly taking notes on the intricate world building in Avatar: The Last Airbender; and I can binge a series faster than Danny Phantom can say “Going ghost!” When I was deep in my anxiety or depression I didn’t watch these shows at random, I watched them because they helped reignite my spark, and reconnect me with the shit that makes me who I am.


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Dragons, spells, fire bending, monster hunting—whatever it was—filled me with hope and wonder. So when I’d reached a point where watching wasn’t enough to curb the toxicity in my mind, pushing that boundary came as naturally as breathing.

When I’d doubt my ambitions, I’d “tattoo” some My Hero Academia symbols and quotes in pen on my arm; my personal middle finger to the world and physical reminder to “Go beyond, plus ultra!”


When my anxiety didn’t attack but sat quietly in my brain, I’d blast Dean Winchester’s favorite songs and walk around with my head held high like the badass I finally let myself believe I was.


If things got dark (an all too frequent occurrence), and I needed more of a boost than normal, I’d throw on my Haikyu! merch, or some casual “cosplay” (a.k.a dressing in my character of choice’s inspired aesthetic) and slowly let my attitude shift a bit for whatever extra kick I need that day: more confidence, more comfort, mental strength, a day to be sad and not have it morph into more depression, etc.

I’m not changing who I am or just “transforming” into other characters, I’m seeing myself in their world, and envisioning myself through another lens.

Using my escapist tendencies to rejuvenate myself is a power trip that leaves me feeling so fuckin’ unstoppable and has helped me offset much of the pent up negativity I had been, and still am, dealing with.


Escapism was my savior, but everything has an extreme. It's all about balance.


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Mentally, I knew escapism was a game I was strong enough to handle.


There are people who use it as a way to hide from their reality and hide from their problems. They don’t confront their personal issues, and in the end, they’re worse off.


But I wasn’t “escaping,” not really. I felt more like traveling, more like a traveler.


I was visiting other places in my mind and bringing the elements I liked back to my reality—things that were meant to help me fight through my problems, not run from them.

Socially however, I’ve dealt with many people trying to get me to “grow up.” They’ve tried bullying me out of my dreams, tried convincing me I’m too ambitious, and tell me there are too many boundaries to defy.


It’s ignorant to say words are just words because, if we’re being honest, they’re not. They might not stop you on your way to ruling the world, but that doesn’t mean they don’t fucking hurt. These are the moments I need to treat myself like the main character I am. After all, no one worth a story rose to greatness without challenges.


So for all my creators, dreamers, geeks, and weebs who’ve found homes in other worlds that help fuel your fire and help fight your inner demons, I say carry on.

Fuck what anyone else thinks.


With ambition and hope,

Draco Rose