Wednesday, 10 July 2013

But Really... I Could Fly!

I know it's not unusual for children to have imaginary friends or create a fantasy world, but I've often wondered if there is a correlation between these things and mental illness. I had imaginary friends and a very active fantasy world. But there is one specific element I want to talk about today. When I was a little, I could fly.

Really I could fly. As an adult I rationalise that it's not possible, but I have such intense memories of flying like a bird when I was little that when I close my eyes and think about it I can still feel the freeing sensation. What's ironic to me is that I'm petrified of heights as an adult. But when I was a kid, I used to love swooping around the neighbourhood, diving and doing loop-de-loops, skimming the tree tops. Even as I write this I get this tingly happy feeling as I remember those days.

My best friend "Diana" loves for me to tell this story about my life to her and new people. She thinks it's hilarious that I am so insistent about my super special childhood abilities. She will say to someone "Kay thinks she could fly when she was a kid" which of course enrages my defences and I am immediately compelled to retort back "I don't THINK I could fly... I COULD fly!" And I will say the same thing to you if you ask me. I could fly when I was a kid.

I'm not sure when I stopped being able to fly. Think I was nine or ten. And I'm not sure why I stopped flying. It was such a freeing, empowering activity for me as a child. I sure could've used that kind of release as a teen. But all good things must come to an end as the saying goes.

So now as I sit here blogging my little heart out I wonder how common this is among people. I can't be the only person to have created such an intense escape fantasy. And as I reflect I realise that maybe I just swapped flying for other fantasies. As far back as I can remember I created worlds and personalities to escape my reality. I've never been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder but I definitely have some of the characteristics.

My fantasies have always been so all encompassing. There have been times when I can sit and literally watch an alternate reality play out in front of me. The images are so vivid that the reality and fantasy blur together. It can definitely be frightening to have that kind of power because sometimes I lose control of the fantasy and it takes over. I eventually come back to the reality and can reflect back on the fact that the fantasy was just that, a fantasy. But not always. Especially when other aspects of my illness take over.

Normal people can't understand this. They can't understand how and why I would create these alternate worlds. They haven't suffered the mental and emotional pain I have. Everyone has fantasies, but most people don't get lost in them. They don't lose control. I do. It's scary. Even the nice fantasies I have to work really hard to keep them on the surface. If I get too close to that blurring line, something clicks and the fantasy takes over, maybe just for a few moments but sometimes way longer. Like flying.

Now any "normal" person who just read all of this will think I'm batshit crazy. I am but that's besides the point. Mental illness can include necessary coping mechanisms that we create to survive. Unfortunately severely mentally ill people can let these aspects take over without us even knowing it. It's imperative that I have a very close circle of family and friends who can recognise when detrimental thought processes take over. I need these people to keep me in reality when I start to wander off too far. Luckily my husband is willing and quickly learning to recognise these things. I will never stop fantasising. I need it and to some extent like it, as long as I control the fantasy and not the over way around.

... Now if I could just remember how to fly...