I spent many years of my life in an ivory tower constructed from my paranoia and feelings of superiority stemming from insecurity and sadness. “My walls will protect me from the laughs, whispers and judgmental glances of strangers,” I thought to myself as I locked myself in my room, scrolling through fanfiction on Quizilla.
“My cartoon friends will protect me, too. They’ll burst through my window and sweep me off my feet, rescuing me from the family drama, bullying and the overall humdrum existence of life in the real world.”
That never happened, obviously. But I would drift off into blissful sleep every night dreaming beautiful dreams about the stories I read and the shows I watched. I savored those dreams and played them out in my head until they faded with time.
My friend, Dianna, and I scrolled Yu-Gi-oh! fanfiction inside flimsy spiral notebooks in middle school. Regrettably, a lot of my possessions were lost in time, and with them were those notebooks. But I still remember some of those stories very clearly. We created romances, adventures and duels with the two of us and the characters in the show. I read other people’s fanfiction about their romances, adventures and conflicts with characters from other anime. No matter what I read, I put myself in the shoes of the narrator or main character.
Writing about fictional worlds helped me cope with the nonstop paranoia and fighting between my mom and brother at the time. I was sick of hearing about how my brother thought Mom was poisoning us, and for awhile I believed him. When my brother moved out to live with our grandparents in Michigan, I was alone without a best friend at home. Of course, the tension only grew with his departure. Mixed feelings toward Mom conflicted in me. On the one hand, I wanted to love her, but it was hard when I was so upset about her separating us. I felt nervous talking to my grandparents and my brother on the phone out of fear that my mom was listening.
As a result of this stress, I allowed manga, anime and other books sink their tendrils deeper and deeper into my psyche. Fanfiction became my biggest hobby and distraction when I wasn’t playing video games, watching or reading anything. The appeal of imaginary worlds was so tempting because I felt more in control over everyone’s emotions and reactions than I did in the real world. I felt so out of control of how my mother acted and reacted to things. Her anger was unpredictable, and that scared me. I wanted predictable and happy in my life. My imagination could create predictable scenarios, control characters’ reactions, dialogue, actions, what they wore and everything else.
I remember struggling constantly everyday throughout high school for my own inner balance and peace. Not until college did I realize that balance had to come from a physical separation from my home and family. So, I applied to colleges in Upstate New York rather than locally in the city. My wish was granted. I was accepted to SUNY Plattsburgh, one of the most removed areas from the city. I’m not much of a wilderness person, but I found peace in walking along the trails in the local woods or along the Saranac Lake behind campus. My imaginary friends were replaced by the little forest critters skittering about along the lake.
I guess that dark time in my life can be attributed to my needing to feel in control over things I cannot control. The emotional duress I’ve been through stole that sense of security from me. As a result of my mom’s volatile temper, I’ve developed a fear of people becoming angry over things that only my mother would be upset about.
Admittedly, those were fun times. I had fun locking myself in my bedroom on the weekends or at night after school, scribbling away in my notebooks and sharing those scribbles with my friends. Diving into worlds of make believe are still fun to me, but I enjoy the life I live and the person I share it with. While little monsters from my past still haunt me, I know that I cannot control certain things, so I need to let them go. Therapy and medication has made that possible. Most of all, I have Will, the one constant force in my life who does not judge me for my feelings or actions.