The following post is inspired by the gripping (and haunting) memoir January First. It’s written by a father, Michael Shofield, about his family’s struggle to find the right treatment for his daughter Jani, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at six years old. Join From Left to Write on September 6th as we discuss January First. As a member, I received a copy of the book for inspiration purposes.
It’s not that I don’t love my life. I do. I have three outrageously entertaining, almost entirely sweet kids. I have a fun-loving husband who will dance to make me laugh, and who helps do the dishes. Then there’s the family who doesn’t live here, but lives in my heart and on the phone. I have the kind of friends who feel like family, laugh like crazy, and love me unconditionally (which ain’t easy, I tell you). Yes, every day I count my blessings.
But you know what? There are times I get overwhelmed in this world. The real one. My to do list feels too long, the screaming kids are too loud, the expectations are just too much. And I retreat.
I don’t go far. To look at me, you might even think I’m still here…where you physically see me. But I’m not. I’m in my imaginary world. With my imaginary friends.
Ok, they’re not entirely imaginary. They’re real people. Sort of. They’re real people at their wittiest. They’re real people at their most adorable. They’re real people who simply want me to like them. And I do. And, you know what, they like me right back. They want me to hear them. And I do. And, you know what, they hear me right back.
But here’s the problem with my imaginary world. The more stressed out I get, the deeper I dive in. Instead of addressing the things that need to be done in the real world, I turn to my imaginary friends.
And honestly, there are times, I know my absence from reality is hurting the people I love most.
They try to call me home. To bring me back. To remind me that what I’m seeing isn’t what really matters. “Can you play with me now?” In a minute. Just one more minute. With nobody asking me for anything. Just one more minute.
Don’t get me wrong. We all need a bit of an escape. We all need connections with like-minded people—or even debate with people who think entirely differently. We all want a place to express ourselves. And Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., they all have their place in reality. (And, in my case, in my career.)
But I’m making an effort to be more mindful of the time I spend in my self-created world. Because my real world—the kids, the family, the friends—they’re all I’ve ever asked for. Even if, at times, the demands of a full life feel like more than I can handle.