Since I was younger, I have had the ability (or perhaps the curse) to get completely lost inside a story. At the time, I didn’t realize that not everyone could do this. Not everyone can suspend reality long enough to be completely immersed inside a world that isn’t theirs.

So I didn’t understand why I felt so miserable after watching or reading something that I loved so dearly. Everyone else seemed like they could just enjoy it and then get back to their regular lives. So why couldn’t I?

It’s not something that a person would normally talk about. It sounds stupid to say that you’re depressed because the world you’ve just left isn’t real and the characters that you’ve spent so much time with don’t actually exist. You’re unhappy because reality isn’t like the movies or a TV show? Sounds a bit silly to you probably.

But it’s not silly at all. It’s something real that a lot of people face. And it’s very dangerous.

The Symptoms

The first two stories I remember affecting me like this were Anne of Green Gables and Lord of the Rings. I know Anne of Green Gables seems unlikely, but hear me out.

They were both really long stories, both books and movies. I spent hours with the characters, experiencing their trials, feeling their emotions. It all became so real. There was purpose inside these stories and meaning outside of the ordinary life.

However, once I left these worlds, I became short-tempered and irritable. I felt like regular life didn’t have nearly as much meaning or purpose. It actually made me feel angry. There was no one to talk to who could understand why I felt that way. There were no distractions from it. I simply felt unsatisfied in everything.

Other People Experience It Too

Once I became an adult, the stresses and distractions of life soon made it difficult to escape into a fantasy world the way I did when I was a young teenager. But over the years, I started hearing things that made me believe that maybe I wasn’t the only one.

I had a friend once tell me that she was obsessing inside a video game story. I don’t know much about video games, but I know enough about story obsession to recognize it in another person.

She told me that she couldn’t stop thinking about it and how leaving that world felt unbearable. I knew exactly what she meant. It’s that feeling of extreme excitement and desperation to share what you’re feeling with another person. It’s one of the most unsatisfying feelings.

How To Escape From The Clutches of Fantasy

I have definitely revisited story obsession as an adult through stories like Doctor Who and Firefly. Stories that run on for a long time are always more dangerous to get caught up in. However, I’ve also learned how to keep them from controlling the way I feel about my own life.

  • Remember that stories are meant to inspire you not suck the life out of you.

Too much of anything can make you sick. Stories are a reflection of reality. They can inspire you to do amazing things in life. So experience them. Enjoy them.  But know when to walk away.

  • Get some space.

Spend time with friends. Exercise. Take a walk. Learn a language. Do something productive and fulfilling so you don’t feel empty in your reality.

  • Don’t forget to live your life.

If you feel like life will never be as good as it is in the story, then maybe you’re not actually living it. Take some time to evaluate and make changes to live a life worthy to be put in a story. Change your reality.

Have you ever felt like life was not satisfying after becoming too involved in a story?



Rachel M Taylor

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Rachel is a writer/director. She loves character driven movies and really good cheese.

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