The Dangers of Escape
Who doesn’t like getting away occasionally? Mental vacations are great, when taken in moderation. For instance, going on a Netflix binge or getting lost in a video game for a few hours can be a really helpful source of self-care.
But “moderation” is not something I (or most people I know with Borderline Personality Disorder) am good at, and it’s a lot easier than anyone expects for our innocent escapes to turn into unhealthy habits and even addictions.
Over the last year, I’ve spent the majority of my time finding ways to not be present. I’ve been struggling a lot, but instead of coping in a healthy way I took to escapism like a fish to water. At my darkest point, I was hiding bottles of alcohol in my bathroom and getting blackout drunk on a regular basis. I justified my behavior by weighing the harm I was doing to myself against how shitty I felt all the time. “I struggle, so I’ve earned the right to check out of reality.”
I was not safe, and I was most certainly not practicing self care.
My numbing methods escalated from Netflix marathons to binge drinking so quickly that I didn’t realize I had a problem until a new friend confronted me with it. We were getting to know each other, chatting about hobbies and stuff, and he asked why I liked the games I was talking about. I told him that I like really immersive RPGs because they are easier to disappear into. Well, he called me the fuck out.
“Wow, you sure like to escape a lot.”
Hearing that felt like eating a handful of sweet candies and getting a sour one by surprise. I felt my face scrunch up, and I got a bit defensive, but I bit my tongue. I thought over our recent conversations and realized he was right: every time we talked, I was raving about my latest escape.
“I have a lot to run away from,” I told him. I expected for him to leave it at that, but he is obnoxious and persistent, and he pushed forward.
“You only get one life. A short one. Why would you want to live a life that you consistently want to get away from?”
I’m pretty sure I made some snarky comment and changed the subject, but what he said lit a fire in me.
I don’t really know why I didn’t talk about this before. I guess I was really, really ashamed I let things get that bad. I remember someone telling me once that when you feel the need to hide a habit, that’s when it’s becoming a problem; the fact that I hid this from even my closest friends proves to me that my escapism, especially my drinking, had become a very serious problem. I was also pretty ashamed because I preach about the importance of self-care (and even did a panel about it!) but I had been taking abysmal care of myself.
I don’t know that I feel ready to go into detail about all the ways I overhauled my life after this conversation. Some things that have worked for me have been yoga, walks in the rain (or during cool evenings), and therapy. Moderation and mindfulness are key when it comes to replacing bad habits with good ones, and you might find it helps to have one or two trusty friends to call you on your shit when you’re slipping too far. In the end, though, only you can really say what will work for you.
And if you’re looking for your sign to change things up, this is it. You only get one life. A short one. No matter where you are in your journey, your life is precious. If nothing else, use my story as a cautionary tale. Escape is great, but it’s not a great way to live, and I promise you that you deserve better.