In a common understanding, my brain doesn’t function properly. I see and hear things that don’t exist in the outside world. My mind creates and populates worlds fit only for imagination, and I can spend hours weaving through their streets and forests to try and understand the occupants of the fabricated existence. I don’t know how to not be this way.
I was terrified of telling people how daily life differed for me. So much of what I’ve studied from the people I’ve known and interacted with has allowed me to act normally in social settings. But the person I portray is only a part of me; a part I can access and a role I can play in a passable manner when needed. It’s not my definitive personality, though.
Who I am is unknown to almost everyone. Even those closest to me have been spared the tailspins into delusions that transport me into different realities I then turn into stories or let play out like movies in my mind. I’d love to say they were all enjoyable, but that would be a lie. As often as they are a delight to indulge in, they can also be a terrifying delve into the darker parts of my subconscious.
Resting beneath the surface is a near-constant fear that feeds these darker stories that linger in my mind like the air around us. I fear being seen beyond what I show everyone. I fear what people will think if they see me having an episode or am so engaged with a fantasy that it’s hard for me to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s only in my mind. I fear everyone and what they might do to me.
When you’re a kid and the only people you see that may represent how you feel on TV are being locked away in mental asylums or being treated as the freak to be feared, you build a wall around the version of you that could spark the same reactions from even your own family. I’ve been afraid of the world for as long as I can remember. And I’m afraid the world is terrified of me as well.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to change who I am and how my brain operates. Medication helps keep the darker aspects of my condition at bay for the most part, but I still seem to exist in the grasp of a separate state of mind. Feeling normal is a passing sensation that I get from time to time, but even then, I know that I don’t belong in that world.
On Sunday, I ran my first mountain trail race in almost two years. It only took a few miles for the pack to thin out and I found myself alone. Adrift in the woods, my mind began to create a separate reality. I placed a small branch of pine needles in my hat to appease the forest and the creatures that appeared in my mind. The traumerites, mystic beings that exist within the winds and spark the worst emotions that inhabit your thoughts. The logdunes, minuscule creatures that burrow into downed trees during the daylight to hide, emerging from the shadows as the sun sets to let their luminescent tails guide the paths of the beasts that wander the mountains at night. The cone-ivores, an aggressive species of pinecones that dive bomb from the canopy above in an attempt to nibble on your flesh.
The list of creatures I documented from my imagination reached almost twenty. Each of them seemed to have some semblance of reality in my mind. None of them truly exist in any way. I know they don’t exist. But when I’m alone on the trails, I also know they’re there, scurrying about around me as if I were transported to a different realm and am now just a minor part of a greater fantasy.
Sometimes I wish I could bring people into these worlds. It’s why I write. If any good can come from my condition, I hope it’s the chance to show everyone the beauty that can come from a broken mind.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to deal with the pain that comes with the beauty, though. It crumbles me at night as I lay awake wondering what the next day will bring forth from my mind. I had an idea of what progress would look like as I’ve sought help to maintain stability. But I’m not sure anymore. I fear being overprescribed with medications that inhibit my ability to see other worlds. I fear being underprescribed and being forced to reckon with the darkness on my own. I try to live in the moments in between.
Above all the fears is a singular goal: stay alive.
To achieve this goal I have to ration my energy in the best possible ways. To keep my worlds alive, I’ll use every word I write to document their existence and try to share it with the world should I be given the chance. Should the chance never come, at least I’ll know I’ve tried.
I’ll still be wandering around the running world, racing and directing, spying on new creatures, and documenting their habits. And should you ever want to see what I see, feel free to ask. I might not be able to show them to you, but I can do my best to make them vivid in your imagination.