Sunday, March 23, 2014

The healing power of fiction

 Depending on someone else is not something that comes to me naturally. For as long as I can, I make sure that I keep my problems to myself, and not tell it out. I know it's a silly misconception, but I feel like if I let people know how I'm really feeling, it makes me weak or stupid. That's quite hypocritical of me, because I never feel that someone else is weak or stupid when they open up to me. It's just...I hate the idea of being vulnerable.

I also tend to push myself in order to be strong. I hate crying. I hold things in for as long as I can, pushing back any tears that threaten to spill. I leave the room if I feel overwhelmed, and sleep it off or something. Even when I feel extremely low, I do not let myself feel express my feelings. Of course, I am no robot. I need an outlet for the emotions that keep boiling and raging inside me.

So I turn to fiction. Books. Movies. Television shows. Name it, and I look to it for company. Many a times, these modes end up being a crutch for me, something that I lean on heavily for a sense of happiness and well being. But to be honest, it's more than that. It heals me. It's part of a process that I use to rejuvenate and reinvent myself. Fiction calms the storms inside of me, and acts like a soothing balm to all my internal wounds.

When my grandfather passed away in 2012, it was like a safety blanket had been ripped away from my life. He was one of the people I adored more than most, and it was difficult to imagine a life without him. Right around then, I had started watching a television show, Pretty Little Liars. Initially it was just because I love a good mystery, but the reason I continued watching was because of two characters that made a strong impression on me, Spencer Hastings and Toby Cavanaugh. Their interactions, friendship and romantic relationship started meaning a lot to me. I still don't know what exactly it is, that made me like them so much.

But sooner than later, it became something that I turned to whenever I felt upset or sad. Seeing their happiness made me happy. To a normal person, this might sound insane, but I am actually proud of this. My attachment to them made me realize how strongly I can feel about something – I have always believed I am emotionally stunted except when it came to my parents, my sister and my few close friends and family. I use to wait to come home from college whenever a new episode was released, so I could sit in my room and enjoy it. Within a very short time, Spencer and Toby became the one thing (material) that made me the happiest. Their relationship, it gave me hope in a strange way. That sometimes good things can come out of bleak situations. And I don't mean this in the romantic sense AT ALL. They were the light at the end of the tunnel for me, and inadvertently, something that ended up giving me so much hope and faith in the world that I thought was a lost cause.

Spencer and Toby are not the only fictional source of happiness for me though. Harry Potter has been, perhaps one of the most influential things in my life. If I even begin to talk about the impact it has had on me, I could go all night. J.K Rowling's books made my childhood. Plain and simple. I grew up reading these books, and a large part of who I am is thanks to those books. Most of the lessons I have learnt in life came from them, not people in my own life. It has been a positive source of inspiration from me. Out of all darkness comes something good. It taught me the power of friendship...I will never stop being grateful to them for that. In fact, whenever I felt massively let down by my real life friends, Ron, Harry and Hermione would be my best friends, and give me the courage and push to achieve what I can. Even now, it is the same. I have grown up...I am 20 now. But my relationship with them hasn't changed at all. I trust them with my life.

It's not just me, to be honest. One day I was casually surfing a Harry Potter blog, and I saw one section dedicated entirely to people thanking Harry, his friends or Jo for the enormous contribution they have made in his life. One of them stated that she had been feeling extremely suicidal, but had decided to stay alive until the final Harry Potter film came out, because she couldn't imagine dying without having seen it. These stories had actually become a beacon of hope, a silver lining to the darkest cloud, and something that kept people alive. She then went on to say by the time the final movie came out, she had found a reason to live. She wasn't suicidal any more. This story truly touched my heart, and I cried tears of joy. These characters that came out of somebody's imagination became another's reason to live. Truly glorious.

In school, I was one lonely child. Okay, scratch that. I was more of a loner by choice. I felt that no one there would bother to understand me, and they were all to superficial for me anyway, so why bother? I am glad I am not quick to judge any more, but that is not the point of this story. During those times, my constant companions were the books in my hands. I would simply not go to school without a book. I used to read them between classes, during the breaks, during PE class, whenever there was a free period, etc. I was always reading, and hence, I never found the need for human company. I was so content by myself, losing myself in these myriad worlds, that I completely lost track of whatever was going around me. Even though people complain about how lonely they felt in school, I simply smiled to myself, because despite being devoid of human company, I never truly felt alone.

I don't care how much like a lunatic I sound. Fiction makes me happy. Period. I don't think I would like it any other way, even though I've come to appreciate human company off late. My heart still feels light and happy when I watch an episode of Pretty Little Liars, or when I see pictures of Harry Potter or watch a fun movie on screen. I don't mind talking about it obsessively, despite the looks I get. I know that at the end of the day, when I am sad or low or depressed, I have a place to get to, without hurting myself or others in anyway. I know that there is something back there that can heal my most painful wounds, and leave me feeling warm and fuzzy.

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