I have debated off and on over the years whether to post about this subject matter, and I write this post with a bit of trepidation. It reveals a part of my life I have largely kept hidden, and yet there have been a growing number of reasons to reveal that part of my life. Firstly, the revelation of this part of my life has largely been met with positive or neutral reactions so my confidence has grown. Secondly, my diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder leads me to believe that more knowledge and testimony of atypical neurology is important. Thirdly, I’m simply tired of keeping it hidden.
I grew up in Haliburton County, which is by some measures the poorest county in Ontario. We had a remote and isolated infrastructure, and few forms of entertainment. A lot of our play had to done with little resources.
Like most children, I played imaginary games often as a kid, both alone and with my friends and sibling. Unlike most children, I kept playing imaginary games as I grew older, often preferring it over other forms of entertainment.
My parents became worried about this inability to leave imaginary games and so at the age of 13 they had my new counselor observe and evaluate the imaginary games I played. The counselor’s opinion was that it was doing new harm, was possibly doing some good, and so there was no reason to stop.
As I moved from childhood, to adolesence, to adulthood, the subject matter of the imaginary games changed, the plots became more complex, and storylines became more sophisticated. I moved from needing to add a verbal component to playing them completely non-verbally. What did not change was that the imaginary games were one of the most useful tools for reducing anxiety and stress–I never went more than a few days without feeling the need to play them.
I have never stopped playing my imaginary games. They are an integral part of my life to this day, and I have come to believe they always will be. I have them most often in already created universes—Star Wars, Star Trek, Dragonriders of Pern, Harry Potter, and Pokemon among them. And I never go more than a few days without playing.
Some people have asked why I don’t just write fan fiction–the answer is rather simple: my writing falls short of the reality in my head. This may possibly be explained by the fact that while I am an above average writer, I am not an EXCELLENT writer. Whatever the reason, I do not find satisfaction in fan fiction. I do however keep a log of my experiences to keep track of storylines and events.
I have discovered over the years that movement is an essential component to my imaginary games–one of my counselors explained that my anxiety is severe enough that it is no surprise that movement and a meditative mindset gives more relief than sitting still and a meditative mindset. I have found integrating my imaginary games into a long walk to often be the best way to handle things.
It is my personal theory that the imaginary games were my mind’s instinctive way of coping with anxiety and stress as a child–there is no denying it is one of the most effective anxiety relievers in my life. The only thing that provides a similar level of relief is my Tai Chi practice.
So there you have it: a bit of insight into a neurological peculiarity in a neurologically atypical person. May others be encouraged by this that even unusual coping mechanisms should not be discounted out of hand.