I never wanted to fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Those last few minutes of the day, when all was still and quiet, were my gold. It was the time I could let myself indulge in the wilds of my imagination. Sure, sometimes I wandered, but even at a young age I realized that not all daydreams are created equal. I followed a mental map to my favorite spots and stayed there, in the very best fantasies, until I finally slipped into the unconscious.
The earliest “favorite” daydream I remember having is when I was eight. It was a slow-motion clip of me pushing a classmate out of the way as an angry sixth-grader threw an enormous, golden brick across the cafeteria. The brick would hit me in the head, making me collapse in a puddle of blood. Sometimes I got sent to the school nurse. Others, I had to be piled into an ambulance in critical condition. And on some nights, I decided that I wanted the daydream to end in death–a noble, sacrificial, public death.
That daydream got old after a while, so I created a new one. I was on a school field trip, clowning around and being sort of annoying. The tour guide got so irritated that she threw me into a rushing river and shot me. I had to struggle back to the shore, in front of my whole class, flailing around and chasing my last breaths.
They got more intricate and specific as I got older. Instead of just replaying a daydream, I would build upon it. Create alternate endings. Use it as a springboard for more mental possibilities. No longer did I have just one favorite daydream. I had many favorites to choose from. And, in the event that I got bored with one, I’d throw it away and think of something better. I’d return to it later if it caught my interest again. These stories could occupy me for hours. It’s hard to explain, but I could physically feel adrenaline when I indulged in these daydreams. Adrenaline and…something else. A strange and intense mix of wonder, energy, and delight.
All of those daydreams had the same theme: pain. I loved pain, yes, but not for its own sake. I never would have daydreamed about getting a paper cut. I never would have fallen asleep thinking about being shot and left to die alone with nobody knowing I was gone. My fantasies were always intense, outlandish, flamboyant, and public. Even the ones where I suffered in solitude (these arose in middle school) were imagined from the perspective of others, or with the knowledge that others were watching. It was less about the pain than it was about the drama.
I have not outgrown those pain fantasies. They’ll always be a part of me, and I’m grateful for them. But it’s definitely not something to be concerned about. I control, moderate, and channel these fantasies. I love my life more than I can describe, and I value my happiness immensely. I don’t ever want these daydreams to become reality! They’re just thoughts. Stress relievers, writing inspiration, portable entertainment. And it’s not like I don’t daydream just as much about positive dramatic encounters, like delivering a life-altering speech or going on national TV for a bestselling novel. It’s not like I don’t daydream about new universes or things that aren’t about my life. The pain fantasies make up only a portion of my mind.
They’re just misunderstood enough to warrant their own blog post.