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The Reality of Escapism, written by Amy Wilson
Recently my toddler son and I fell sick. For 3 days, not much happened at our apartment but couch sitting, nap taking and movie watching. Needless to say, self-care, such has hair brushing, fell by the wayside. Each morning I just threw my hair into a bun. By Friday, I noticed quite a large knot had formed in the hair around the nape of my neck. When I showered later that night, I prepared to tackle the nuisance. Putting globs of hair conditioner on the knot and letting it sit for a few minutes seemed to do the trick for then I was able to brush through the knot with minimal pain. As I brushed through my hair, a memory popped into mind.
When I was little, I had very long hair and wasn’t very diligent about brushing it . As it so happens, when you don’t brush very long hair, knots form. And when you ignore the knots, small knots become even bigger knots. One particular one was a doozy. Getting a knot combed out was painful, especially so if done at the hands of one of my many older sisters, so I hid it. Since it was the late 90s, I thought a giant bow would hide the monstrosity. Perhaps that’s the reason it was discovered. Two of my older sisters were assigned the daunting task of knot removal. Each of these sisters slept on the top bunk of the two side-by-side bunk beds in our room. They each sat on their beds, brushes in hand. There I was, one foot precariously balanced on the one bed and the other foot on the other, gripping and holding on so tight as brushes were raked through my hair each way. After two brushes filled with brown hair, two sore legs and ten white knuckles, the knot was gone. It still bemuses me why my sisters had me stand balancing on bunk beds when not just moments ago I brushed a large knot out fairly painlessly with conditioner and a brush. Today, I tease that they liked to torture their little sister.
While the memory made me chuckle, a more serious musing came to mind. How did the knot get so big? Why did I not just brush out my hair when a little knot formed? Why didn’t I ask for help instead of trying to hide it? Pondering these questions I recognized patterns in my behavior as a child that have followed me into adulthood. In certain aspects of my personal life I have a tendency to avoid the real issue. One way of avoiding for me is escaping; to read a good book or a binge of a Netflix show. Avoiding and escaping were very learned behaviors for me. Even as a child, it was so easy for me to flit between the real world and my imagination. With my bed sheet wrapped around my head, I was an Arabian princess. With my tape recorder I was a radio deejay. I was constantly scribbling stories in notebooks. So it’s always been easy for me to escape, even inside the confines of my own mind.
Genuinely curious about my musings, I turned to Google. It of course provided me with articles to sift through when I searched the keys words ‘avoidance behavior’. My behavior does in fact have a name. It is called “avoidance coping”. Wikipedia defines it as “a maladaptive coping mechanism characterized by the effort to avoid dealing with a stressor.” It’s essentially a form of anxiety. People either avoid a situation all together or they do an action obsessively to avoid a certain outcome. I also stumbled across the term “escapism”, which is the tendency to seek distraction from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.
Having this information swirling in my head, I realized the way I use avoidance coping is through escapism. Escapism isn’t bad in and of itself; we all need stress relief or a break from this busy, fast paced, hurting world. The problem occurs when escapism becomes your default when stress rears its ugly head. Oftentimes, the things we are trying to avoid became much bigger when not dealt with.
When my son was born, I’ve never known a love so deep, so different than any other. Yet, it was startling the amount of emotions and feelings brought on by the hormones. Life as it was before stopped abruptly and what followed was something foreign and challenging. Despite the joy of watching my son grow and thrive, I felt like I was losing myself. What were my passions anymore? Who was I in this new role? Without my husband and son, was I anything? I burrowed these feelings down deep, found comfort in familiar favorites; food, good books and Netflix shows. Do you see the pattern here? I didn’t want to deal with the small knot that was forming and the little bit of pain that comes with it, so I avoided it. Which, unsurprisingly, has led to a larger, bigger knot that has produced more pain. Here I am today, not having lost any weight since pregnancy but shamefully gained some. Avoidance coping snowballed into something bigger and the issue is still there.
If you, reader, struggle with avoidance coping and escapism, I wish I could give you many words of wisdom. But I haven’t fully discovered how to break out of these patterns. They are deep rooted as yours may be. What I do know is it doesn’t work. The cycles and thought processes that I’ve defaulted to caused more harm than good. But, self-discovery and shedding light on bad habits has empowered me to at least look at the issues head-on. It’s given me a brush. Now, time to get that knot.
Photo courtesy of Ambermb via Pixabay
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