I am an escape artist. I binge-watch Netflix. I play video games. I avoid as much news as possible. I hole up in my apartment with my husband and avoid the outside world like an agoraphobe or hermit when I’m not working. This is how I cope with stress. I deal with so many people at work that by the time I have the choice between being around people or just veggin’ on my couch at home . . . I choose the couch. Hands down. No contest. Couch! And when the existential dread sets in, I turn the volume up louder on my TV and let my mind drift into the fantasy playing out in front of me . . . hypnotizing me.

Escapism is not healthy stress management. Gradually, I feel my memory getting worse and worse, especially on particularly stressful days. Minor annoyances can send me over the edge and one snide comment from a customer will put me in a sour mood for the rest of my day. I have escaped so much that I resent reality. And when reality hits, I feel my emotions taking control of my mind and my body.

In an effort to improve my lifestyle and help heal my brain, I have purchased a book by Henepola Gunaratana on mindfulness meditation, Mindfulness In Plain English. The benefit of mindful meditation is that it helps you gain insight into yourself and the world around you. It is the opposite of escapism. You learn to focus your mind on the root of your hatred, greed, desire, and/or jealousy. And by focusing on the root, you learn to treat the cause rather than the symptom. I am no expert on the matter, of course, seeing as how I just bought the book. So I’m not going to go into a lot of detail. But I am excited to take a step toward a happier and healthier me, rather than the morose and bitter version that has been playing out these days.

There is also some interesting research that has been done on the effects of long-term stress on the structure of the brain. Higher cortisol levels in the brain can be helpful in high stress situations that would require the “fight-or-flight” instinct, but over time, if these levels are prolonged, it changes the structure and connectivity of the brain. Your brain can actually shrink, resulting in memory loss, depression, anxiety, and eventually, Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, we can repair any damage that prolonged stress may have caused through regular exercise and mindfulness meditation.

My couch-loving self decided to start with meditation . . . because f@#k gyms.

Anyway, enough about gyms. I thought this would be a helpful book to recommend because those in abusive relationships know all about prolonged stress. And healthy stress management is vital since victims are in a constant state of “fight-or-flight.” Abusers are incredibly volatile. There is never any warning when they may explode or lash out. In the beginning, I was surprised by my abuser’s abrupt and unprovoked outbursts. But eventually, I expected them every day. I walked on egg shells, dreading his scorn. Well I am done paying the price for his ignorance. My body is done. My mind is done. I say we all take back control. I will no longer ignore the pain that he caused. I will no longer ignore the symptoms. I am done escaping.

~Lindsey V.

9 thoughts on “Escapist

  1. A refreshingly honest article Lindsey, again regarding a topic that we don’t talk much about, but find ourselves doing over and over again. Escape, that is and the ways in which we knowingly avoid ourselves, others, and life itself. After a prolonged spell of having to be hyper-vigilant I guess to begin with, it must have been pure bliss to relax in your own home. To watch what you enjoyed on TV, to lounge around, and create your own schedule for the entire day, week, and year without the fear and terror of stepping on dozens of strategically placed eggshells.

    However, even the most beautiful of homes can easily convert into a gilded cage if we choose to put all of our golden eggs in the one basket. Because in a way that may be us unconsciously replicating the old relationship where the ex-partner also held all of our cards. Although meditation can be a truly wonderful tool to manage stress, I believe it’s much healthier to find several different ways to escape. Hence, I divide my precious eggs (time) between my partner, writing, art, nature, friends and work in order to find balance.

    I am fortunate to live only a few minutes’ walk from the sea, and we have lovely parks and woods close by. I love nature best, walking through woods, climbing fells and mountains. On a personal note, reconnecting back to the land, Mother Earth after the end of an abusive relationship has been a deeply healing journey. Long before psychotherapy was dreamt up people would take their troubles to the trees, rivers and fields because in nature there is something intrinsically restorative. Oh I love your accompanying artwork by the way, excellent! And on that subject …

    Visiting local art exhibitions is also another activity I love, especially photography ones. I’m not that keen on the gym either but really enjoy swimming, so try and swim a couple of times a week. Last week I posted a poem titled ‘Love in the Caves’ which you might find helpful. It is based on Plato’s Cave story and if you haven’t come across the story before visit YouTube where there’s a few short animated films on the allegory. Leaving the cave (however defined) is most arduous yet ultimately essential for all. Warm greetings, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Deborah, you always leave such wonderfully helpful comments. And I agree, it is good to do more than just meditate. I love to play the piano, draw, sing, and write. I am working on making myself do more of all those things. Sometimes I would get home so exhausted from stress that I would not have the energy for any of the hobbies I love. So I’m hoping meditation will help me not feel so incredibly exhausted and spent so I can focus more energy on being the artist I know is still in there. 🙂 I always want to start hiking more, which I plan on doing with my husband once this frigid cold weather subsides. Nature is definitely a wondrous part of our universe and I do not appreciate it enough. I also loved to swim as a kid but had a scary near drowning experience in a hotel pool, so after that I have trouble enjoying it. And I need to go to more art exhibits! There are so many things I just don’t make the time for and I am definitely going to do better. Thank you for reminding me of all these things.

      I’m gonna watch that YouTube video right now. 😉 Thank you again for all your advice, it truly means a lot. Best of Wishes–Lindsey V


  2. I was in a physically abusive relationship for a month when I was 26.He was
    ok before that for a year. I got a black eye on my birthday and turned a new page the very next day. He got angry because my hostile mum wanted him out of my life!
    I remember a worse boyfriend before this one. He was a critical high achiever who looked down at me for not having a zillion extra-curricular activities like he did. Very condescending, cold hearted and ultra critical. I kissed a lot of frogs to find a prince!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear you have found your prince! No one should have to endure a physically or verbally abusive relationship. My abusive ex was very condescending, as well. He called anyone who had a normal job a “laborer.” He had a friend who was a neurosurgeon, whose husband painted houses for a living, and he was like, “I don’t understand why she married a laborer.” His attitude disgusted me. He wanted me to go back to college to study something in the medical field. I already had a degree in the liberal arts, which I’m not really using, but the point was my current profession embarrassed him. I was begrudgingly studying for entrance exams and prepared to put myself in even more debt just so I wouldn’t be an embarrassment to him, not because I was passionate about going back to school.

      The point is, we should not feel shamed into doing anything for anyone. We must make these life-altering decisions for us, and not because some patronizing douche wants a trophy wife he can parade around and brag about her prestigious profession. So thank you, it is always encouraging to hear more stories from others leaving these volatile situations. Best of wishes!–Lindsey V.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We all have faults, but we should work to help minimize any damage our faults may cause. Does he flirt with other women while in a relationship with you? And did someone commit suicide because of his flirtatious behavior? I’m not sure if I misunderstood your comment. I had a boyfriend once who would flirt with other girls in front of me and this was even while we were in an open relationship, but it was only open for him. If I saw other guys he would get insanely controlling and jealous and would stalk me. This behavior is not healthy. It is one-sided and selfish. Just be careful of any behavior that is one-sided, it’s okay for him to do it but not you. Also look out for any behavior where he is not concerned about how his actions may affect others. I don’t mean to suddenly get preachy on here, your last comment just has me concerned. Take care–Lindsey V.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. For an indirect answer to this still painful question read my post. All is forgiven. Is that what you want to hear on my week of the Loner blog. I had an English boyfriend when I was 19 who I don’t recall having siblings. He edited them out! This is my callous present on his birthday just before unfriending him on facebook a couple of years ago. It was a pity as we were getting on well like all friends but he doesn’t want to help his mentally ill brother by researching alternative medicine.
        I was also xallous to a nerdy boy when I was 12 and he thre something I said to him in my face some decades later! Women can be as bad as men! Sometimes they trick you into believing u fathered their baby etc!


      3. The link to the article did not work, unfortunately. I defitely agree that women can be as bad as men. My husband was in a manipulative and verbally abusive relationship, as well. It’s sad how cruel humans can be to the ones they claim to love. I will read more of your blog. I feel bad that I struggle keeping up with everyone during the week. I am trying to do better. Best of Wishes and take care!–Lindsey V.

        Liked by 1 person

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