The downside of reading: an overactive imagination

Do you know that feeling of having read a little bit too much? When you have an overactive imagination? When your mind starts spinning with even the smallest of incentives?

When you’re home alone, every single sound can trigger your imagination into scaring you. The washing machine swirling about? That is someone trying to break in through the back door. But your mind doesn’t just stop there. In just a matter of seconds, someone isn’t just trying to break in. They’ll break in, hide in the hallway while you are going through the house turning all the lights off. They’ll be watching you, but then when you need to return to the bathroom a few seconds later, they’ll think you’ve already gone. So they will be there. They will try to hide behind the door, and then they’ll sneak up on you. They’ll hit you over the head and then … Then I cut myself off because for two reasons: 1) I don’t like going there and imagining any further and 2) I never read or watch horror or much thrillers, so luckily I don’t have a lot of outspoken imagination there.

The creaking of the wooden floors? Someone sneaking up on you. And even though while you’re walking, you keep on repeating to yourself that it is nothing and you try to put it our of your mind, you feel uneasy. You feel watched and almost hunted. You try to play it cool, but your insides are turning. “It’s nothing”, but you still speed up your pace and you end up running the final steps into your room. You turn the light on, slam the door closed and lean back against your bedroom door, at the same time relieved you’ve made it and aggravated at your imagination for psyching you up. If you were really worked up, you double-check that your door is closed, you test to see if the window is closed and you go to sit on your bed. But let’s not forget the monster under the bed, or that creepy story about the girl whose dog always slept under her bed, and licked her hand when she went to sleep who one morning found her family and dog murdered so that must have been the murderer who hid under her bed and licked her hand. So you check under the bed, and just to be absolutely sure you check your closet too. When absolutely everything’s been checked, you turn on the light, close your eyes when it becomes dark and quickly shuffle to bed.

And when you’ve calmed down, you get ready for bed. You make sure to avoid the windows because someone could be looking at you while you’re changing (no matter that your roof windows are slanted and almost impossible to look into and who would want to see that anyway?). And then it’s time to go to sleep, but first, you need to turn out the lights. So you go to the light switch, guesstimate the distance and course to your bed. You close your eyes, flip the switch and quickly shuffle off to bed. Because what you can’t see, can’t hurt you, right? I’ve taught myself over the years that as long as I don’t see “them”, “they” can’t hurt me, “they” won’t even know I’m there. So when the lights go out, I close my eyes and keep them closed. Opening them up, and seeing a pitch-black room would set my mind spinning again: the red light from my phone charger, the flickering light of my charging computer, … Those are not lights, they are eyes, and the things they belong to keep on getting closer. The next time I close my eyes and open them up again, “they” won’t be at the other side of the room anymore, but they will be right next to me, right up in my face. The moonlight coming in through the roof window is not romantic, it’s throwing shadows – things are hiding in those shadows.

But, not to worry, I have found the best distraction of all. And I’m happy to share it with everyone who has experienced (some of) these things as well. Because an overactive imagination has so many upsides as well. And one of the biggest advantages is that it allows you to think up your own stories. So when my mind is racing and my imagination is trying to scare me, I think of storylines. I have completely developed characters in my head: I know who they are, I’ve debated long and hard on their names and looks, I know how they speak, what they’ll say, how they’ll react and I know where they will meet and what will happen to them. Every night when I’m trying to fall asleep, I distract my mind with them. I think up storylines, I imagine entire conversations, I live their experiences and their lives. I’m dreaming even before I fall asleep. And I love it. I love it so much that I don’t mind my overactive imagination trying to scare me from time to time. Because there’s nothing more fun than thinking up my own stories and letting my imagination run wild in positive ways. This does not make me a writer because I don’t have the time, or knowledge nor the self-discipline or stamina to turn any of my ideas into actual books. This makes me a storyteller: I tell stories to myself every night.

Overactive Imagination - storyteller(Photo by Rudi Schlatte©)