It surprises a lot of people when I tell them that I used to spend the majority of my time on Second Life, an online 3D community of sorts where you can do just about anything you can imagine. It surprises me even more when people I have known for years tell me “Oh, I’m on there too! Add me!” because it’s almost like this weird, shameful secret we keep to ourselves.
This post is really coming from somewhere deep… a very dark place that I know I need to shed light on. It’s important to me that I share this because it’s serious and it’s real. I want this out in the open because I think it’s important to share my downfalls because they only lead to more triumphant stories.
I joined Second Life in 2009 for a multitude of reasons. I could tell you that I was just there for the intention of creating and selling 3D products and earning extra income (something I was once well known for on another 3D community called IMVU) but looking back, the timing points to something much more serious and problematic.
I was literally trying to escape First Life.
Yes, I spent hours on top of hours online creating and marketing 3D content and the money was okay. It made for a great hobby. But I spent even more time staring blankly at my screen, chatting with other people and really not doing anything but trying to numb the real pain that I was experiencing.
I have a lot to confess and a lot to own up to. The subject of my Second Life involvement is incredibly personal and I’m trying to write this post from a very raw, fresh perspective as I look back through images I have stored on an old Flickr account that shows a strange time in my life.
The Fake Pregnancy
One of those strange things involves me role playing my avatar as pregnant for 9 weeks, followed by carrying a fake baby around for many months after that.
Remembering that makes me queasy. Understanding why I did it and why I found comfort in the control of it and essentially creating a scenario where I could have a relationship with a “child” and a “family” is probably difficult for most of my readers. It’s not something I really want anyone to have reason to understand or identify with, honestly.
A wise friend who met me on Second Life and saw me through many of these experiences said “Can you really be so surprised you went off the deep end in an environment where you could simulate the love and affection and acceptance and independence you couldn’t have otherwise?”
I’m not surprised. I’m just a little sick to my stomach about it. I have a completely different life now. I don’t know that person any more. I can hardly believe the amount of time I spent online cultivating romantic relationships with men because I was so unhappy in my marriage – or I thought I was anyways. It wasn’t even so much my marriage that I was unhappy with. I was trying to get away from the hurt of my real life and everything in it. It was the only way I could figure out how to channel the pain.
There were both a lot of more unhealthy ways of dealing with my hurt, loss and depression just as there were better ways of dealing with it. I know that now. While I can look back and wish I’d found a better way, I can also be thankful that I didn’t choose something worse.
But that fake, online pregnancy? It screams for help.
At the time, I justified it by saying that I’d been pregnant before and that I knew what pregnancy was like. I wasn’t faking a pregnancy in real life, I was role playing. Somehow, that was supposed to make it all okay. Somehow, I decided I was different from all of the other weirdos online who were pretending to be pregnant. I wasn’t. I really, really wasn’t.
I think that’s proof of how depressed and mentally destroyed I was at the time. I’d fallen so far that I couldn’t see how much I was hurting myself more – how much I was hurting the people around me. I was just trying to have control over any aspect of my life that I could since I’d lost control over basically everything else.
I made up stories about my fake baby. I took it everywhere with me in Second Life – often making it a point that I couldn’t go do something even because taking the baby was “too difficult” or “weird”. The baby had everything – a bedroom in my little house I’d made, a crib, a stroller, toys, clothing options… the works. And I spent money I earned from selling content on the platform to afford it all. It wasn’t exceptionally expensive mind you, but I know I spent more than $20 on all of it.
I took pictures with my online baby. My online friends held it and included it in their daily online lives. I don’t know whether they were just tolerating me or if they just genuinely accepted – maybe it was both. My friends all know exactly why I did these things.
I was learning to cope.
On my blog I have only touched on the subject of the fact that my 8 year old daughter doesn’t live with me, but with her paternal Grandparents. We don’t need to get into the why. It’s all water under the bridge as far as I am concerned and I only recently figured out how to forgive myself for not fighting harder to be a better Mommy for her.
I couldn’t handle being a Mommy one minute and not the next. If you’re a Mom, you get it. You may not be able to fully understand the hole it leaves in your heart, nor would I ever want you to. Think for just a moment how you would feel if you woke up and you didn’t have your baby any more. No more morning smiles. No snuggles. No sippy cups to fill or dinner plates to make. Imagine your child gone.
It hurts, doesn’t it? That pain… it can consume you and turn you into something you didn’t even know existed. It will torture you, drive you to the edge of insanity only so it can pull you back and drive you to the edge again.
It can make you do strange things… like pretend to have a baby so you have something to love that you can’t lose. It will make you find a way to cope, find a way to manage that pain and turn it into the most positive and beautiful thing you can manage. It might be weird. It might even look crazy. Deep down, there’s a beauty in your insanity.
Let’s Try It This Way
I started writing this post because I have been considering making content on Second Life again now that I have a new laptop that can handle the platform. I’ve been talking a lot with a friend I used to make amazing products with – mostly about where I need to draw some personal boundaries (such as the fact that I have a full time day job and cannot be logged into the platform all day, every day like I used to be).
I’m still in a healing process – one that for me involves retracing some of my steps and conquering some past issues. This is one of them for me. I will be making products on Second Life again, but I have severely limited myself. I can only be logged into the platform for a few hours on my days off from work. I can log into the platform if needed after work, but I have to go to bed at a proper time for getting up for work the next day.
I don’t intend to socialize much, if at all. It’s important to me that my friend and business partner get most of the spotlight. This is really her business more than it’s mine. We just happen to work very well together and I know we can still do that.
I usually ask some engaging question but I don’t even know what that is right now. Hopefully my story somehow touched you – hopefully you can’t relate. I sincerely would rather people not be able to relate to this post. I do hope you understand it in a sense and that I don’t seem crazy.
“Yes, you were unhealthy and broken and acting out in some ways that, when you look at it under a microscope, looks like HORROR. But it wasn’t. It was just a young woman looking for some semblance of sanity.”– from my friend to me regarding the situation.