You are not alone. In fact, there are enough other people with this problem that it has a name: anime otaku. Otaku is defined as: Someone with an obsessive interest in something, particularly anime or manga. But knowing that you are part of a dysfunctional group isn’t very helpful, is it?
Being intensely interested in something isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But as you point out, it becomes a problem when it interferes with relationships and with getting on with daily life. By that criteria, yes, you have a problem.
Apparently, you were able to confine your interest in this character to the level of a really interesting hobby until COVID hit and you were prevented from doing other things. I’m also going to guess that finishing college at the same time that we all went into quarantine put additional pressure on you. Job prospects for your graduating class have been significantly reduced. At 34, you should be thinking about getting out on your own but you probably don’t have the cash to do it. And being back in the family fold at 34 can be challenging in the best of times.
It makes sense to me that you’d want to avoid it all — and anime gives you the perfect “world” to jump into to do it. Your character doesn’t argue with you. She doesn’t have expectations about what you should be doing. Since she is your creation, she knows exactly what to do to distract you, comfort you, and make you happy. In that sense, she’s like a happy drug. Spending time with her is the perfect escape.
Getting back to real life is a decision. But shaking any obsession/addiction isn’t as easy as “just say no’. It takes self-compassion, self-discipline, and a commitment to the process. As with any “drug”, there will be a period of withdrawal. As with any “drug”, you’ll need to find other more productive things to do with your time.
I suggest you start with doing several things:
- Limit the time you spend with your character to a couple of designated, short periods per day. You may not have to give up your character entirely if you can simply enjoy her as you would any friend you see for coffee now and then. Visit. Don’t obsess.
- At the same time, get on some video call platform to reconnect with old friends. Talk about anything but anime – a hobby, a book, the news, – anything. Talk about old times. Talk about your concerns for your futures and how you are all dealing. Plan your topics for discussion ahead of time. Ask your friends to help you by not getting caught up in your anime world.
- Start making a plan for what your life. You can start a job hunt. You may not be able to go out to interviews yet but you can get yourself on linkedIn. BTW: Some companies are interviewing virtually. You can see if there are some online jobs you can do to start building a resume and make a little cash. You may be able to start a “quarantine bubble” – a group of friends who agree to the same safety standards for seeing each other during COVID so they can get together now and then while observing social distancing. In your case, the bubble could be more than social. You could also look for friends who need to help and support each other as you deal with the job market. You can figure out how much money you will need to have a place of your own and create a budget. You can develop any skills you’ll need but don’t currently have to manage independent life. Do you need to learn more about cooking? Doing your laundry? Cleaning? Money management? There may be someone at home who would be happy to tutor you.
There’s an old saying: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. In your case, an idle brain has latched onto what is easy and interesting, not what will move you forward into adult life. COVID life isn’t going to last forever. What you do now will decide whether you are prepared for real life when the time comes to get into whatever our “new normal” is going to be.
I wish you well.