I'm not entirely sure if others experience reading in the same way I do; not to criticise them, and not to imply my way of experience is particularly better in any way—I'd argue the drawbacks are probably worse than anything I gain from it.
I can't easily find interest in novels; it takes a particularly good author (and story, for that matter) to be able to capture my attention. Not to say that the authors and novels I can't get into are bad, necessarily—they're just not writing what I'm looking for.
There's a reason Worm, for example—a novel I've been talking about non-stop this week during a reread of it—gets me completely obsessive over it. I pick the serial up, and I fade into it.
Concepts like the "mind's eye" and hallucinations have always seemed foreign to me; I've never been able to visualise (or hear, for that matter) anything that wasn't particularly real. Dreams fall into this category. I think I used to have them when I was younger—incredibly vivid, influenced from the few stories I was reading that could capture my interest at the time, or from fantasies I had written out in my head. Maybe from things that had scared me, on occasion. Waking up from violent whiplash in the real world wasn't uncommon at the time.
But my brain seemed to realise they weren't right, even then—I could only handle the physics within my waking visualisations, dreams and whatnot for a bit, an arm's length from the "camera" of them at the time. All in third-person, this meant they'd usually dissolve fairly quickly, with me falling through a surface, or a scene repeating, over and over again, until I was jolted out, left to my own thoughts.
They stopped coming whatsoever after a short while—I just didn't, anymore. No more dreams, and attempts at mind-visualisation left me solely with black smudges, barely perceptible, within my vision but above my focus, when I managed anything. I gave up on it quickly.
Then I read The Chronicles of Narnia.
Something about it was different, and I noticed almost instantly. I'd curl up on the couch, or sit in a chair and throw my legs over a table, if that was an option, and I'd be consumed by it. I could see it. No falling through surfaces, no impossible-to-fix errors in the visualisation—no infinite, headache-inducing loops.
I could see the forests, the castles, the beach. Aslan. Peter, especially, but every character. I could feel it, almost. Incredibly intense, almost reality-conquering. I could convince myself I was warm, or freezing cold, or soaked, or that the wind was flowing across my face. I could see my own footprints in the snow, if I wanted; I could keep track of theirs without effort.
The world painted was magical, almost, and for all intents and purposes, I was there. The author had brought me to it, allowed me escape.
I was seven, I think.
I started spending hours on my library's online catalogue and book piracy sites, trying to find novels that could replicate the experience. My thoughts at school, at home, on field-trips and holidays, entirely filled by fantasy.
I was already an avid reader beforehand—I'd usually read a few hundred pages every couple of days, and my library visits would almost assuredly end in more books than I could carry by-hand being taken home in a bag that I'd struggle slightly to carry—but this? This changed the way I interacted with the world around me, entirely and absolutely.
Most of my hours from then on out were filled with either reading novels, talking about them, trying to gain more time to dedicate to reading them (primarily done by signalling academic prowess to the point where I'd be ignored when reading while a teacher was lecturing), researching them, obtaining them, thinking to myself about them, or sleeping.
I didn't have much to look forward to in comparison to the escapism. Nothing else was interesting, and my life at the time I especially disliked. Hated, even. I was bored, a fate almost worse than death.
Not a single thing challenged me, and the things I wanted were all either time-sensitive or, given the general lack of knowledge at the time, mostly impossible to pursue and come out ahead. But I could escape from that during my pursuit of fiction. I could challenge myself, I could experience fascinating things I'd never be able to without.
I only found maybe three novels that pulled me in at all in the (roughly) eight years that came after, none of even a fifth of the intensity that came from submerging myself within Narnia. I had mostly given up around year five or so.
Then something odd happened. I found a "web serial"—recommended to me by someone I'd very much like to have a conversation with at some point, if I was ever given the chance, but who's effectively disappeared, entirely out of my reach—with a fairly curious plot description. I had fairly strong doubts, initially, primarily because it was such a foreign concept—something about superpowers, but without pictures? Odd. It wasn't finished just yet. A year in, and published consistently, though.
I took to reading it. Any and all doubts I once had almost immediately faded. Here it was again. Here I was again. It came in spurts, and occasionally disappeared entirely at points, but it was here. More intense than ever when it hit, too. It only got better as I got farther in, barring two points within. Better than Narnia, a handful of the characters had minds that mirrored mine to some extent.
The obsession, again.
The next year or three of my life was consumed with a mix of Worm and finding my way out of my situation—I actually give the serial a lot of credit for helping me with that. It fixed something in my brain or something, I guess, because I could finally focus on things without feeling intensely bad for the first time in years. I could learn and pay attention, parse the input I was receiving; I could plot and scheme without getting intensely bored and distracted for the first time in just as long.
I recently began rereading it.
Once again, I am consumed. The boredom so present in everything I do is just a bit more bearable, a bit less intense now, maybe. Hesitant to make its presence known during daily life. Entirely gone when I'm reading. The pains I've been feeling throughout my body, not remotely noticeable when reading.
I feel fine—copacetic, even—for the first time in months.