from another blog:
When I was a child, if I was afraid or unsure of something, all I had to do was to open one of my favorite books, and I would drown in the characters' experiences and problems. Now that I have my own problems, dealing with real life, when I open a book, all I can do is compare my own experiences with the characters'. So it kind of made an opposite effect - I now start thinking of the problems in the book, which reminds me of my own problems, which in turn makes me angry: "Why in the world do I worry about a non-existing character? I've got my own things to worry about!"
Yes, how often have I drowned out my own problems by drowning in the much worse terrors of storied others of another time and place which then brought rescue to me in my own life.
However, unlike your present situation, I still am able to find succor in the past difficulties of characters. I just finished reading several historical novels set in the 17th and 18th centuries, one during the horrors of the English Civil War. Seeing through the eyes and feelings of one character (so very different from me and my own life) actually helped me endure, recently, one of the worst experiences of my life.
Indeed, rather strange.
Also, is it not strange, how sometimes characters out of fiction--someone else's vivid imagination--are more real than the physically present people around us now(who keep themselves distant and unknown)?