Maladaptive Daydreaming: where wild minds come to rest
It's long...I know. But I just have to tell someone.
What an interesting thrill it is to find an entire site, filled with people from all over the world, who share in the biggest secret of my life – maladaptive daydreaming. No one knows about it. I’m 32 and it all started for me at the age of 4. I was told while approaching my teenage years that I would grow out of the “pretend” stage of childhood. My friends and family all did. Me? I still live a very vivid pretend life in a pretend world. As a teenager, I couldn’t fathom carrying this over into adulthood...I mean, how would I function as an adult while still playing out fantasies like a child? Surely, at some point, I would grow up enough that I would put it all behind me. Now, as a single 32 year-old, still living at home (though I’m about to move across country on my own), I find that this pretend life has held me back in real life. That’s why I’m here...to try to find some answers on how to cope with this.
On the one hand, I know that my fantasy life is just that – fantasy. Nothing in it will ever happen in real life, not because I’m too lazy to accomplish those things for real, but because my pretend world is not based in reality at all. That, perhaps, is the most depressing part of it all. The upside is that I have this other life that's as real to me as real life. It's everything I could ever want, everything I want to be, and everything that no one else in the world will ever have. In a way, I feel sorry for "normal" people who have to be content with the life that's handed to them. My life in a way feels incredibly full. I've "lived" adventures, befriended people, had fun, and experienced things that "normal" people would never even contemplate. It's completely foreign to me to simply live in the moment, in reality, in the mundane. Of course, I can exit my fantasy world whenever I want and slip into it just as easily as if it were reality. Many times, I am playing the two out at the same time and no one else knows it.
Probably like most people here, I'm an introvert - an INTP to be exact (Myer's-Briggs personality). A main characteristic of that personality is that they live inside their minds. Mostly, this is to figure out solutions to complex problems, but for me it's a creative outlet. When I was a kid, I was constantly putting on theatrical productions in my living room, directing, choreographing, costuming all of my brothers, friends, cousins...anyone I could recruit. In real life, I was part of musicals and stuff too. In my room, with no one else around, I would pretend to be someone else. Here's the kicker...I would always (or nearly always) pretend to be male. From as early as I can remember, I never liked the idea of being a girl. To me, the boys had all the fun. I was a natural athlete, and as a toddler, my favorite toy was a ball. My favorite characters in TV and film were males, and I would emulate them whenever I could. Even when playing "pretend" with my siblings or friends when we were young, I would always try to be a boy if the others went along with it.
So, as my MD progressed behind closed doors, I was usually pretending to be my favorite character at the time...whoever it was. The turning point really came when I was 12 or 13. I got into Star Trek: The Next Generation and fell in love with the Will Riker character. He was THE male character that I latched onto and have not let go of since. He's tall, dark, handsome, masculine, popular, and had the best woman ever...Deanna Troi. Like many Trek fans, the characters became my family and I spent the latter part of my childhood with them. I love futuristic stuff, and the world that Star Trek created was perfect. It blew reality out of the water. Ever since then, my fantasy world is centered in Star Trek, with these characters, me as Riker, and I adapt it to my everyday life.
I'm one of those that acts it out though. I've rarely just "daydreamed" about it. That's not enough. I have to physically act it out...I even dress up as a male to help my imagination a bit. No, I don't have a Star Trek uniform...I don't need to go that far. I suppose it's like a little bit of cross-dressing thrown into MD.
Anyway, I actually would go so far as to record episodes of TV shows (not just Star Trek), and then act the episode out as my favorite character...mouthing the dialogue, pretending like it was me talking. That was really cool because it added a whole new dimension. I still do this sometimes, but not as much as I used to. There were lots of times where it was just me making up a scenario, and I would whisper my conversations so that no one else in the house could hear me. Plus, when I whispered, I could make my voice sound like whoever I wanted in my head. (My brother did hear me whispering one time and called me out on it. That was embarrassing.)
When things get boring, or a situation occurs where I can adapt my MD world into reality, I do so at the blink of an eye. Suddenly, I'm with one of my characters, we're experiencing whatever I'm pretending reality is at that moment, and I have a companion to keep me company. It's not always Star Trek I delve into, but I'd say 90% of the time it is. It's all in my head and the conversations I have are silent so that no one outside of me knows about it.
All of this has caused me to avoid reality quite a bit. Not that I haven't achieved things...I have. But I've avoided making real friends (I have a couple that I do stuff with), I've avoided intimacy with real people, I've avoided having a boyfriend (it's hard to date a guy when you pretend to be one all the time), I've avoided responsibilities, it's made me late to things, made me miss things, made me feel immature, made me procrastinate badly, and I'm quite unhappy in general.
I had this idea about taking my urges to dive into my MD world, and writing stories instead. I've written Trek fan fiction since I was 16, but perhaps if I took these stories I make up in my head and put them on paper, I would become this super awesome fanfic writer. Actually, my goal is to work in Hollywood (I've already worked at a studio there once) as a creator/developer of TV shows/movies. Part of that is writing scripts. Perhaps I can channel this thing into something productive like writing instead of wasting my time playing out a fantasy that accomplishes nothing in the real world (beyond helping me cope with reality maybe).
Though MD has hampered my life and I want to be happy in reality...I've lived with my characters since I was a kid, and it would be very difficult for me to say goodbye.
Oh, to figure this thing out...
Cordellia - thanks for your help about sending private message. I'll post on the thread for now.
So sorry your cat is ailing. I lost two cats to serious illnesses. Being with a declining pet who is in their last days is so hard and sad. But try to be strong and make their time as loving and pain-free as possible. Remember all the ways your pet enriched your life - that’s what your pet would want to you think about too.
Anyhow, about your recent post about why you daydreamed as a male character – I really appreciate your detailed reply.
It’s really remarkable and compelling that you leaned toward masculine activities and identified as a male at such a young age. As far as your attraction to being male, what’s really striking is that you didn’t just talk the talk, you really walked the walk, so to speak, and I hope I don’t sound too clichéd in saying that. But the reason I say that is because your experience is totally different from mine. I didn’t gravitate toward boy toys or clothes or engage in any male activities or behaviors in early childhood. I was a fairly normal girl.
However, my desire to be male was laid in my early childhood. I’m the third of three kids in my family, with an older brother and older sister, and when I was born, my father had wanted another son, so I grew up with idea that I had been a disappointment because I wasn’t the son he had wanted. I recall having the desire to “be” the opposite sex like my brother, so that I could be liked more by my father and fit in better with my family. And I was jealous and resentful of my brother because I thought he was so lucky being a boy, and he didn’t appreciate it or care. I grew up feeling flawed and valueless - wretched almost - because I had been born a girl, but actually, the desire to be male didn’t manifest in my daydreams or even in my thoughts right away. I spent years with low self esteem about being female, and only later “discovered” that imagining myself to be a male actually made me feel good about myself. Interestingly, my sister, who grew up in the exact same environment and family as I did, never had the inclination to be male.
Only when I understood that daydreaming was a means by which I could paint and fashion myself any way I wanted (through my characters), a vehicle by which I could express myself completely feely, that’s when I chose to be male. In the earliest daydreams I had, around the age of 12 or 13, I initially “starred” myself. I remember reading books with lead girl characters and re-envisioning the story and pretending that I was the lead character. But unfortunately, at that age, I didn’t like myself enough to continue “starring” as myself in my daydreams and jumped into the teenage boy story.
So that laid the psychological ground, but I did have an experience as a kid that affirmed that I was straight and not gay. At around the age of seven or eight, I fell in love with a boy who was in a class one grade lower than mine. When I tell this to people they sometimes react skeptically, because they say that children are too young to fall in love. But I fell in love with this boy, and he fell in love with me. It was an emotion experience that we could barely hold in our hearts, there were no words. We exchanged little notes and cards, held hands, talked, and actually spent some time alone together, in his bedroom. It was so innocent – all he did was show me some of his action figures. His brothers made fun of him so badly. The whole episode was incredibly intense and felt illicit at the time. Even though I would go on in my life to delve so deeply into my male daydream character, I never considered that I was gay, largely because of the early love I had for this boy.
But it sounds like you understand well how your experiences have paved the way for you to focus on being a male character in your daydreams. I think understanding the psychological machinery that drives your daydreams is incredibly important. In my view, understanding is the key that will change a daydreamer from one who follows their daydreams, to one who leads their daydreams, and eventually, to one who leaves their daydreams behind.
That’s amazing that you remember your daydreaming back to the age of four - incredible.
You mentioned that you had crushes on girls, and had these experiences in terms of being your male character. I can totally relate to that, and even today I sometimes find myself looking at women in terms of how my male character would see them. Actually, I’ve worked out how my male character would relate to all kinds of women in his life, not just the ones that turned him on. Sometimes even when I talk to women, I have this vague idea in the back of my mind that I’m talking to the opposite sex, when this is untrue in every sense – I look like, talk and act like a woman. But none of this troubles me, as I’m confident in who I am. I may not be confident in my gender – those early childhood experiences about feeling disappointed in being female have had a long shadow in my life, but I’m confident in who I am, and as I’ve mentioned, “who I am” is more important to me than my gender. Again, it goes back to early childhood. My gender can be insulted and offended (in which case the offender is acting against all women, not just me), but not “who I am;” “who I am” is quite apart from that.
So I guess my story confirms that an inferiority complex about being female is a major factor in the proclivity to daydream about being a male. Any other thoughts on this?
By the way, good luck on your cross-country move, and which coast are moving to?
Thanks for the reply, Catauxgory. This is a lengthy reply - I realize. It also reveals some things I've never told anyone, but I feel they may be appropriate to the conversation. I apologize if it's too much.
I can't tell you what compelled me to be male in my daydreams. I just remember from the age of 3 or 4 leaning towards masculine activities in real life. For instance, I got a ball for my first birthday and my parents tell me that it became my favorite toy. It makes sense, because I wanted to be an NBA player at age four, and when I turned eight, I started playing softball and basketball. Sports came naturally to me, and I was always one of the best players on the team...was team Captain on my varsity basketball team. Now, I did have barbies and I did play with those as well. It's not like I totally shunned all girly toys. I hated wearing dresses (but did because it was expected).
When I played with friends around the house, we'd play "pretend" and I would always choose to be a male character from a TV show. To me, the females were boring and never did anything but stand around and look pretty. I played football with my brothers, I even conjured up some kind of boot camp for them when we would play "Marines." I have three younger brothers, so maybe the lack of a female sibling was part of it...but I know it started when I was very little.
I distinctly remember at the age of four, in my room by myself, playing with a bunch of imaginary characters I'd made up in my head. I don't even think these were from TV...it was just a story I was acting out. Again, I was a male, but I think I tried the female role as well.
Maybe there were some things that happened in real life that pushed me more towards the male role. First, we had some cousins that would visit every couple of years. The girl was my age and the boy was my oldest brother's age. The boys would try to have a little fun with us girls by making us kiss them. Sometimes they would force themselves and try to subject us to their advances. It was all innocent...we were like five, and us girls were bigger than them. We could have overpowered them, but I think we were just as curious as they were. Perhaps it was the feeling of feeling subjective to a boy that made me not like being a girl so much.
Also, I had this weird friend for a few months when I was ten. She liked to act out stuff too, and we would play house. However, her version was like R-rated. Her parents let her watch all kinds of crap on TV that no 10 year-old should be watching. Me, being very sheltered, went to her house and experienced this stuff for the first time. We would act out all kinds of crazy stuff we saw on TV. I was always the male, she the female. No one did anything against their will, and I was having the most fun of my life. We would actually kiss on the lips, and sometimes get more intimate than that. We never did anything sexual because we were both too young still, but it was probably borderline lesbian..except we were acting out as a male and female. I just remember feeling high as a kite. It was incredible for a while...a girl actually treating me like a man. After a while, it started feeling "wrong" to me and I would literally feel sick to my stomach at the thought of going to her house. So, I ended up telling my Mom everything that had happened between us, and that was the end of that.
To be honest, I was way more involved with other people when I was a kid, and after that whole incident, I never sought out romantic companionship of any kind. Only in my daydreams. It was about that time I fell in love with Riker, and that's been my other identity ever since. I do remember in junior high and high school, having crushes on some girls, but I would always think of them in terms of me being male. There were guys I found attractive too though.
As for if being male would make a difference in my life, I've often told myself that if I'd been male, I would have not hesitated to get involved romantically, get married, have kids, taken the world by storm. I think my interests would have been the same, but your question made me think. Would I really want to be a male, or just my character? Have to think about that one. I do kinda think it would be easier to be male in life, and I just like a lot of the characteristics of males...would like to have some and be admired by women. Maybe men admire women the same way? I guess I've always had an inferiority complex about females.
I've had many similar experiences where I feel like I'm talking to the opposite sex when I'm talking to other women. Perhaps it's because I'm so laid back, willing to take risks, and engage in activities that a lot of women would never consider (like I do sfx and pyrotechnics in theatre and outdoors), I don't talk much, and I've always been sporty - I wear makeup, but I don't usually wear jewelry or care about having a big wardrobe. In some ways I can relate to women because I am one, but I can also relate to the male point of view with a lot of things as well...which would probably make me a great wife : ) I just had this "cringing" feeling writing the word "wife" referring to myself. It's incredible weird and feels out of place because I don't think of myself in those terms. Then again, I never have. I remember telling my family when I was a kid that I didn't want to get married and have kids...and I haven't. The strong desire to do so has never been there, but as I prepare to leave my family behind and move by myself to California, I'm scared about not having a family to share life with on a daily basis.
Yep...I'm moving to Los Angeles to pursue a TV career. I want to be a showrunner, which is perfect for someone like me who likes to live in a make-believe world. I've always been drawn towards show business, and everyone I know has told me that's what I should be doing. I've already worked with a studio out there during an internship, so I'm gonna go back and see what I can make of it.
Well, again, good luck with your move! That sounds like an exciting job and I hope it works out for you. Do you think you will be daydreaming less as you make this change or do you not have plans to cut back on it?