Maladaptive Daydreaming: where wild minds come to rest
I'm 20 years old and I've been daydreaming since I was about 5 years old. My whole family knows about it because I told my mother when I was in the 8th grade. She doesn't say it to my face, but I have heard her tell my sisters that I might be a little crazy. She loves me but she doesn't understand. My oldest sister also doesn't understand and when I have those moments where I just can't take it anymore and break down, she just tells me to stop daydreaming and be normal. As if it's so easy. I truly wish that if I could stop it so easily, I would.
Most recently I've found out that my older brother and other sister do the same thing and I can see my nephew doing it from time to time which scares me a lot since he's only nine and is already falling down that dark path.
I consider myself to be a smart person. I can understand things very fast. But even with this, I cannot focus at all. My grades in college are faltering. I just failed a class. I can't seem to put myself in one place for more than ten minutes at a time and concentrate. This is why I'm failing. I'm spending more time walking around in my own imagination than actually interacting with real people and doing my actual work. Even my housemates in college have asked me about what I do in my room since they hear me walking around so loudly and whispering.
I've even stopped relationships because of this.
What do I do? What do you all do? I'm so depressed because I cannot find a good way to handle all of this. There must be a way to create a routine that doesn't fall in the path of my work and doesn't make my life fall down a hole.
Someone please help me. I'm scared for my future.
Don't worry, that's what this forum is here for. We're all going through similar things.
I had a period of my life (from about 14 to 16) where I was just like what you described in your post. I couldn't focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time, I was failing all of my classes, and my relationships (both romantic and platonic) suffered because of it. It even got to the point where I became suicidal because I couldn't see the point of living a life outside of my daydreams. I'm 19 now and am doing much better, thankfully.
Like I do in other posts, I'll just leave a list of things I've done in the past to help me get through periods like these. Not all may work for you, because everyone responds to things differently, but here's some ideas to try that I've suggested to other people:
"1) Creating. Taking the content of my daydreams and turning them into writing/drawings/etc helped me a lot in the beginning, and offered a way to daydream less without actually getting rid of my fantasies. Even if you aren't a master artist, it helps to have a private journal or something to just doodle and write without the fear of anyone else ever seeing. Drawing the characters, making maps, writing recent daydreams as stories, writing out descriptions and histories of different characters---anything that can make your MD seem a bit more "productive". Plus, most notebooks are easy to carry with you almost anywhere, and writing in a journal looks a lot more "normal" than pacing and being lost in a trance.
2) Other distractions. I have social anxiety, and my fear of other people/being in public is still a major trigger for my MD, but I've found that simple games can sometimes be immersive enough to distract me without needing to daydream. I don't know if you have a smartphone or not, but I always keep a few "addictive" arcade games downloaded and ready to get lost in---my senior year of high school was filled with Tetris and one of those "tap the tiles" games.
3) Immersion. This was a dangerous one for me personally, because I do suffer from psychotic episodes/delusions, but sometimes the only way to get me to focus on reality was to ignore reality itself. Some of my best MD days were the days in which I assumed my daydreaming persona and acted as if my reality was just another day in my daydream world. I started going by my nickname (the one I use in my daydreams), wore different clothes, and did as much as I could to "live" my daydreams.
I specifically remember downloading an app in which you could schedule fake texts to yourself; I used this to make my daydream characters "text" me, and I spent hours going back and forth setting up the conversations. It wasn't very healthy, but something thinking you're addicted to texting was much better than being teased for zoning out/staring at the wall for hours.
Like I said, I don't really recommend this one, but it did help me daydream less and spend more time in reality, because it felt like I was in my daydreams. I numbed myself from reality to the point where I didn't care if I was being bullied/judged.
4) Talking. I know this isn't an option for most people, but I was lucky enough to have people I trusted (both a friend and a therapist) and told them about my MD. I told them every detail and embarrassed myself completely, but this made me so ashamed and conscious of my MD that it made me try to daydream less. Whenever I caught myself zoning out, I'd get so ashamed that I made myself do something else and distract myself for as long as I could. Even without the embarrassment, it helps to have someone to keep an eye on you without being harsh or judgmental about it.
5) Pets. This one also probably isn't an option for everyone, but I found that keeping pets served as a great distraction from daydreaming. I started out with a betta fish who I used to talk to instead of daydreaming, and later got pet rats. The rats were a great distraction because they're pretty much always running around and ready to play, and when I let them out of their cage they don't give me any chance to get lost in my mind.
6) Daydreaming. This is by far the weirdest thing that has worked for me, but it's also been the one that has helped me the most. I plan ahead and give myself set times to daydream. It makes it a bit easier to focus on my work when I can say "well in 20 minutes I'll get a 2 hour block to do nothing but daydream, so I'll work on this until then".
The hardest part of this is finding time in your schedule to set extended chunks of daydreaming time, and of course you'll slip up at times, but taking a few uninterrupted "daydreaming sessions" has really helped me lessen that craving to daydream that builds up during the day, even if it means staying up an extra hour or so at night to do it."
I've also found that MD can change based on what's going on in your life. At our age, there's a lot of change and conflict going on, so our daydreaming is naturally going to increase and become more addicting, especially if it's something we did a lot when we were younger. Though it may not be what you want to hear right now, sometimes you just have to accept that it'll calm down when it's ready to, and you have to focus on managing it instead of "quitting". Learn to work with it instead of treating it as an enemy.
I'm always here for support too, if you need it. Just send me a message and we can either talk on here or find other ways to communicate. I'm sure others here would be willing to do so as well.
Sometimes there are counselors at school that you can talk to. Maybe group therapy. Possibly study groups? Check around and see what's available at your school or find out if there are any groups involved in studying what you might be interested in or in your specific classes. Maybe there's some way in which you can study or better tips for studying available online if you do a search. Sometimes talking to yourself can make you establish focus. I hope that you have a supportive group at school or can find one through studying with others or even talking to a teacher that you think might be a warm person. There are always escapes and the counselors might not be able to provide you with what you need but they may be able to find a source that can help you with what you want. First of all reaching out is good because you might come across a bit of advice somewhere or someone that could be of help even though not all advice is or may be detrimental.
Focus on something you dont like ...relaxing music and studying groups that is what i trying to do all the time ...i try to collect people to study wz me bcuz i cant focus alone at all even when it is easy for me but i can stand reading a lot