Maladaptive Daydreaming: where wild minds come to rest
From a very young age Real Life was very difficult for me to accept. I remember drifting off and feeling at Peace. When I return I bring back an emotion that is private and invisible. This new strength makes real life seem less important in the big picture. New ideas arrive and the path I was set on is different than the one I have chosen. Can we count the colors in the full spectrum of light without being blinded by the smell and the taste? Is the seventh sense an admission of guilt or pure innocence? Real Life is not easy to ignore and fantasy is so hard to reach. I strive to kiss the moment of bliss. When I wade in the present am I looking back to the past or forward to the future? Is life a poem with no rhyme? BAZINGA!
In my case it was my day dreaming that got me married and reality that got me divorced. Too much anxiety in the details and depth in the emotions. A life story in 18 months.
Alta Morden said:
Looking back on it, my MD caused an emotional distance. Not sure if I would 'caused', but I am pretty sure it was a factor.
I'm in my late 30s. I daydreamed heavily as a child, then less as a teenager as I was very busy with other things. In college, I think I really started daydreaming much more because school has that awful combination of being boring, stressful and requiring self-discipline. This is the worst combo for me, and my daydreams really started to take their shape at that point. Still, I did fine in school and had an active social life so really I only daydreamed when I procrastinated and went for walks or long drives. I don't suppose I lost much more time to it than most college kids lose to TV or video games for the same reason.
In my early to mid 20s, things went very well for me in the real world and my life was pretty exciting. The daydream grew more detailed, exciting and elaborate, but I only spent time daydreaming when I was exercising, driving or on a long flight. Really this was the healthiest period of MD for me, I think. It gave me something to do when I was bored and unable to do anything else, but sometimes I'd leave the daydream alone for weeks or months at a time and never miss it.
I started to have trouble with my career in my early 30s and I used my daydream as a way to cope and escape. I used it to get to sleep and to distract me from work stress. By then, I'd been daydreaming the same story (multigenerational and complicated plot with about a dozen characters) for over a decade so it was very comforting and stimulating to jump inside it. In my early 30s was the first time I started daydreaming not just while bored or to avoid stress, but also just because I'd rather sit in my room or go for a walk and live in my MD world than engage in real life. It came and went, and I can think back over the years and tell you which ones were the years I spent a lot of time in my MD world and which were the ones I engaged more in the real world. From the outside, I still looked very with it and successful.
In my 30s, I've had two career failures. The first one was understandable and really not a failure- it happens to people these days that they have to switch careers and hit hard times. I pulled myself up and got going again, but then I failed at that career too very recently. It feels like it's been almost a decade of trying, fighting and failing. People stop treating you like you are responsible or mature. The hardest part is dealing with the loss of focus and the way people treat you. Lots of people go through this sort of thing- it's not like I have cancer or something horrible like that. But it's hard. And as you might expect, I have retreated into my daydream quite a bit just to escape. I'd rather spend my time off imagining things in my mind than fighting or engaging anymore.
The lesson you can take from this (if there is one) is that it is a danger to have the daydream just sitting around, ready-made and welcoming. When things are going well for me, I can keep it under control and it is a minor part of my life- and mostly a comfort. But when things stop going well (as will happen in life), it's very easy just to jump into that dream world and ignore the real one- especially when the daydream is such a developed and familiar place as it will become when you've had it around for decades.
Thanks Alta Morden. Your sense of urgency is helpful. You are right.
Alta Morden said:
I am now 63 years old, retired and living alone. I started daydreaming at a very young age, though I can’t recall exactly. In other words, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t daydream. My mother has told me that I had imaginary friends even in the period before coherent memories start. I created both kinds of fantasies mentioned in the Schupak paper: those where I was perfect and amazing and everyone was overwhelmed with admiration at my sheer awesomeness, and the other kind where I was the narrator of long and elaborate stories with multiple characters and embedded story lines. I daydreamed intensively for most of my adult life, and only even started to try and stop in the early 90's. Since then I have more often failed than succeeded but now I can have periods, months at a time, where I do not daydream. But it always calls.
Despite this I managed to get an education, find a job which I kept for 35 years, and get married and eventually after 24 years get divorced. No kids but that was my husband’s idea. But, and this is a huge overwhelming BUT and why I am writing this, the daydreams were always there. Very little stopped them and even then only briefly and afterwards I would pick up where I had left off. For years, decades, I didn’t even try to stop them. They seemed normal because after all they had always been there. But I was pretty sure that no one else in the whole world did this. And even from the start they were a source of shame, like a secret vice. And of course, as many of you mention and is in the paper, an intense source of pleasure, amusement, diversion, distraction.
I was probably in my forties when I realized how much trouble they were causing in my life.
- They drained the colour out of real life, making it seem flat and boring and depriving me of being engaged in life
- They drained away any genuine engagement with other people. With the stories running always in the background, I could never fully get involved with other people; I was keeping everyone at a distance.
- I have no idea whether the daydreams caused or were caused by my social anxiety. Clearly it is not crippling because I do interact with the world, but it is always there.
- They often made it hard to sleep, refusing to turn off when I wanted to sleep.
- When I did it too intensely I got terrible stomach aches and headaches.
- They would not stop when I wanted them to stop. I couldn’t control them. Sometimes I would try and stop for even 1 minute, one tiny minute, and I couldn’t do it.
So, I started my intermittently successful campaign to get them out of my life. And it is intermittent, as I write this I pulled out of the last bout less than two weeks ago.
My thoughts and 'tricks':
You need a way to hold yourself together. Now I discovered and refined what the New Agers call centering and grounding. You absolutely have to do this. I used the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (if interested, just Google it), even though I am none of pagan, witch or wiccan. Twice a day, morning and bed time though the morning one is much stronger. You can use any centering and grounding routine, just be consistent. There are lots online, do a search and you can find one that matches your belief set. Belief in God is not required.
Be vigilant. I cannot stress that enough. Once they are inside you, they are horrifyingly hard to get out. Once out (after a week of what feels like a painful and anxiety-wracked drug detox), they are somewhat more easily kept out. You are particularly vulnerable when ill or stressed; though I am sure you all know that.
Lastly, this is going to sound silly, but try it. Bells. Little bells, larger bells. Ring bells around yourself, particularly your head, when you feel under attack.
What you said Michelle is exactly true to me too. In fact, it's all I've done this past week which is why I've reached out now to this forum. I caught myself looking for videos and songs for my story, and in all my years of daydreaming, this is the first time I've done anything in the real world specifically to service the daydream. Scared me a bit. I'm about your age too, and I agree about the disillusionment. I feel basically like I just give up.
Michelle Young said:
. There have been issues with my kids that have taken a toll on me. To be blunt, I feel that general disillusionment has caused me not only to daydream a lot, but to welcome it with open arms. I would even say I encourage it by making playlists and watching movies and shows and reading books that help give me new plot ideas.
Absolutely, Bee Anchor. If you have any tips on doing that, I'm listening. For myself, it helps to get out and spend my free time being more productive and not daydreaming. (duh) The problem is that when I must do boring dull tasks (as we all do) such as laundry or mowing the lawn or washing dishes, then I dip into my daydream. This seems harmless because I'm being productive and what else should I think about? But I've come to realize that it is dangerous because then when I have free time, I just sit in my daydream rather than engaging with others or doing something I really want to do. It's there all the time because I spend time in it every day when I'm doing stuff like laundry or driving. So I need to stop it all together. Also, the other point you raised about reality being less meaningful or exciting than we expected- yes. But being in the daydream just makes it even more dull, and I've learned from experience that reality becomes more exciting (for me anyway) when I engage with it more.
Easy to say all that though. What do you actually do to keep yourself out of it? I've recently hit on a particularly exciting storyline in my own daydream and I can't wait to get off line and get back to it.
Bee Anchor said:
Thanks for all that was shared so far- keep it coming...Somehow I see a common thread throughout - perhaps ,MDers are individuals that feel that they are without a life mission ? And then they regress into the shadows of a daydream. That many have given up on real life , seeing that their own life is not full of real meaning...that life does not live up to art? Perhaps we should try to see real meaning in day to day reality instead? I don't know...