Maladaptive Daydreaming: where wild minds come to rest
(This is the first in a series of posts attempting to trace my life through my daydreaming. Sadly, the brief bit in the title probably won't stay true as we go on, but I couldn't resist. I use the term dreaming specifically in relation to maladaptive daydreaming--it's just easier for me to type and is how I've always related to my fantasies before I realized there was an actual term for it.)
What can I pinpoint as my earliest memory? It’s difficult to say. I’ve realized that my parents and family may have unintentionally ’gaslit’ me, for lack of a better term. I’m aware that, with few memories of my own (and the ones I do have being rather unreliable), gaslighting might be a poor choice of term.
I suppose that I need to discuss how my memory works before I actually discuss my dreaming history. I have very few memories where I am actually experiencing them as a participant. Most often, I am outside myself, viewing myself inside the memory.
I’m told that people experience memories like playing a video game in first person; mine are almost always in third, keeping my present self distant from the actual memory.
While I’m sure this was a disassociation tactic to protect myself when I was younger, I know that my mind has simply become accustomed to remembering this way, as I am thankfully in a situation where I don’t have dissociative episodes anymore.
Between this third person recall and my parents’ need to reframe my every experience for their own ends, I have very little trust in my own memories.
The first memory I have that I know is real concerns me in elementary school. I was in my mother’s room on the ground floor (of one of our many homes—we moved often when I was young), watching tv before school on.
I remember the TV clearly, since we had it for so long. It was pretty small and boxy, with faux wood panelling. It was six AM, and I got up every day specifically to watch it.
The show was Sailor Moon; it constitutes my first connection with dreaming.
I’ve been told I was always an imaginative child, curious and questioning of the world around her. While I’ve kept those qualities, I’ve lost almost all of my ‘pro-social’ abilities.
My family tells me I talked to any and everyone I could, preferring the company of adults to my kids my own age. I wanted to know everyone and learn everything I could. While I’m still very curious about others and the world, my fears and anxieties keep me from engaging fully with them.
I tell you this (and remind myself of it) so we can trace how I lost those traits and gained others through dreaming.
The first time I remember actively engaging with a fantasy was around the same age, only a little older. (I could find out more accurate ages, but I would have to discuss things with my family and I’d rather not.) I was still in elementary school, certainly.
My mother, sister and I were in a different apartment at this time, a step down from the place we lived before, but not the worst place we ever lived. I suppose it was more like a townhouse than an actual home we rented.
I must have gotten in trouble for something—I can’t remember what and it might have been completely legitimate. I was sent upstairs, unable to watch Lois and Clark with them. It was an important time for us, since my mother encouraged us to engage with the stories presented and with each other, sharing opinions even at a young age.
(I absolutely love her for that, even though there’s things I can’t forgive. Love is strange like that.)
I was furious. I remember pacing up and down the small room I was confined to (perhaps my bedroom) where there was a window underneath the gable. It was high enough that I couldn’t reach it (I was, and still am, a very tiny person) and knew I would have to move a chair or something to get up there.
The dream had two distinct fantasies. In the first, I imagined that I would open the window and fly away like Superman. The idea of such freedom was tinged with the common belief that I would be punishing them when they realized how much they would miss me.
Like all children, I believed that leaving would make them feel sorry about punishing me. Just another runaway fantasy.
In the second, I specifically remember seeing myself opening the window and jumping out, not as Superman, but just a little girl. I was only two stories up—if I had jumped, I would most certainly have just injured myself unless I landed just right. But the lure of running away was too alluring not to consider.
Wouldn’t they be sorry if I left permanently? Wouldn’t they be sorry if I killed myself?
I have no idea where I came across the idea of suicide. I might have heard about it on TV, but my mother had issues with drugs and mental health, so there’s a distinct possibility I could have heard about it directly from her.
Either way, one of my earliest memories is dreaming about suicide. I was only in elementary school, most likely third grade.
This was the first of many times suicide appeared in my dreaming, and waking, life.
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