Where wild minds come to rest
Till the age of 5, I hadn’t been daydreaming. Life was disgusting till then. My parents, who hated each other, fought like wild animals. This trauma forced me to cut myself off from the world — the reality — I live in. There was no source of joy left. I lived under a constant threat of another conflict flaring up in the house and under this situation, how could I be satisfied with anything?
Then came the television into my life. I was never fond of it, but once I saw an episode of a show which failed to impress me. Then, I thought of how the same show could be made more interesting by adding a twist in the plot. I spent that night immersed in the alternate episode playing in my head. I even took the role of one character which I liked a lot. (the show wasn’t about that character, but in my episode, this character was the hero).
As I ‘dreamt’ of the alternate episode, I discovered something: It felt that I am a part of the story. In other words, it felt as if the story is really happening in my real life. I could feel all the suspense of the episode. And it was awesome. I could experience in real life what others merely watch on the TV. But there is one more thing about this: While I was in that alternate world, I had no worries or anxieties. I had forgottenthem just like alcoholics do when doped. This way I had discovered a new form of entertainment which is not just an endless source of joy , but also a means to escapefrom my problems. Unfortunately, this amazing discovery — which I now know as Maladaptive daydreaming — is awfully addictive.
From the next night onwards, I would make alternate episodes not of TV shows, but of the incidents that occurred in my real life. Slowly, this series of fantasies brought in new characters that I ‘made up’, who had no existencein the real world, could fly, and possessed magical powers (Remember I was a 5 year old child then). The characters were people who would be of my, my parents’ and my grandparents’ ages. May be they were a replacement of the people in my real life who I then disliked so much, that I decided to weed out every traceof their existence from my dreams and replace them with characters with totally differentattributes. And those made-up people were friendly, caring, gave me attention and lived in harmony.
My life then improved suddenly. The world around me was the same. The conflicts, the people, the terrible life, all remained the same. But Ihad escaped from this world and in my own ‘dream world’, where none of my real-life people (except my cousin) had any existence, I was happy.
I remember my dad threatening to kill my mom in one room, while I sat laughing in the other room because of something hilarious happening in my world. All worries had fled away. I was bullied severely in school. My teachers abused me. But I wouldn’t react. I would bear all that pain, and after coming home, I would take a revenge din my head(where my mighty imaginary friend tied them up and sprayed pepper in their eyes). Everything that shouldhave fixed remained the same. Real life remained bitter.
When I grew up enough that I could handle my life on my own, so that I no longer had to rely on daydreaming to keep me alive, this habit of daydreaming refused to go. Whenever something or someone made me angry, I never gathered enough courage to fight back, because I knew my dreamworld was a far saferplace to take a revenge. So why take risk in the real world?
Every good friend I ever made has no real existence. The person I am attracted to, the dude who stood by my side when I was in need, the man who saved me when I was kidnapped, the person I saved from being electrocuted, the sibling who talks to me all night when my parents are asleep, are all imaginary.
And they are still the onlypeople I can connect to. I have noreal friends. When others are meeting new people, getting to know each other better, I am stuck in a parallel life. When I am surrounded by acquaintances, they are the ones who do all the conversion. I sit quietly and enjoy a different version of the same conversation playing in my head, where I am the ‘leader’ of the conversation and everyone is paying close attention to what I am saying or are laughing at my jokes.
I never learned to drive, to swim, or do most of the things people of my age learnt long ago. While people were spending their free time travelling, trekking, learning a sport, playing a musical instrument, or meeting new people, I’d be found home, alone, lying on my bed doing all these things in my own world.
I thus have no hobbies, no passion, nothing to be proud of. No interests, nothing to talk about. I am too lonely, too different and my past is too hideous. I sometimes wonder if this is how the rest of my life is going to be. I neglected my health; I am fat and have troubles getting sleep. I don’t study, I don’t work, I don’t exercise; hell, I don’t even eat or rest well. I am too addictedto those daydreams now — the onlything capable of making me happy. I can’t talk to people (or am so boring, people don’t like to talk to me). I was perhaps going to spend whatever is left of my life in the exile I sent myself into at the age of 5.
Then one day, as I was reflecting upon something horrible that happened to me as a consequence of my negligence towards my priorities in real life, a thought struck me: the other life I have been living (meaning my daydreams) — isn't it fake? Aren’t all those lovely people absent? Aren’t I living a lie? And that day, this was no small insight. It kept me thinking all night. I replayed the whole of my past, realising how I kept running away from all my problems, seeking refuge in my daydreamsand how all the elaborate fantasies I created for myself eventually turned out to be a lie.
Oh, those fantasies! They do nothing for you. They don’tsolve your problems. They don’tspray peppers in your bullies’ eyes. They don’ttake revenge for you. They don'treplace a companion when you’re lonely. They don’t changethe fact that your parents are fighting. They don’tmake your uncle less happy of your poor grades. They don’t make you a more confident person. They don’tgive you attention, don'tmake you stand out among people.
All they help you do isrun awayfrom your problems. They are a means for you to lie to yourself; convince yourself that you strong. Convinceyourself that your life is beautiful. You trick yourselfinto believing that the problems you don’t wish to/ aren't capable offacing don’t exist. You are escapingfrom the issues, not putting an end to them.
And when you finally decide to leave this lie behindand move ahead, to endthis addiction, to focus on realityand live like others do, you finally become aware of your real problems that have piled up during your absencein the real world. Your lack of interestin this life left old problems unsolved, created new ones, and equipped you with much lesscoping resources than other, which makes life evenhardernow.
At this point dropping your idea to cease daydreaming and going back to your parallel life seems tempting, but you soon recognise that this will again make things even worse for the next timeyou decide to recover. This is a vicious circle you know you shouldn’t get trapped into.
Still you do and you can’t help it. It’s called a relapse. And once you relapse, all the previous efforts you made to end this addiction go in vain. You have to start this tough, messy recovery process of giving up daydreams over again and it feels terrible. But this pain is the cost you are paying for the mistake you made unknowingly when you were a child.
Well, it’s not a mistake. For a child, this is the onlyway it can cope up with this terrible life, given its limited strengths. It’s nottheir fault. My past self hadn’terred by initiating Maladaptive Daydreaming. It was neither aware that it is cowardly running awayfrom it’s problems, that the fantasies are fake, nor that the consequence will be a severe addiction that ruinsit’s future.
The only thing I can now do is perseverethrough the painful process of stopping Maladaptive Daydreaming, which is just as terrible as giving up the drug you are addicted to. And then, face all my problems without running away from them, hoping that someday, I too will be normal.