Maladaptive Daydreaming: where wild minds come to rest
When I first came across the phrase ‘maladaptive daydreaming’ my emotions went into the most conflicted state they’d ever been. I was relieved, yes, that I finally found a name for something that’s been bugging me since I was a teenager, but I was also terrified. Going through the list of symptoms triggered something in my brain and I forced myself to look at my daydreams from the third person’s perspective. I’ve written down my leading roles, the main plotlines, the side characters - and I was embarrassed, I felt so naive.
I tried to introduce my therapist to the subject, and although I wasn’t able to give her all the details - it felt too exposing - it wouldn’t do much anyway. She wasn’t even confused, she almost seemed... bored. I tried to describe my situation again, a couple of months later, during the group session - and everyone would just steer the conversation towards the topic of my mother or my perfectionism, since these were the things I usually talked about.
So I did what was the easiest thing to do - I gave up. I knew that sooner or later I’d have to face it all again but I was not ready to do so at that moment. Not yet.
And then the pandemic hit and suddenly the whole world slowed down, everyone had to stay inside, in their own homes with their own thoughts. MDers’ natural habitat. When all hell broke loose, at least I had something to escape to - my mind.
And then I came across another phrase - ‘hyperfixation’. The concept itself is nothing new - an intense focus on a single thing or activity, so pervasive at times that it overrides human needs to feed and rest, not to mention one’s social obligations.
But in the middle of a lockdown, caught in a global crisis so serious it could crumble the most realistic of dreams and nullify the quickest-progressing plans, with no possibility to see a friend or even a stranger across the street, some searched for comfort on the internet. And thus, parasocial relationships are now easier than ever to get caught into and hyperfixating on people becomes a serious problem among the online communities.
I stumbled upon many Twitter users admitting their addictions and I remember thinking ‘well, yet another way which makes the internet a tricky and dangerously engaging place’.
And when I finally realized I fell victim to it as well, I was in too deep.
There is a certain individual whose online persona has been occupying my mind for months now and it’s only getting worse. I spend hours going through their feed on various social media every day, desperate for any new activity, I absorb all the information on them I can find, they’ve become a primary strand of my daydream stories. I’m jealous of their real-life friends (some of which I developed a parasocial connection with, too), I’m anxious about their growing popularity since it means even more fans to compare myself to and them becoming even more unreachable.
My brain is so high on them, in fact, the usual solutions don’t work. I watch a movie in a cinema - something reminds me of them and I get lost in thoughts again. I’m surrounded by people - something suddenly inspires me for a new plot involving them. I know I will get over them eventually - I always do - but this time I’m afraid it will leave a mark, a scar, even if superficial, that will never fade.
On the other hand, I have never succeeded in dealing with more intrusive of daydreams without cutting off the catalyst entirely - and I do not want to cut them off. They inspire me to write, their content helps me take my mind off stressful things, thanks to them I now have somewhat of a plan for the future, while last year I had nothing. They’re giving me hope. And hope is hard to come by.
I am not happy, but I am happier. My wings might melt off but at least for the time being, I am soaring.