Maladaptive Daydreaming: where wild minds come to rest
I am one of those people who has been [enjoying] my maladaptive daydreams since I was old enough to have conscious thought. This means since I was maybe as young as three years old. At that young age, having “thoughts” was not so scary. In fact, not much is when you’re a toddler. Soiling diapers, crying in your mother’s arms – these are all things that a little child doesn’t self-criticize.
However, as I got older, I started to feel a bit of shame for my daydreams. Even as a child, I was having romantic thoughts of male celebrities, imagining myself as an adult. I became aware that if someone were to find out about what makes me happy in daydreams would be humiliating. I noticed that no one talks of their daydreams, and no one was behaving as I did while in daydreams.
As the years went on, this secret of my daydream addiction started to rule my life. I was choosing to keep quiet about it, yet I was in great fear that this somehow wasn’t normal. Not being normal meant something was wrong.
When I was a young teen, one of my relatives died of brain cancer. Without knowing much about cancer, nor knowing anything of maladaptive daydreaming, I feared that my constant thoughts could cause it. I was so fearful of revealing my silly disorder that I chose to keep quiet – even if there was a link to cancer and never-ending thoughts.
I gave up a lot of social activity just to stay home and daydream. No one was living up to my expectations, and I was already “dating” someone in my head.
As an eighteen year-old highschool graduate, real life was looming. I was going to be faced with getting full time work, and the expectation of marrying and having children. All of this terrified me because I didn’t know how to fit extra people and responsibility in to my life while I daydreamed. I had a conversation with my grandmother one day, asking her opinion on how a woman can juggle everything in life together. She told me “it” will just happen, and not to be so worried about it.
She didn’t know that my reservations weren’t because of sheer pickiness in men and choosing the right career. I feared that living with someone, such as a husband, would out my bad habit. (At this time, I was still not so sure I wasn’t mentally ill.)
My twenties flew by. I spent a decade working and lying in bed. Hours were wasted away in thought. I dated periodically, and even got in to one domestic relationship, but my partner was a man who suffered from bipolar personality disorder, so in my mind – he had something way worse than I ever thought I had.
Dating was dreadful. I had idealized wonderful relationships and men in my mind, and I often met someone and simply chose to be with them based on who they might have reminded me of. In the end, they were always terrible choices.
In my thirties, I fought with myself to grow up, but I just loved my daydreaming too much. Finally I met the man I would eventually marry, and unlike other men, he was so accepting and unassuming toward any of my flaws. I was very lucky to find him, and wasn’t surprised it took me nearly half my life to do so.
When we started to get serious about each other, I had already done a bit of research on maladaptive daydreaming and realized that it was this that was my secret disorder. Out of all the men I had known, I realized he was accepting enough to discuss this with. (But I dreaded the possibility of him asking what exactly I daydreamed about.)
I said, “I need to tell you something about a ‘thing’ that I do, and have done my whole life.” He listened. I continued, “I can’t stop having daydreams. I can do it standing up. I can do it while watching TV. It’s just a non-stop thing I do.” I began to cry. Then: “Do you still love me?” He said he did, and joked that as long as I didn’t have a daydreaming-plot to kill him, he was okay with it.
This was the first person in my entire life that I trusted to tell.
Since it went over so well (and also wasn’t discussed too much thereafter), I decided to tell my mother. This was going to be difficult as my mother is very analytical, and has no time for daydreaming. I found an article online about maladaptive daydreaming, and in an email I linked the page and just said, “Read this.”
A full day went by and I didn’t hear from her. Then I called and asked her, “Did you read that article I sent you?” She said, “No, I didn’t have time.” (I had figured.) I said, “You should read it. This is something I think I do.” Well, I knew I did, but wanted to approach this with some wiggle room to back out of in case she reacted negatively. She read the article later on, then called me. She clearly didn’t understand it. “I don’t get what this is.” I told her the truth: “I have been doing this my entire life, it’s daydreaming addiction. It’s as if I have another me living a life in my head that I just sit and dream about.” And then, “Do you still love me?” My mother could hear the fear in my voice and her ability to kid with me came out: “Yes…I love both of you.”
Telling two people that I love most that I maladaptive daydream did more for me than I ever thought. First of all, it’s released a secret that has been suffocating me for over forty years. I also can’t hide from the truth with my husband, who lives with me and might witness some strange behaviour from time to time. I know that he accepts it, and we can have a laugh over it.
Maladaptive daydreamers don’t just daydream, they immerse themselves in cinematic-like imagery in their mind that only they have created for themselves. No two daydreamers are alike – so I can only say that for me, my daydreams have been comforting and entertaining.
Releasing the truth to the two people I love the most actually deflated a lot of desire to daydream. I still do it, just not as often [as I’d like to]. I have responsibilities as my husband’s partner, leaving less time to lie in bed and dream. The more busy I am, the less inclined I am to do it (although as a pro, I can still daydream while doing any task).
I believe the worry of keeping my maladaptive daydreaming to myself actually heightened my fear, causing me to daydream even more to soothe me.
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I feel the same sort of relief that people do in support groups when they need to talk about their feelings.
For each maladaptive daydreamer, the choice to tell someone is ultimately up to you. Think about what is best for you, and read your audience and be smart about how you present maladaptive daydreaming. If you choose to tell someone, ask yourself how open and accepting they are, and if they are willing to learn about it.
There are indirect ways to let someone know also. My way of emailing a link about maladaptive daydream worked to take me out of the equation and see how my mother would react. You could also use your creativity to wow someone with, only to add that you were inspired by your maladaptive daydreaming. If someone asks what that is, encourage them to Google it, and let them know you’re willing to talk about it then.
Then there is not telling anyone at all, and keeping it to yourself. Thank goodness for the internet today. No matter how alone you feel, you can always anonymously log in to sites that offer support where you can still keep it your secret as you talk about it with many others who share [our] experiences.