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The Impact of Maladaptive Daydreaming on My Mental Health

bluemoon_

New Here
Hey, I never really knew about maladaptive daydreaming, well what it was called, and how negatively impactful it is, until recently on TikTok. I started to do this activity whilst in the car where music would play, around 4/5, and I would just go somewhere that's better, where I was better. If you have seen my last thread you will know about the sexual abuse that occurred during my childhood but to add more to my childhood I was just really lonely, mentally. My parents had me at 16 and 18 so from there you can kind of tell how I was brought up, just a kid being raised by kids who were also raised by kids. I always knew my mom favored my little sister over me, this was confirmed when she stated that if she only had me she would be bored because of how quiet and 'boring' I am, or was... I never told her how much that statement hurt me growing up. But anyways, I guess I was seeking love and validation so when the music would come on I would be the star of the show. I mean I would be this most amazing person who everyone loved and found pretty (I should mention that I have serious problems with my body and self-image) and adored, I would be number one. Then I moved to play music through my headphones in bed before going to sleep whilst covering my eyes with my forearm, and then around Year 7/8 is where the pacing started. Ever since then, I have continued to do it, not so much now but every so often (I am 21). Sometimes it's not always with music, sometimes I just act out random scenarios in my head but the majority of the time it was with music and pacing around.

I remember it being an addiction, something that I needed to do to be happy. But I see now it's greatly negatively impacted me. I do it unconsciously. I could be at work and a thought would come in my head and I would just be gone. But I think the worst part is most certainly the headphones, the music, and the pacing. I remember missing family parties, friend gatherings, and just other things due to the fact that I wanted to do that activity. It was a rush for me, and it still is. The problem is this person and version of myself that I have created in my head is too perfect that I hate the real me. I spent most of my life envisioning I was her when really I'm just me. Whenever I look in the mirror after that activity, I cry because I hate myself, I hated/hate the fact that I am not/wasn't her.

It was like each time I did it, it took another part of me. Now I feel like I don't have a personality, that I will never live up to that person in my head. That scares me because ever since a little girl that's all I wanted to be. To put it into perspective, I would spend almost all day doing it if could, I would even lose out on sleep just to do it and even be late for important things such as work or school. I would get so angry if I was ever interrupted whilst doing it that I would resent that person for a while until that emotion would calm down.

Now when I look back I can see that most of my life was spent living in another world where I hate reality, reality doesn't even feel real anymore, nor did it ever do. I honestly thought this was normal, but at the same time not because I would never tell anyone. To say the least, maladaptive daydreaming took over my life and now I am suffering with the consequences. I am never happy with myself and even if I am it only lasts a little while. I could say a whole lot more but after writing this I feel emotionally numb.
 
That’s a lot to realize and to bring up. Hopefully you realize that it’s pretty common for people with adverse childhood experiences? Facing it isn’t fun, but when you accept that it’s not helping you and is actually hurting you then it’s a little easier to hold onto that goal of integration. I couldn’t have done it without therapy. My therapists’ gentle confrontations of my delusions over time helped me face the real me and not only accept but like who I am. Be gentle with yourself, transformations are vulnerable and hard.
 
I am never happy with myself and even if I am it only lasts a little while.
ditto for me, except for the part of staying in a room leashed to a stereo. my fear of entrapment is far too intense for staying behind closed doors, but poor self-images are highly portable. wherever i go, there i am, the same old me.

those brief and elusive moments where i am happy with myself are where i work on building a healthier self-image. humble as those moments are, they contain far more substance to build on than my rock n roll fantasies of adoring followers
 
That’s a lot to realize and to bring up. Hopefully you realize that it’s pretty common for people with adverse childhood experiences? Facing it isn’t fun, but when you accept that it’s not helping you and is actually hurting you then it’s a little easier to hold onto that goal of integration. I couldn’t have done it without therapy. My therapists’ gentle confrontations of my delusions over time helped me face the real me and not only accept but like who I am. Be gentle with yourself, transformations are vulnerable and hard.
Thank you for your reply. I am in therapy also and have brought this up with her too. It's just so hard to kick a habit that I was used to for so long. It feels impossible most days. But for my own sanity, I understand I need to stop. My therapist suggests thinking of lying in the meadow as myself whilst listening to songs, it kind of helps but again it's a bad habit that has been done for over 10 years. I am hoping I get to the stage you are at (proud of you by the way) and end up more in reality instead of this fictional character I have built up in my head.

ditto for me, except for the part of staying in a room leashed to a stereo. my fear of entrapment is far too intense for staying behind closed doors, but poor self-images are highly portable. wherever i go, there i am, the same old me.

those brief and elusive moments where i am happy with myself are where i work on building a healthier self-image. humble as those moments are, they contain far more substance to build on than my rock n roll fantasies of adoring followers
Those fantasies are something I can't quite quit, and I am hoping this is a 'yet' situation. A healthy self-image is something so precious and valuable because it's a rarity that I wish I possessed. I hope you the best in your journey!
 
It's just so hard to kick a habit that I was used to for so long.
Totally understand. And I think abstinence would not be helpful as you need to make the shift gradually for it to be sustainable and not toss you adrift. It has been an important and powerful coping strategy and became a habit meaning it’s been hooked into your reward system, it’s a deep neural groove and needs to be treated with sensitivity.
suggests thinking of lying in the meadow as myself
I think this is a great suggestion! Even if you can only do it for a second, it begins the process of you taking back control. Habits and addictions are difficult to change because they feel good. Similar to maladaptive daydreaming some survivors develop sexual abuse fantasies and can only experience sexual pleasure while having abuse fantasies. It’s very difficult and frustrating to stop doing that, but it can be done and it starts like your T suggested, willfully trying a different fantasy and stopping yourself from proceeding when the abuse fantasy arises. It sucks and is frustrating, but if you stick to the practice, lo and behold, the possibility of a different way becomes more and more attainable.

It is not overnight and there are plenty of setbacks but eventually you can get to a place where when that urge arises it will clue you in to the fact that you are very stressed out and you can begin applying other coping skills in place of that one.

You can share your journey here in a diary if you like. I assure you plenty of people here are dealing with similar struggles.
 
Yes, you are right, I have cut down on the pacing! This only happens every couple of weeks now which I can say that I am proud of. Anything I like to do that helps this is really listening to the lyrics of the song, like reading the lyrics along with the song. It sounds weird but it has actually helped. Thank you! I will keep this thread updated along my journey :)
 
I spent my entire childhood travelling (10-30 hours on planes, hours and days on trains, days and weeks in cars, misc time on ship)… Totally relate to headphones on, eyes unfocused, as the world slides by and music washes over, and living in my imagination.

My daydreaming ISNT maladaptive, though… for the most part.

But my trauma history began waaaaaay after I’d already learned to create whole universes in my mind’s eye.

I started writing for publication by the end of elementary school, as well as just writing for myself. I hit similarly creative-zones in fire arts (ceramics, glass), but stay extremely present -it’s almost the opposite kind of thing- with photography, and it’s 50/50 if I’m drawing/painting.

<<< These, as well as whiling away the hours whilst travelling? Are extremely adaptive. As well as useful/desired, in my everyday life. >>>

The only place I sorta/kinda hit maladaptive daydreaming is actually during portions of my trauma history, and that’s technicall not maladaptive, as you deal with, f*cking up your life… but just a survival mechanism. Instead of maladaptive daydreaming in my normal life? I unfortunately skip a few steps down the spectrum into 1000 yard state territory (blink, and miss a few minutes/hours, staring into infinity) & dissociative fugue states (lasting days/weeks).

^^^ So one thing you MAY consider? Instead of attempting abstinence, working on shifting gears from maladaptive to adaptive/useful/desired. IE using your artistic mind / innate imagination in ways that benefit you, rather than gut you. Which is also why I listed out my own personal spectrum, art-wise, on zoning out. Some mediums I totally zoned out for. Some are 50/50 present and in the zone. Others I’m totally present for. If you can find your own outlets? It’s a way to turn a weakness into a strength.

Which is NOT to say that abstinence is a bad thing. You may very well need total abstinence for a while to learn your own limits, and create/define new skill sets. So that you don’t just have the one knee jerk option, but instead have choices. Lots of choices.
 
I spent my entire childhood travelling (10-30 hours on planes, hours and days on trains, days and weeks in cars, misc time on ship)… Totally relate to headphones on, eyes unfocused, as the world slides by and music washes over, and living in my imagination.

My daydreaming ISNT maladaptive, though… for the most part.

But my trauma history began waaaaaay after I’d already learned to create whole universes in my mind’s eye.

I started writing for publication by the end of elementary school, as well as just writing for myself. I hit similarly creative-zones in fire arts (ceramics, glass), but stay extremely present -it’s almost the opposite kind of thing- with photography, and it’s 50/50 if I’m drawing/painting.

<<< These, as well as whiling away the hours whilst travelling? Are extremely adaptive. As well as useful/desired, in my everyday life. >>>

The only place I sorta/kinda hit maladaptive daydreaming is actually during portions of my trauma history, and that’s technicall not maladaptive, as you deal with, f*cking up your life… but just a survival mechanism. Instead of maladaptive daydreaming in my normal life? I unfortunately skip a few steps down the spectrum into 1000 yard state territory (blink, and miss a few minutes/hours, staring into infinity) & dissociative fugue states (lasting days/weeks).

^^^ So one thing you MAY consider? Instead of attempting abstinence, working on shifting gears from maladaptive to adaptive/useful/desired. IE using your artistic mind / innate imagination in ways that benefit you, rather than gut you. Which is also why I listed out my own personal spectrum, art-wise, on zoning out. Some mediums I totally zoned out for. Some are 50/50 present and in the zone. Others I’m totally present for. If you can find your own outlets? It’s a way to turn a weakness into a strength.

Which is NOT to say that abstinence is a bad thing. You may very well need total abstinence for a while to learn your own limits, and create/define new skill sets. So that you don’t just have the one knee jerk option, but instead have choices. Lots of choices.
Thank you for your reply! I have a big passion for writing stories, I use to write a lot when I was younger. So in regards to what you said, I suppose I could try and put all that creativity into writing and making up stories. Same as you I love creative arts so I can definitely see myself doing the same thing. I appreciate the advice!!!! I am sorry to hear you spend weeks and days in dissociative states. I just hope I find a way to deal with this as my perspective of life and especially myself is so skewered. I just want to live and not exist.
 
I used to fantasise a lot to cope with childhood bullying, preferred to be in my bedroom imagining scenarios with my favourite pop stars of the time (80’s) . I did move on going on to college, work and university and didn’t do it again for years as never had the tsime. to spend hours ‘locked in fantasy’

Years later though when I was left disabled and housebound after a stroke in my mid 30’s I again spent alot of time alone and started doing it again for a brief period. Life improved again after I recovered some mobility and got a personal helper and again there was a break when life was busy.

Once I hit peri though the severe mood swings and hormone fluctuations started triggering out other versions of me…some I’d remembered as imaginary friends from years ago. Some were just me from an earlier age. the one who loved getting lost in fantasy somehow found their way back to front after many years and once again found myself spending hours locked in fantasy worlds, this could go on for hours a day.

Getting back into video games helped as though still playing in fantasy worlds you are kind of grounded in that you’re having to focus to do-ordinate movements a,so having a dog meant I had to keep one foot in reality as they needed walking everyday .

Things seem to be settling down again
 
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