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When Daydreaming Becomes a Nightmare

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Daydreaming in itself isn’t a problem. Everyone daydreams every now and then, right? What’s wrong with that? But for me, daydreaming is debilitating and it interferes with my ability to live my life. It has become a nightmare for me and it’s not one I can just wake up from.

I’ll give you an example. One night, a few days ago. I was exhausted. Eyes heavy, ready to fall asleep on my face, exhausted. But I couldn’t get myself to go to sleep. I have this problem with daydreaming. I lose track of time while in my fantasy world — hours and hours of time. The next thing I know, it’s 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.

That is one of the many challenges I face because of my problems with maladaptive daydreaming. It feels like I spend as much time in my fantasy world as I do in the real world. Sometimes, even more. In a way, my fantasy world feels like a safe haven. One that protects me from the real world, but does way more harm than good.

My daydreaming has given me the illusion I am in control. In my fantasy world, I can control the characters, the setting and every little thing that happens. If something in my life feels too overwhelming, I can just pop on over to my fantasy world and everything is suddenly OK. However, maladaptive daydreaming has contributed to me ignoring my problems. So much so, that by the time I notice them, they become way too difficult for me to handle on my own.

One of the things I had willfully ignored was my mental health. Depression, to be more specific. Instead of dealing with my depression head on, I would pretend it didn’t exist. My fantasy world would provide an escape where I wouldn’t have to worry about my depression. In my fantasy world, depression didn’t exist at all.

However, it wouldn’t last. Soon, even my fantasy world couldn’t protect me from my depression. Even though it provided a respite for quite some time, in the end, it caused me more harm than good. I lost the control I didn’t even have in the first place. The one thing I knew I could count on to protect me from the real world failed me and I did not know how to fix it.

That was when I made the decision to start going to therapy to cope with my depression. It was the best decision I have made for myself. While I do have better control of my depression, I still struggle very deeply with maladaptive daydreaming. I don’t want to live in my fantasy world anymore. I want to live in the real world. However, addressing my maladaptive daydreaming is difficult because I have to address what I daydream about. It’s a vulnerable place for me and in a sick way, it’s the one secret I feel I can keep to myself. I am scared of revealing that side of myself.

My therapist told me being courageous is not doing what you need to do because you are not scared. It’s doing what you need to do even though you are scared. And believe me, I am very scared.

While it’s easier said than done, I need to be courageous and face my maladaptive daydreaming head on. If I gathered the courage to combat my depression head on, I can do the same thing for my maladaptive daydreaming. I cannot let it rule my world anymore. I have to fight it. I know I can defeat it. I just have the gather the courage to confront it.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.

Originally published: March 14, 2017
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