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How My Depression Is Like Netflix

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Have you ever started watching a TV show on Netflix and got lost in the plot? So much so that you look up at some point and realized that several hours have passed? And even though you know you have work or assignments to do, you can’t stop watching? Sometimes you switch shows or do mindless activities while you watch, but you can’t turn the TV off.

My mind is like a Netflix home screen, and my daydreams are like TV shows. Sometimes, I accidentally click on it and end up watching something. Other times, I purposely try to find a daydream. Maybe I’m bored in a lecture, or feeling lonely and unwanted.

I have many stories, actors and settings to choose from. The “actors” are usually friends or people I look up to. The stories and setting vary wildly depending on the day and change often.

I have my list of favorites that I continually rewatch or even rewrite. Maybe one “show” is about starring in a big movie or Broadway show and feeling like I’ve finally made my family and friends proud. A different one might be about meeting someone I look up too. Occasionally, the shows might even merge so that I meet this person because we are acting together.

The show usually starts out as a mildly intriguing thought. I start exploring the idea, adding characters and advancing the plot. I can get incredibly, obsessively detailed, thinking about everything from the clothes I am wearing to the color of the curtains. The story is constantly being added to in terms of depth and complexity.

And while this sounds like a mildly entertaining way to pass time, it doesn’t stop after a couple of boring minutes. These daydreams last hours. There have been times I have spent over six hours straight of road trip time obsessing over a single story. I can’t get out. I will try to break from the trance I’m in and it sends me right back. It doesn’t stop. I can’t do homework or talk to other people very well. It feels like being in a drugged haze where I feel overwhelmed and numb all at once.

I also usually have very little awareness of what is going on around me. Sometimes I subconsciously speak “lines” or even act out scenes from the stories in my brain. Sometimes I’m stuck in a loop, doing the same thing over and over again for no apparent reason except that my brain can’t stop.

Other times I will “wake up” and have a complete memory blackout from the time I was daydreaming. I don’t know what I’ve been doing or what everyone around me has been doing.

Daydreams can be an escape from reality, but daydreaming like this isn’t a home; it’s a prison. My mind becomes a trap. This kind of behavior is called maladaptive daydreaming, and hearing about it blew my mind.

I’ve been doing this since I was a very little kid. My mother says I used to wander around the house or yard, completely immersed in my brain. From what I remember, the stories were simpler but the concepts were the same. Ironically, I use them to feel less isolated. They are always about getting love, appreciation and control that I feel like I lack in my normal life. I obsess over the details. Everything must be absolutely perfect.

But when I’m trying to get out, I feel like I’m losing my mind. It’s frustrating and terrifying. The visions come because I don’t want to live in my world anymore. Sometimes it is easier to hide in the shadows that aren’t real.

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Getty Images photo via maroznc

Originally published: January 8, 2017
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