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Maladaptive daydreaming

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Maladaptive daydreaming

Postby Floralie » Thu Aug 15, 2019 10:29 pm

In a way this post doesn't belong to this site, because this forum is about DID, not about daydreaming. My reason to post this is personal. I do identify being a maladaptive daydreamer, although I don't want to. It's something that sounds so much like me, but also something to avoid, because it's kind of triggering. Now I found something that didn't trigger, so I managed to read it all. I do tell stories in my mind to avoid reality. It started when I was a teenager, or that's when it started to be a disorder. There's many things I identify with in DID too, because it's also about different worlds and split mind. However, the things in the text I'll copy in her are very true about me. I don't think other people in here will feel this being about them the way it is about me.

There is something in the text I don't identify with, and it's the thing about being "me" before MD started. I don't think I've ever been anyone, until couple years ago things started to change.

Having one disorder called something else, doesn't rule out other disorders. I'm kind of thinking again same things I did originally, when I watched myself objectively. I do know I have parts. I had proof about it when I was about 20 and little scared girl came and I kind of became her and stayed me at the same time. She failed, my mom got angry with her, and she's never come back after it.

When you once have split mind, you can create parts your whole life. And I still think it's possible parts I know so well, all the names in the signature, can be parts that I made because I'm a maladaptive daydreamer. But I have and had split mind, and ability to create parts, real ones. So they became alive.

It is also possible I see things thru DID glasses, because it's the language that I know, but if I'd be part of MD community instead, I'd see same things differently, and understand their meanings differently.

Little girl and other possible parts with my real life story may still be hiding. They're the ones I don't wanna see, because I love my stories and people in them. Kind of. My mind chooses stories over real communication with hem still, because of what's told in the text. It's not about you wanting to have friends, if they came alive, you'd still be unhappy being you. And I kind of am. I'm getting better tho.

I'm not doing this because I'm struggling with the thought of having DID. It's the other way round. I want to have DID and I don't wanna be maladaptive daydreamer. But to get better, you need to face the real reality. That's why MD is triggering thought to me, I'm scared my boys aren't real after all the way I want them to. But doesn't that kind of thinking sound way more like symptoms of MD than DID? That is one BIG inconsistency in my case compared to other people with DID.

My T says it kind of doesn't matter, and in a way that's true. It's still removing part of your self to somewhere else and therefor existing in two worlds, without belonging to either one. If my stories are just stories, they were still the way I coped, and still cope with life. It's just about how much we should believe in the stories, should we at all or is there hidden meanings. She says what ever the case is, she thinks I have structural dissociation. But I don't know has she ever worked with a person with MD, does she recognize it? She's watching me thru DID lenses as well.

Anyway, here's the text, it's long one, but I hope someone manages to read it all, because it is well written. It can be triggering to someone, but it's NOT written by someone who claims DID isn't true, it's simply a different disorder. It can cause denial in people who easily think they're just making things up. There are no other triggers than that tho, the text is not about trauma at all. My question is does anyone else identify with the text, for the reasons it actually tells about how the disorder is and works, not because they think they are liars or other denial stuff, when their story has actually nothing to do with how maladaptive daydreaming works.

Two years ago when I joined this community, I think I was more dead than alive. I've been waging quite a brutal war with maladaptive dreaming and the array of issues that underlie it ever since then and I'm on my way out of this prison. I wanted to do something for you guys so here is a little essay with insights on MD and what you can do to understand better and finally tame this beast. Hopefully, someone will find it useful.

The split and the life between two worlds

Do you think the vague feeling of being split in two and existing between two worlds but belonging to none is exclusive to maladaptive daydreamers?

“If you try to have a conversation with me, I can’t bring myself to listen to you. I pretend to listen and you really think I do but my mind is somewhere else, thinking about it. Every time I try to stop doing it, I genuinely feel as if a part of me has been torn off and a deep sense of personal loss ensues. I feel as if I’m not here but I’m not there either and I can’t shake off this feeling of being split in two.”

This is what a recovering heroin addict once told me. Heroin addict. But it’s also what a regular maladaptive daydreamer could have told you, isn’t it?

Maladaptive daydreaming is, among other things, a typical psychological addiction. Most of the negative issues associated with maladaptive daydreaming come from the fact that it is an addictive coping mechanism and not some unique disorder with specific symptoms just recently discovered. You have heard million times that addictions are encoded in the primitive part of the brain associated with survival – which means that if you don’t get your fix right now, you feel more dead than alive and you need your drug of choice to bring you back to life. Your brain is sending a false message to you – it is issuing an urge that is blown out of proportion, compelling you to constantly indulge in daydreams and making you think that if you don’t, the world will end and you will lose a part of yourself. Drugs usually invade your sense of self – they fuse with it and by giving up the drug, you feel as though you are giving up a dear part of yourself.

Addiction is addiction but different types of drugs and addictive behaviors tell you different things about their users. So what does fantasy reveal about you? MD is like a guardian angel that tries to protect you too much and eventually causes more harm than good. But it’s still your guardian angel that tried lifting a burden off your brittle shoulders. It’s destructive in its own way but it was originally born to protect you from something. To realize and accept what you are trying to run away from is your first step towards recovery. Maybe it’s depression, maybe it’s low self-esteem and loneliness or it’s anxiety or PTSD.

Fall of the self

Maladaptive daydreaming isn’t the act of random mind-wandering – it’s a highly immersive mental activity, where all attention is gathered and directed towards happenings of the fantasy. This would be parallel to a so-called flow state, which is characterized by immersing intensely in an activity to the point of losing the sense of self. Which means, whatever happens in fantasy, happens, but not to you. It is a selfless experience, never integrated into what you call yourself, into sense of identity, into what makes you you. It exists as a detached, ecstatic, fleeting moment that slips through the fingers the moment you try to make sense out of it and process it as your own experience. You witness traces of happiness but the happiness is never yours.

Fantasy is an egoless state of mind where we are not ourselves. And by temporarily cutting ties from your own ego, the conscious identity, you’re also cutting ties from all insecurities you have ever had, from all the problems that are currently bothering you and this is why daydreams feel so damn good. Everything bad is just cut off from your perception. The part of your brain that defines your sense of self, along with all the negative things and mental illnesses attached to it, is turned off.

As you venture into this egoless place that is MD, you make up imaginary people you sometimes end up loving dearly or even fall in love with or you conjure imaginary places you’re desperately drawn to, and then suddenly – you wake up from your dream and you’re violently pulled back to reality and to being yourself. And this is where the problem arises: all those things you’ve done in your dreamworld and all those made up people you’ve come to love have nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with real YOU. They are not attached to your conscious sense of self. All those dreams and false memories you made – you made them in an egoless state of mind. And it’s this that makes you feel split. It’s not the fact that you’re physically apart from the content of your fantasies. It is the fact that your subconscious feelings, fantasies and desires do not connect to your sense of self. Even if everything you’ve been daydreaming about came true, you’d still feel like garbage, empty and miserable. If your imaginary friend came to life to make you less lonely, you’d still be lonely – because MD isn’t about made up friends or lovers or getting a new life. It’s about you not wanting to be you. Everything else is irrelevant.

In other words, you’re not addicted to your fictional characters or your imaginary love or to a fantasy about being a famous singer or writer. You’re addicted to not being you. You’re addicted to this erratic state of consciousness that is MD – regardless of its content – that provides a temporal relief.

I’m not saying that you don’t genuinely care about the content of your daydreams (quite the opposite, more on that soon) – what I am saying is that it’s not your love towards whatever is the content of your fantasies that creates this ugly feeling of being split between two worlds. One thing I can assure you (and this comes from my own experience) is that the moment you feel comfortable being you, those two worlds will reconcile, they will merge into one, and you’ll finally feel at peace with yourself.

Will a part of you be taken away as you give up your daydreams?

Maybe the saddest question I have ever asked myself was ‘how much of myself will I lose when I give up the only thing that makes me happy?’ Here’s a glimmer of hope: you’re not supposed to give them up. To give up the feelings you experience in your daydreams is self-mutilation. As strange or silly as they are, they still represent a censored part of your subconscious; maybe they are an epitome of your loneliness or your sadness. They are a testament to how hard you’re struggling and how hard you’re trying not to be dead – and to give this up is a crime towards yourself. Maladaptive Daydreaming isn’t just about wishful thinking and getting your wounds licked. It is that one place where your life flame stillburns while you may be dead in all other planes of existence. That’s enough to know that this MD thing isn’t all that entirely wrong. Maybe your real life is all emptiness and void but what you do in your daydreams – you do it with passion. And that’s enough to know that you are still capable of loving and caring about something just like other people. So passion exists and don’t you dare ever doubt that. It exists in a wrong place but it exists nonetheless. What you have to do is find a way to redirect those emotions from daydreams to reality and, as stated before, this causally happens once you’re finally you. All the positive emotions from your daydreams will flow back into you and you’ll feel as though these two worlds between which you have lived for so long have at last coalesced into one.

So what you want to do is focus on healing the self. It’s a tough one but there’s no quick fix here. Now comes the irony which you’ve been waiting for: in order to heal yourself, you need to let go of your daydreams. But didn’t I just say that you aren’t supposed to give them up, you ask? Don’t give up the passion, don’t give up the love you have for the content of your daydreaming, don’t give up the feelings – because they are all, real or not, a reminder that you’re alive. What you do have to give up is the false sense of comfort your daydreams give you. Try giving up all those countless hours you spend stuck in your own head pacing back and forth because you’d rather be there than here. Try giving up the temporal fix when you feel miserable. If someone angers you, don’t impulsively lock yourself in your room and act out a revenge in your head; go kick a sofa or something, lash out at something external.

You have to wean yourself off of this strange dissociative painkiller that’s fantasy, then let yourself feel all the pain with every ounce of your being, let all the negative emotions resurface, let them swallow you alive, don’t resist, don’t run away, accept them, let them ravage you, and somewhere along this process, a part of the you will be reborn. Something will awake. Not all of you, maybe just a small part but that’s enough to gather what’s left of your strength and continue the struggle. If you feel the urge to daydream, this is okay – as long as it doesn’t censor the pain which you shouldn’t run away from anymore, it’s fine to give in and indulge for a while if you feel like you have to. Don’t ignore temptations, this sparks the fire of addiction even more. It’s a well known pattern: if you fight the urge to engage in an addictive behavior, it makes it stronger. If you acknowledge it, analyze it, this is what breaks the cycle of addiction. In other words, the imperative is not to block the pain and negative feelings. If a sudden sense of self-disgust or low self-esteem suddenly hits you, welcome it. Welcome it, analyze it, let it consume you, and you will realize it is just a false message your brain is sending to you because that’s what brains of depressed people do, after all. The more you let yourself feel and process the negative feelings without censorship, the more will the urge to daydream weaken and the less you will run away.

Who are you really?

Depression usually enters people’s lives like a tempest – yesterday you were an optimistic person enjoying simple pleasures of life and today you feel like a suicidal or apathetic piece of $#%^, and this is how it is for most people. Depression that underlies MD, however, takes a different route. It enters your life stealthily, slowly, so slowly you don’t even notice it, then it gradually robs you of emotions, ambitions, memories, motivation, identity, empathy, and you end up thinking: “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’tmiserable,” or “these bad feelings must be a part of my personality, they have always been here“. Because of this, most of us fail to realize where depression (or anxiety or any other kind of chronic mental illness) ends and where we begin. So if this illness isn’t you, then who are you?

Let me make a digression here. MD is usually born when you can’t express yourself properly because you’re anxious, depressed or sometimes simply shy or lonely. Mental illnesses are like lenses which distort your perception. Everything you see appears more tragic, senseless or uglier than it really is. And your both eyes are infected with these lenses. But here your subconscious decides to play a trick on your mental illness and tells you: ‘well, if your both eyes are infected and make things appear worse than they really are, then why don’t you just close them?’ You do and this is the beginning of the addiction to fantasy. You stop paying attention to the outside world and you turn it inwards and use your mind’s eye to create things inside you: your daydreams. This mind’s eye, which is fantasy, cannot get infected with depression and this is why MD is a safe haven. Depression doesn’t reach there. What your subconscious forgets to tell you before it’s too late is that if you close those two eyes used for perceiving outer world, for things outside of yourself, you’ll be completely cut off from reality. But none of this is your fault – this is a war between mental illness, the attacker, and your subconscious, which is your protector, and you are their battlefield. You don’t have a single choice, they are the ones who decide – you only observe. So if you ever blamed yourself for being too weak to make a decision to cease this addiction, stop it. It’s wasn’t your fault.

Back to my question, who are you then?

The daydream version of you isn’t the true you but it’s not a fake one either. It’s a highly filtered product of your subconscious that tried to protect you. Then we have this other real-life you imbued with low self-esteem and negative thoughts that seem to go on a loop forever. Well, that’s certainly not your true self either. Heck, if it’s any comfort for you, the daydream you is far closer to the true you than this real-life depressed version of yourself will ever be.

Can you remember the time when you didn’t have MD? Can you remember your sense of identity when you were a child free of MD? Try conjuring up all those times when you knew how to live in the present. It doesn’t matter if you were 6 years old the last time you were here. Just try to pinpoint all those moments and try to remember the feeling of being in the now. Here’s one pretty handy trick you can use. I always joke that music is a drug that takes you on a trip down a memory lane. It’s like an emotional psychedelic. It transports you emotionally back in time, to another place, another reality, to wherever you wish. It helps people with Alzheimer’s remember who they are and regain a sense of identity for a short while. Maladaptive daydreamers often use music to help them imagine an alternate setting – but what if you used music to transport yourself to the past when you had neither depression nor anxiety or MD or whatever is bothering you? If you can remember a forgotten song which you used to listen as a child who at the time hadn’t had MD yet, listen to it again, try to remember who you were, and if the song is meaningful to you, the old you and your sense of self, which you used to have back then, will come back to you for those few minutes while the song plays. You’ll feel the warmth of finally being you. You won’t quite be in the present – you’ll be in the past, but it’s your real past, it’s your true self. Try to capture this feeling and then try to reenact it. It’ll strengthen your identity in the long run.

I’ll give another example on what set me free from my own MD for a short while. You all know what fight or flight mode is. What you also probably know is that most people with PTSD or chronic anxiety are stuck in a constant state of fight or flight. Spending too much time in this state eventually leads to a burnout and is a sure ticket to depression since you go from fight and flight into freeze mode where all your functions are off and you feel like an emotionless zombie. You don’t care, you don’t live, you don’t get angry or sad or happy, you only exist on autopilot. In order to feel normal and alive again, you usually need a fix so strong which will set your body back on fire. Someone or something has to attack you so fiercely in order for you to rethink your existence and regain your instincts and the will to fight back. This is what happened to me. When one of my daydreams violently crumbled some time ago, I got so ridiculously pissed off that for the first time after several years spent in freeze mode, I felt genuinely alive. I was me. The anger acted like a stimulant and the state lasted for 15 minutes until the anger wore off. But hell, during those 15 minutes, I was me. I was so mad but I was also indescribably happy. I could feel. I could let go. I was defeated but I also won. The thirst, the cravings, the split, this strange nostalgia for my daydreams all dissolved. But instead of just disappearing, every positive feeling that was limited to the daydream world only, such as sense of purpose, motivation and normal self-esteem, flew back into me. I didn’t lose a single part of me – quite the opposite – I regained back that detached part of my soul that existed only in daydreams. What took for me to awake was extreme anger, being defeated, my world crumbing to pieces. The moment I genuinely accepted that my dream world crushed, the moment I let go of all attachments holding me back for years, I was reborn. The anger, which is a natural stimulant, made something in me click. But note: this feeling of finally being alive and the desire to fight back woke up in me once my daydreams were in danger, not me. It’s because we’re so displaced, because fantasy is where we had hidden the core of our souls.

In the long run, you’re destroying neither the daydream you nor the positive feelings that come with it, you’re not giving anything up – you’re just transferring it to reality, to where it should be. But for this change to occur, before you can be reborn and whole again, you have to self-destruct, you have to let go.

Thanks for making it this far. Now you probably understand what is the difference between these two conditions. I don't think many people find comfort in DID, it's way more a struggle than comfort. My inner world is my safe place, also with all the negative feelings I replaced there from me.
Floralie F main front
Sami M 16 (15-26) defender
Lucas M 16 (19) self care
Ferro M 14/24
Rami M 25 inner protector/caretaker manager
Anastasia F 26 inner caretaker, female sexuality
Subsystem, 20+ parts:
- Jules M 11
- Little Leon M 4
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Re: Maladaptive daydreaming

Postby exul » Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:46 am

Going to bed but thank you for posting this. With this I can start to explain some stuff that I still didn't figure out until now.
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Re: Maladaptive daydreaming

Postby KitMcDaydream » Sat Aug 17, 2019 9:49 am

I have done this since childhood (MD) my parents often described me as 'living in my own world'. I used it to try and shut sounds out I couldn't cope with (as was extremely sensitive to noise).

As I got older my mother told me it was inappropriate for my age but still she seemed to recognise I needed to lose myself in fantasy every now and again as it kind of helped me recharge. I was then told to only do this in my bedroom with my curtains closed so people couldn't see if I was moving around/appearing to talk myself etc. I was told to keep it a secret as others wouldn't understand.

Instead what happened was my brain created my first full alter to take over daily life and do the job of shutting out sound 'Deaf Thea' and she was 'the front' for many years, acting as the 'buffer' or sponge to soak up the outside world and 'I' (the real me) only came out in my bedroom in my own world where it was safe.

I used fantasy to solve real life problems so the answers would be there for Thea when she had to deal with them in real life and we communicated via MD.

For reasons I (Kit) struggle to understand I could never co-exist with Maddie. She was also out full-time at first for many years. When I did find my way back, she never had any memory of me 'being out' or that the body had regained the ability to walk.

Now several other alters have surfaced and we're aware of each other we communicate via our 'imagining system' as I call it. Daisy calls it our 'Dream Network'.

I'm still the one who uses it most to get lost in my imagination and enjoy having the freedom again (now we live alone and rarely see people/have appointments to go to) to create really complex fantasies that can go on for days or weeks.

I can start one, 'pause' to do real life stuff co-conscious with another alter if necessary, then later return to my fantasy and carry it on just as if continuing with a video game or film but its like I 'climbed inside it' and am part of the film/game! (kind of like the guy does in the film 'Avatar' but I don't need to lie in any special machine to imagine it all!). I can carry on with the fantasy when taking the dog out and make him part of the adventure too as we go through the woods, stop at the stream to paddle or let the littles join in and experience it too. We love the early summer mornings when its light so early and we can go do this unseen.(4-5am) Once autumn comes again its too dark and not safe as many of our favourite/secret places are not lit. I just have to recreate it in my mind only in the house.

I'm the only alter that can do this in our system but I can share my imagining with others eg when Daisy wants to pretend she's on her childhood bike. I get on the exercise bike put on the scenic DVD and imagine the childhood bike with the dog we had running alongside and Daisy comes and slides up front so she can be the one on the bike, seeing the game through my eyes/imagination.

Bobby likes to play Zelda this way too.They both enjoy going on (real) swings this way in the park, paddling in streams and riding the scooter round the fields playing with the dog. It makes life so much more interesting and exciting! I find real life things really boring in comparison when people come to visit I can't wait till they've left so I can get back to 'my world'.

For me MD makes my life much richer. I can relieve depression without medication by getting so lost in a fantasy that would make me happy that my brain experiences it as real emotion as if it really happened and it lifts the depression. I think if I didn't have this ability I'd have been on anti-depressants for years by now!

Personally I also think I'm less likely to get something like dementia as my mind is so active as long as I always know whats the 'real world' and what's only in my fantasy world. But like the guy in Avatar I'd love a way to be able to live in my world permanently, cos my parents are still alive, we still all go camping all the beloved dogs in my lifetime are there with us.

Why would anyone then want to return to a 'real world' where you're ignored or forgotten and no-one really wants you with them full time? (and everyone you did love and who loved you back have passed away and can't ever possibly exist again in the 'real world').
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Re: Maladaptive daydreaming

Postby Allcoulors » Sun Aug 18, 2019 2:11 pm

I Just read snippets of the thread because my focus is way off because of very high stress level right now but wanted to let you know that I always thought I had md before I found out i had did. After my second big crisis 6 years ago I went into therapy again and about a year later got diagnosed with did. So I have both did and md. I think for both disorders its True that you ecape reallity but in different ways eventually. Since my life is finally getting better the last 3 years and im in a healthy relationships for the first time in my life, my md has calmed down. But my did is stil very present, even more now maybe, because its finally safe and I have the right kind of therapy and therspists.
I think your alters are real and you dont have to be scared their not.
Sorry for the blurry message, hope you understand what Im trying to say.
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