Amy's Maladaptive Daydreaming Success Story
Maladaptive daydreaming was never supposed to be part of Amy's life story. However, maladaptive daydreaming doesn't discriminate in who it latches onto and Amy's success story is a testament to reaching a low point, searching for solutions, and ultimately overcoming the issue.
Amy was raised in what she described as being an "intense" household. She was going to an after-school tutor beginning in grade one, had four hours of piano lessons a week, and was the captain of her middle school and high school badminton teams.
When it came time for applying to college, Amy's guidance counsellor recommended the very best schools and Amy got into one of the most prestigious colleges in America.
Amy's success as she transitioned into her eighteenth wasn't supposed to start. Rather, it was supposed to just be the beginning.
Amy reached college with an insatiable intellectual curiosity and was ready to tackle her dream of one day becoming a doctor.
Amy's freshman year had its bumps along the way - tests that weren't quite as easy as high school and social groups that were as tight knit as she imagined - but she got through it well enough.
However, as Amy began her sophomore years things began to change. Amy suddenly felt herself slipping academically and socially.
Amy began to have daydreams about moving across the country to San Francisco and becoming a world-famous artist. Amy didn't have any particular interest in art, but she chalked up these daydreams to a little bit of escapism. After all, don't we all engage in thoughts about a life lived differently?
But Amy's daydreams didn't stop, they only grew
How Amy Became a Maladaptive Daydreamer
As the semester progressed Amy began to miss deadlines. Instead of realizing that this was due to her daydreaming, she was simply confused about how she could be letting deadlines - something she always adhered to - fall through the cracks.
Amy visited with her professors who granted extensions after Amy arrived flustered and emotional over having missed the deadlines.
However, the new deadlines came and went and Amy began to care less and less about meeting them.
Amy knew something was wrong. She now began to realize it was about her daydreams.
While Amy's daydreams just a few months prior had been simple escapes, normally engaged in before bed, they were now becoming much more involved and abstract.
Amy described to me how she felt that when she engaged in her daydreams they were so emotional, so life-life that they drained her of her energy. After daydreaming she often felt like she needed to go to bed.
This is because Amy's world of her own creation no longer centered around the "real" her living in San Francisco being a famous artist. Instead, it was some abstract foreign version of Amy. Someone who looked differently, talked differently, and associated with wildly different people.
This new character was not aspirational to Amy, it was a foreign creation of her own mind.
Here's What Amy's Maladaptive Daydreams Tell Us
Amy's path is a common one. Daydreams that start out seeming innocent - as most daydreams are - rapidly expanded to take over increasing portions of her life and began to negatively effect her life.
Further, Amy's daydreams were not aspirational. They did not involve things she wished she could do, or was she may do in the future, but were rather more like a running television show in her mind.
These forms of maladaptive daydreaming often afflict those most in need of escape. Instead of creating a fantasy world in which the real you is involved, you create fantasy worlds in which there is no resemblance to reality.
This stops these maladaptive daydreams from ever bumping into reality. Instead these are entirely separate worlds we enter into in our own mind. Devoid of our own reality and often revolving around things we didn't think we were that interested in to begin with!
Amy's maladaptive daydreams were telling her that she couldn't cope with some aspect of her own reality whether she knew consciously or not what that was.
How Amy Crafted Her Own Success Story
Amy had gone from the girl who did everything right in her childhood and teenage years to being on the verge of failing her classes at just nineteen years old.
Amy, ever the high achiever, found herself circling the drain. The more she thought about her real life, the worse she realized it was becoming, and therefore the less she wanted to think about it.
Amy's knew this couldn't continue, however. Amy knew that if she kept on this path she would throw away everything she had worked so hard for. All because she couldn't look at her reality for what it was.
If this is something you have experience with, you know just how devastating it can be to confront this reality.
Amy began searching for what exactly could be wrong with her. Were these invasive dreams a sign of some deeper sickness?
Soon she realized that what she was suffering from was maladaptive daydreaming.
As Amy tells the story, she bought just about everything related to maladaptive daydreaming she could find online. Obviously, as you likely know, there's not much!
But luckily she found this site and began to go through the seven-step process in the course.
Amy was studying a pre-med subject and identified with what I describe as the "rationalist approach" to looking at one's maladaptive daydreams.
If you look under the surface, not at the surface, you often find there's an obvious reason why you're pursuing maladaptive daydreams.
For Amy it was that she had taken on too many obligations at college and was much too hard on herself about getting a perfect GPA so she could get into medical school.
Amy started by forgiving herself and promising not to view the time she's spent maladaptive daydreaming as a waste. After all, what's done is done and you can't turn back the hands of time.
Amy then began crafting her own success story by deconstructing her fantasy world. As Amy described it to me, once she recognized why she was doing it the hold that her dreams had on her began to dissipate.
She began to realize how silly these daydreams were and using the trick of "poisoning the well" was able to move on her from daydreams in around a week.
The Maladaptive Daydreams Still Lingered
For Amy, her maladaptive daydreams were so intense that they lingered in the back of her mind for a few months after.
However, to her surprise she didn't have to resist engaging in them. When they appeared in her mind the desire to start maladaptive daydreaming just wasn't there.
It's like whatever spell was put on her had been lifted. In reality, Amy had just made the conscious decision that these were not appealing to her and almost found these daydreams - that were so serious just months before - to be almost laughable!
Speaking from personal experience, I feel the same way. I can still remember my maladaptive daydreams, of course, but I look back on them now and wonder how I could have ever spent hours a day engaged in them! They were so absurd!
Amy decided that she would focus back in on college, but not take on extra obligations just because her peers or professors asked and that she wouldn't care about her marks.
She decided that she would simply try to work hard - but not too hard - and see where things shook out.
You probably see where this story is going: Amy's marks not only boomeranged, but reached new heights.
By Amy not focusing on the outcome of academic success, but rather focusing on enjoying the process of learning, she got right back on track.
Amy's Success Story and Lessons Learned
Amy wrote me an e-mail after being several months removed from maladaptive daydreaming.
She brought up how she doesn't like to think about her maladaptive daydreaming past much, which is understandable and normal.
The reason why there's so little information about maladaptive daydreaming online is not because it doesn't affect hundreds of thousands of people.
Rather, it's because once you "get out" of your maladaptive daydreams you don't even want to think about them again. Maladaptive daydreams are a burden for us all - they caused us hardship - and it's entirely rationale not to want to think about them again.
However, I'm thankful Amy reached out and here are a few lessons or takeaways from her maladaptive daydreaming success story:
- Amy chose to forgive herself for engaging in maladaptive daydreams as opposed to being hard on herself
- Amy recognized that she needed to take concrete action to disrupt her maladaptive daydreams and she couldn't simply wish away things that were of her mind, not physical
- Amy chose to focus on things that she cared about; However, Amy focused on the process, not the outcomes
- Amy simplified her life; many maladaptive daydreamers worry about having more free time (won't they then engage in more daydreams?), but the opposite is almost always true
The path to recovery from maladaptive daydreaming doesn't need to be difficult or burdensome. Unlike losing weight, where you physically can only do so much so quickly, your maladaptive daydreams are purely of your minds creation.
With the proper framing and techniques you can start chipping away at their hold over you or, in the case of Amy, make them entirely unappealing to yourself.
Finally, I would highlight once again how Amy discovered that her maladaptive daydreams were telling her something. Engaging in them was perhaps not a great coping mechanism, but it did allow her to escape from her reality of being overworked and putting too much pressure on yourself.
Often just realizing the real reason why you're engaging in maladaptive daydreams is half the battle to overcoming them. Then you realize that these daydreams are just a way to cope and that the best way to really cope is to stop daydreaming and start focusing on reality.
As always, all the best. Be sure to check out How to Overcome Maladaptive Daydreaming, if you're at all interested. I hope you will have the same success story as Amy; overcome your maladaptive daydreams; and be a stronger, better version of yourself as a result.