Countless hours spent daydreaming builds claustrophobic momentum. Time passes, the room stays empty. I wake in a daydream, and the consciousness supporting my body is consistently divided.
"As odd as this may be it steals the life out of us, just like every other addiction. The difference is that we aren’t officially recognised and diagnosable".
When reality enters, in the form of uncomplicated tasks, this very consciousness stays in another era: the one I call near-future, in which all the goals I’ve set to myself are achieved, my relationships with others are gratifying, and the aroma of living is pleasurable.
Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD) entered my vocabulary in the summer of 2018. It is a psychiatric condition which involves intense daydreaming, a dependence to choose fantasy over of real life.
MD is a defence mechanism. Our triggers are actual events e.g. feelings of unworthiness. Immediately, our brain will protect and create a different vision, in another time, with different circumstances, whatever they may be. Music, films, and books are the accessories. They offer dialogues, scenery, and escape. As odd as this may be it steals the life out of, just like every other addiction. The difference is that we aren’t officially recognised and diagnosable.
In my case, I denied it for a year before I accepted it. So far it has cost me my job, education, and relationships and offered a constant lockdown from anything I desired. When I finally accepted its existence, freedom was nearby.
The first person I confided to is my closest friend in France. Unwittingly, his reply unravelled the answer I was secretly looking for.
“But, did you get a diagnosis?”, he asked.
The old search for approval bounced back until rationality did.
The quest for recognition
After several e-mails exchanged with Professor Eliezer Somer, who discovered MD in 2002, I received the MDS-16 (Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale, one of the only form of screening for the condition) to which I earned a score of 95 out of 100. This should have been satisfying but the term's classification was - and still is - bothersome.
To this day MD is not classified in the main system of diagnostic classification, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The absence of recognition proffers invisibility and therefore under-representation. The lack of support produces isolation and, given that productivity is a target for those with MD, job losses are unfortunately likely to occur and educational success can be at stake.
I was 8 when it started and I've been labelled as "slow" by my teachers since primary school. My struggle to complete duties at work on time was the reason for the dismissal from my very comfortable full-time job in 2018. Even today when cleaning an empty office, I’m late, and the assignment is never finished correctly. I just hide it well.
The connection of these difficulties in work to my persistent daydreaming never seemed plausible. To connect the two, I had to lose everything. Daydreaming became a regular habit, each thought is made of hallucination.
So, is that what we deserve? Lose everything, without the possibility to be diagnosed and supported?
Awareness starts with one. In a tormented time like today, we all have a role to play. Forums on MD are everywhere. Millions are sharing their struggle in the best way they can.
My daydreaming has moved on to a new phase these past months. The conversations I share with my empty studio flat, in the dark, on my bed, are only about MD. My brain works hard, and that way, I come up with theories. I offer compassion to this MD of mine by understanding why it is present in the first place. In other terms, I help myself, I make decisions to get better. That’s all I’ve got. I detach myself from anxious thoughts, the ones that are telling me I’ll never be credible enough. The guilt from the chaos I lived in is moving away.
- See more: Denying the traumatic origin of Dissociative Identity Disorder denies those who live with it a recovery
- See more: When being 'out of touch with reality' is your reality
The longer classification takes, the more it transforms in a long term psychiatric condition.
We’re not asking for much, really. We just want to be seen and worthy of assistance.
We’re the ones pacing, mouthing, using music to stimulate ourselves, living with invisible companions, spending essential time creating plots and characters.
We’re the ones seeing our lives passing by, without the ability to catch her up. There isn’t a choice, just an unstoppable desire to daydream our lives away. We’re addicted to it, deal with it.