When my life became unbearable, I turned to my dreams. They were the safety net for my soul. Often I felt my life slipping away into the hands of my abusers. My voice echoed loudly on the inside because my screams were stifled by a hand, either mine, my mother’s, or my stepfather’s. The inner screams were drowned out by the enchantment I created in my mind. I soothed myself in this way.
I came to rely on my dreams, my escape from the abuse, so much so that they took over my life. My ability to withdraw from reality, such as my daydreams, served as a coping mechanism for as long as my mother was married to my step-father. They served as a loving companion after she fled from him for the all those years of neglect when I longed for the nurturing of my mother’s arms. Later in life, they served as a creative outlet while I trudged through higher education and life as a young adult. And, sadly, they served as a hinderance in my relationships with men as an adult.
“He does not need opium. He has the gift of reverie.”
When my life did not live up to my dream world, I became withdrawn and sullen. Not only had I been unworthy of love as a child, but now as an adult, I was an absolute failure. My daydreams overtook my life; they had become a vital part of me. I realized the problems that excessive daydreams have caused in my academics and work life as well as my personal life.
But surrendering my daydreams would be akin to selling my soul. The frightening truth was that I was happier with the daydreams than I was with the living. I lost touch with my friends from my adolescence, and my interest continuing relationships, romantic or otherwise, was nil. I became anxious, suffering from frequent anxiety attacks, and was constantly afraid that someone would figure out about my quandary. After reading a study on Maladaptive Daydreaming, I was surprised to find that I am not alone with this malady. Many people have created fantasy lives in their heads.
By the time I started dating in college, it did not occur to me, as the insecure, untrusting and broken human being that I was, being an absolute failure at relationships was inevitable. I did not have a healthy model from which to draw representations that would aid me in forming my perception of the give and take that makes up a virile partnership. Starting relationships was a feat in itself even to someone who did not live with Maladaptive Daydreaming. I was overly cautious because of my mistrusting nature, forever waiting for the shoe to drop. I had to guard myself at all costs. My rule of thumb was I not to reveal my true self.
Instead, I portrayed the persona I thought that men in my life wanted me to be. I was quiet, yet boisterous; helpless, yet resourceful; meek, yet impertinent; refined, yet primitive. I learned to assess each situation by critical observation, and bring the conterminous character forward. It became an art of seduction.
In a sense, I became the me of his dreams: a woman who was flawless in personality and beauty, who said the right things, who feigned interest in everything he said, and who was appreciative of the attention that he bestowed on me . I dressed impeccably, laughed at the appropriate times, and flirted with ease and delight.
Each time I aimed my target at a man who I thought could be my Mr. Right, I never missed It became all too easy as soon as I ascertained what their expectation was. I just filled the required role just as an actor takes the stage. I became this synthetic sham of a woman, and I felt myself dissipating with each relationship. The only bit of me that still remained was the chimera that dwelled in my own head. I wasn’t sure how long I could hold up the dissimilation.
I spent a lifetime pleasing other people. I thought that I would find happiness by creating happiness for those I cared for. The price I paid was my own sense of self. What I should have been to all these people is me. I learned along the way that my life is my own. I don’t have to live it in dreams.
I’d like to think that I am “cured” of my addiction of excessive daydreaming, but I am not. Sometimes the dreams still slip into my mind like “fog… on little cat feet,” as Carl Sandburg poetically wrote. Other times, I invite them in like a dear, old friend who doesn’t have to knock. To rid myself of it would be to lose a limb, for it’s a part of me that shaped me into the person I am today.