I’m Obsessed With Daydreaming
I’ve lost days, even weeks, to daydreaming, but I can’t stop getting lost in my thoughts.
Where am I? The BAFTAs, maybe. Or would it be the Emmys? It doesn’t matter; I shouldn’t focus on the event too much. I’ve won something, and that’s what counts. I’m not sure what to say though. I have this public persona that is shrouded in this eloquent enigma; part poetry, half art. So I sway past a hoard of celebrities who applaud me with such enthusiasm I can’t help but feel flattered. And when at last I make it to the stage, I kiss the cheek of Keanu Reeves (why is he presenting this award?) and delicately clear my throat as I ponder who to thank first. The parents? The fans? Or lump them together as ‘people who believed in me’? Too vague, too generic. Perhaps I should do something political, use this moment to change the world. The crowd’s cheers drown out as I tap the microphone.
‘This is truly — ’ BZZZT. The brash sound of my phone’s default text tone interrupts my speech.
Where am I? My bedroom, of course. I don’t think I’ve moved since this morning, and my arm has gone numb from leaning on it for so long. By the time I’ve come round to reality, I’ve missed the phone call.
Throughout the day, interruption will come in many forms; an agitated pounding against my bedroom door, the sudden shrill of a distant siren, an irate voice demanding I do the thing I should have done this morning. Or was it yesterday?
Irritation grows. If only they could see the self-orchestrated applause for my fast-tracked success. But deep down I know I’m only famous in my bedroom, and being forcibly snatched out of my utopian realms is more than a harsh wake-up call.
See, I know daydreaming is a waste of earthly time, but it’s well beyond my control. I allow myself to slip into these states whenever I feel inconvenienced by reality. It’s almost automatic and can happen at any time. I don’t always choose where I go, either.
My daydreams hitch-hike across a vast continent of thoughts, but I am always the protagonist; the wholesome, well-adored saviour of myself. My imagined persona has won every kind of Nobel Prize, ruled medieval Sweden, conquered the world with my UFO cult, and broken every Billboard record going. It doesn’t stop at completely made-up scenarios, either. I can’t listen to a single song without building an entire music video around it. Five minutes into watching a film I’ll have myself cast as the main character, with the script rewritten to accommodate me in said role. Why on earth do I do that?
Writing it down puts into context how absurd an obsession this is. Not only this, but how much time I’ve spent doing it. It’s a habit that’s become all-consuming and somewhat destructive. I get lost in these worlds for days, sometimes weeks and, bar the interruptions, there’s very little to pull me out of it. Even if I’m at work, at uni, or out and about; I’ll seek out any silent moment to retreat into my thoughts.
There’s a part of me that wants to get out into the real world and try to achieve some of these fake accomplishments in the flesh, but I fear the failure. It’s easy to finish your novel when you can fast forward to a faux future. There’s no effort, just breeze, and you control it all. There’s no criticism, no embarrassment, and there’s certainly no rejection. When I can have it all without having to live at all, life doesn’t feel like it’s worth living.
I don’t know if extensive daydreaming is symptomatic of my ADD mind. I struggle to pay attention to external world happenings for longer than minutes, but I can disappear completely in fabricated dreamscapes. Maybe it’s linked to depression. Or some blend of narcissism and anxiety.
What I do understand, and what may lend to my obsession, is the fact that I’ve never not been alone in my imagination. I’m an only child, and was a lonely child. The external world felt unrelatable and unnecessarily difficult. I was quick to creep back into myself, seeking comfort in the visions of my darkness. I was mostly absent in conversation — most felt devoid of substance, so I often retreated to playing out fictitious events in my head. I think this self-induced exile from social interactions fed into my adolescent anxiety; I was borderline mute around people out of not knowing what to say, how to make conversation that didn’t circle something obscure. This pubescent blend of eccentricity and want of social acceptance made for a confusing character that had little to offer in menial small talk. As I grew older and more frustrated, I retreated deeper into the childhood medium I depended on to express this private self; intense, near-constant, daydreaming.
I’ve Googled it, more than once, to see if I’m the only person strange enough to grow so dependent on dreaming. I’m not. It’s more common than I thought, and some experts recognise it as a psychiatric disorder. Known as maladaptive daydreaming; ‘a condition [that] causes intense daydreaming that distracts a person from their real life. Many times, real-life events trigger daydreams… It doesn’t have any official treatment. But some experts say it is a real disorder that can have real effects on a person’s daily life.’
Absolutely. When you spend so long in your head, you neglect your physical needs. Hunger, hygiene and general self-care go largely ignored. The worst side effect is the unsociability aspect. I struggle to speak to people as it is, but missing phone calls and forgetting about texts has a profound impact on my wellbeing, and only serves to withdraw me even further.
I haven’t found an efficient way to combat this nonsensical method of escapism, though I have found it intensifies the less I have going on in the real world. Especially during those in-between stages of life; days off, term breaks and transition periods. Avoiding music, film and fiction can help too, but I can’t sacrifice these things forever.
Perhaps it’s a simple matter of shifting perspective. I believe I daydream because I’m so underwhelmed by own life, and how unlike it is to anything I imagined for myself at this age. I’m constantly chasing past dreams with current dreams, rather than attempting to manifest them in reality. I gather myself up occasionally, but then I think of all the work involved and fall back on my bed. It’s just easier that way, but I know I can’t live like this for the rest of my life. I think I’m waiting on the day I snap out of it, but if no amount of interference from the outside world will snatch me out of these states, then it’s going to have to come from the inside, isn’t it?