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” I never have been able to very well. For brief moments of my life, I said it to men…….but I didn’t really mean it. I don’t know why I said it. I can’t imagine I said it very enthusiastically. I guess I just didn’t want to be someone who never said it. I felt love………a strange love. I felt emotions welling in my heart that meant something to me. I could make myself feel all kinds of emotions……..but not for people who really existed. My fake love existed on the outside, with anyone who I had compassion and felt some joy for. It’s like I saw people as art……..so beautiful in a way………but can you really call that love? My real love, the kind that made me quiver, lived in my mind. My true love lies within, but not in the way it’s supposed to. My true love can’t get out. Was I born without any sense of outer love, or was the image so tainted by my surroundings that it just became a nasty, nasty word? Before we get into that, I have to tell you about my mind. I have a condition called Maladaptive Daydreaming. In short, it’s an addiction to daydreaming. It may sound innocent enough………until you’re 30 and realize that you’ve never loved anyone “real”, could never concentrate enough to get a driver’s license, and are failing Calculus (not because you’re not good at math but because you simply can’t pay attention enough to remember what you’re doing). It sounds innocent until it’s not. Addictions are never simple and innocent. Alcoholics run out of booze eventually, but I never run out of my drug. It follows me everywhere. I digress. I’ve been daydreaming as far back as I can remember. I’ve probably been doing it all my life. I would lie awake on my bed, dreaming of far-off lands where I was a magical princess. I had a mother, father, and always a love interest. It was beautiful, peaceful, and empowering. I could do anything. I would escape every chance I got……..whenever things were quiet enough. I couldn’t stop. While other kids were making friends and playing games, I would just sit on the swings, daydreaming. I just wanted
to be somewhere inconspicuous. I just wanted to be free. I was a smart kid; at least I started out that way. It wasn’t long before teachers were reporting that I wasn’t engaging in class. I was too dazed to learn and hated it. I hated recess most of all. There were few safe places to just sit and daydream. Kids would make fun of me. There was nowhere you could just be alone and think. Still, I couldn’t stop. Things got worse at school. I had a few acquaintances, but I never built any real friendships. I can honestly say this was a full addiction by the time I was maybe 10. I really couldn’t control myself. I was out of control before I had a clue what self-control was. I knew it was a problem, but I couldn’t stop. When I was 9 years old I met the loves of my life, the family who still remains with me to this day. There’s a mother, father, sisters, brothers, romantic lead, and countless friends who all adore me. I loved them so much. They cradled me for hours when I was “bad” and sobbing. They told me I wasn’t bad when I knew I was. They didn’t judge me or yell at me when I was 16 and tried to kill myself. They didn’t tell me I was lazy and needed to lose weight. Then again, to them, I wasn’t. To them, I was sensitive and perfect. I was thin, smart, and so productive. They marveled all my wonderful abilities. I could dance, sing, act, and write. Best of all, I could listen. I was such a good listener. They all had long histories. Many had lived through horrendous struggles that I always wanted to listen to them talk about. Many had been orphaned. Almost none had good parents, except the one whose parents died when she was little. They all had such hard lives but had made so much of themselves. I adored them more than I could ever adore anyone. I thought my heart would just burst with all the love I felt for them, and the feeling was very mutual. No wonder I never left them. How could I ever leave them? I felt so guilty for loving them. I felt so shameful and horrible for my habit. I was worthless. I could never give myself a name in my daydreams. I was the center of attention yet safely anonymous. I never actually thought these people were real. People with Maladaptive Daydreaming don’t generally have that problem. It just felt like an innocent hobby. I was safe and happy there. It just got out of control. The rest of my life was pure hell. I hated the idea of love in the outer world. Love was a bad word.
“Love and abuse cannot coexist.” (p6) I wish someone would’ve said that to me years ago when I was little. I might be able to say the word “love” without a mocking tone today. I might have a little more faith and a little less disdain for the idea. I might not yearn for it and hate it at the same time. I heard so much about love growing up, but it was never in a good way. Everyone “loved” me. My biological mother (I can’t call her a mother, such is my disdain for her) was completely unstable in every way. She provided for me. She worked very hard to do so. She worked many jobs to put food in our greedy, hungry, ungrateful mouths. She worked different 9 jobs in a whole year, such was her will to keep trying despite everyone around her being so mean and unjust to her. Plus there’s the kid who never does anything, who just lies around staring off into space. Why are kids so bad when you love them so much? I was a terrible kid. I was always getting yelled at. I couldn’t finish anything. I couldn’t do anything. I was so sluggish and clumsy. I did worse and worse in school. I had no respect. I was yelled at and screamed at every day of my life. How could I not respect her? When I was 7 she fell in love with a man who worked even more to feed our ungrateful mouths. Somehow I was even worse a child then because I had 2 people yelling at me every day. I don’t remember a day when I wasn’t screamed at and put down. In all fairness, I daydreamed so much that there are a lot of days I don’t remember at all. “We learn about love in childhood.” (p17) I had a pretty strong image of love growing up. I knew a lot about it. I knew enough that I couldn’t say it. It didn’t feel right. The people around me didn’t feel right, and they always told me they loved me. I knew they didn’t like me. Never, never, never were they ever happy to see me or happy that I was around. Why did I even yearn for love? How did it make its way into my daydreams? How could my characters love each other so much when I couldn’t love anyone on the outside? Nowadays, it seems miraculous. Love, to me, was simply ownership. She loved me, so she kept me from my biological father. She loved me because I was hers. She loved me despite the fact that I was so sluggish and ungrateful. She disciplined me because she
loved me. She loved me so much. I wished she’d stop saying it. I wished everyone would. I never liked the sound of the word, especially because I knew I was expected to say it back, and it just felt so wrong. I didn’t love them. Growing up, in film and in the media, everyone says you have to love. They tell you who you have to love and simply won’t believe you if you say you don’t. As a result, I felt like a cruel, hollow freak because nowhere in my heart did I love the person I was forced to call “Mom”. If I’d have loved her, I probably could’ve forgiven anything…….but I never, never have. Growing up, if I ever wanted to accept myself, I would have to accept how my heart felt and tell it that was ok. I’m so glad Bell Hooks talks about abuse and that love can’t coexist with it. I’ve been so brainwashed that I’m still not sure I believe it……..but I needed to hear it. Does that mean it’s ok yet? I’m 30. Do I own my heart yet? Is it okay not to love until I find someone I want to love yet? When is loving up to me? “Much of the lying people do in everyday life is done either to avoid conflict or to spare someone’s feelings.”(p34) In my case, it is to avoid judgment. People still don’t believe me when I tell them I don’t love my “mother”. Being true to love is being true about love. I’m not a hollow person because I don’t love someone who abused me. I’m not hollow because I don’t have any intimate relationships. I have to accept that I do have love in my heart, even though it’s directed in different ways than normal. People with Maladaptive Daydreaming have a lot of love. They just don’t always have a lot of people to direct it to. When “normal” people go through periods of being alone they may feel like the love in their heart dwindles. For us, we always have people to love. While our condition may make it difficult to forge and maintain lasting relationships, the fact is we still keep our love burning. I foster and nurture my love with the people who’ve carried me in my mind. Even when there’s no one around to love, I still love every day. My characters challenge each other. They’re not always nice and easy to love, so I never expect love to be easy. For us, our minds are safe places to learn and play that sometimes become prisons. We still learn and grow within. I still love people as art. I still get inspired and want to help people. I have 204 members on my site, many of whom are young and
scared. I sit with them and talk them through their crises. It’s a simple love, but it keeps me working hard. Loving my brain and loving them means working with my brain and not against it. Loving myself means not forcing my head to do what’s not natural for it. People don’t like it when I’m honest because I’m not like them. They don’t like my truth. Loving my brain means speaking up anyway. I function differently, and as many hindrances as my condition has, it has as many benefits. I’m trying to love myself enough to stand up for myself and tell the truth. I will teach them about me and teach them how not to judge me, especially now that I have so many scared young people who aren’t strong enough to stand up for themselves yet and tell their truths. I will encourage them to love themselves enough to be honest. “When we can see ourselves as we truly are and accept ourselves, we build the necessary foundation for self-love.”(p53) This is why I’m trying to live so openly. Most people with my condition are scared to speak out. I was scared for many years too, but I realized people were already judging me. Everyone’s posting videos on YouTube lately about how “It gets better” after high school. The problem is it won’t get better until you accept yourself and are willing to be open about yourself to the world. Until you love yourself and accept yourself, people will keep picking on you for who they think you are. We may as well tell the truth. It won’t help to hide in shame. It’s not easy. People always give me weird looks. I got some weird looks in class. It’s ok. People will always think something new is strange. That’s normal. I just smile, show them love, and then show them what’s unique about me and how that’s a good thing. Being in class just reaffirmed that. I love people more than I ever knew I did. I always had love in my heart. I just directed it everywhere but where it needed to be. I was scared to look at myself and love myself. I’m still scared of lots of things. I refuse to be scared of my mind and how I am. I will live openly and honestly. I will show people how I am, and not make it sound like that’s optional and changeable. I will not allow people to try and “cure” me. I’m the expert on how I am and how I need to be. I will love them enough to show them what’s lovable about me.
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