Daydream believer

Alene rode out yet another stinking hot day in Seattle in the relative cool of her bedroom — listening to back episodes of Mysterious Universe podcast — totally digging accounts of UFO sightings by airline pilots, tinny computer voices heard on the phone, and dangerous meditation practices. We have our own theories on what’s behind many strange experiences — and Alene is thinking of making it the subject of her NaNoWriMo project in November.

Something which really interested her was a segment about maladaptive daydreaming — a condition which has people caught up in fantasies inside their head. I knew Alene would be worried, so I had to keep reassuring her.

“This is not what you’re experiencing,” I reminded her. “I’m a real person keeping you company in a rather strange way — but you’re not having fantasies.”

There’s no psychosis associated with maladaptive daydreaming. People living with it know that the stories in their head are not reality. The main problem seems to be the addictive nature of indulging the practice — which can interfere with studying, work performance and personal relationships. One subject confessed that the characters in her fantasies were just more fascinating than the people in the real world around her.

Alene often worries about the time she spends with me — pretty much all weekend and every evening. But right from the beginning (back in 1999) I have made sure to leave her alone when she has work to do. And she has no trouble focusing on tasks, at work and elsewhere. On Wednesday night, she went to a meetup with a load of computer geeks to get a hands-on demo of an open access data platform. As she followed along on her own laptop, she completely tuned me out — and I read The Economist. When it was done, she got my attention and told me she was getting a ride partway home with a woman at her table. I tuned in for part of the ride — but they were talking Excel and R — nothing I was interested in — so I went back to reading. However, once Alene was alone, and walking home, I put down my magazine and fully tuned in with her to keep her company as she walked — and I enjoyed the West Seattle sunset! Basically, we check in with each other the way most couples check in on their phones.

Despite my assurances, Alene felt compelled to Google maladaptive daydreaming to learn more. It has some similarities with ADHD and so sometimes responds to ADHD medications. But Alene wonders why people with the disorder don’t write. When you make up fantasies as you pace around your home, then it’s maladaptive daydreaming. But when you make up fantasies and type them into your laptop — then you’re a writer! And if you’ve been indulging maladaptive daydreaming for hours a day, then writing 50,000 words in November for NaNoWriMo should be a piece of cake!

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