Obsessive or maladaptive daydreaming easing back into grounded creative thinking


When I was about 20 years old, I had fallen into a deep depression. I was a junior in college at the time. I ended up having to drop two of my classes, taking me down to the minimum 12 credits needed in order to stay in campus housing. I could hardly even handle the 12 credits. I missed several class meetings, but did manage to go when exams were held. I’d spend most of the days in my bed ruminating about death, and my lack of ability to cope with life. Hours flew by quickly; I’d sleep 12 or more hours, and wake up again to resume ruminating. 

After maybe two months in the depression, I had the most amazing nighttime dream ever, a real rarity considering most of my nighttime dreams in my life were scary or disconcerting. In this dream, I died, a thought running through my mind a lot during the depression. But the positive thing was that I seemed to go to heaven. As I walked towards the light, my beloved grandfather, who had died when I was nine, was waiting with his arm stretched toward me. I remember feeling a certain peace that death wouldn’t be so bad if I could again see my grandfather. He represented relief, and at the time, confirmation that death could be more than just nothingness. 

When I woke up from the dream above, I continued to feel peace. It’s amazing how such mind events are so powerful. The depression seemed to immediately fade as if it flowed out through my ears, and was blown away by a wind. I remember getting up out of bed that morning and starting my day with a smile on my face. It was because of that dream I managed to make something out of the remaining college session. I never had such a positive nighttime dream again. I also would never again have such an abrupt ending of a depression. 

Ever since my death dream, I have remembered very few nighttime dreams. When I have, they have been in some way scary, bewildering, or otherwise disconcerting. But I have almost always been a frequent daydreamer, from early childhood on up until only a handful of years surrounding my major breakdowns from bipolar disorder. Before my breakdowns, I was manic frequently, with thoughts racing all around at high speeds, but after four years of frequent manias, my mood plummeted into the longest depression of my life, lasting well over a year. 

It was hard for me to daydream during my worst and longest depression. There were times when even hopeless thinking stopped, and was replaced by nothingness, the exact opposite of racing thoughts. But after this long period, ECT treatments, and multiple medication trials, my mood began to lift, but not exactly in a good way. 

When I was about 39 years old, or so, I started to experience the most intensive daydreaming of my life. I started daydreaming incredibly long stories in my head, and then once I’d reach the end, I’d go back and rework the entire dream in a slightly different way, but usually with the same exact characters. I never counted the number of versions, but some daydreams may have had dozens. It was as if I was a playwright creating multiple versions of plays. Each time the version got better and better. These daydreams were elating, and almost felt like reality, at times. Or even if there were tense moments, the tension was intoxicating. During this period, whole days would pass at home working and reworking the stories. Very often I couldn’t get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning, because the daydreams continued. They’d even continue when I was in my car, during a trip to the store, and perhaps to just a lesser degree during visits with people. People often noticed my absence despite physical presence. succumbed to the temptation of living in this alternate world of my making for almost two years.

My obsessive daydreaming gradually rather than abruptly stopped. When it did stop, I guess I found myself feeling much more grounded than I had been for a very long time. Perhaps some of my creativity seemed to disappear, but my attention and memory for real facts and conversation improved. It’s funny, when I was in the thick of daydreaming, my memory for the dream’s previous details was exceptional. However, if I tried to read a book with words or stories that weren’t my own, each sentence that I read disappeared as I read it.  

Part of me missed my daydream life when it eased, but not exceedingly. I started to sign up for classes to challenge my brain, and found that I could succeed well in learning new things, while in previous years it would have been impossible. From that point on, I read more and more, and started writing a lot, too. This practice became therapeutic for me and convinced me that my brain, injured from years of bipolar disorder episodes, was indeed finally healing. I could again daydream, but not obsessively.

What was the catalyst for this positive change? Was it a medication change and/or better therapy? Was it the fact that I exhausted myself with all of the obsessive daydreaming? Just time passing, with my brain finally healing? I don’t think I’ll ever really know, but I’m glad that I’m at this point where I am. I’m ready to take additional steps forward in the near future, and test the waters. I do know I should do so slowly and carefully. I am still vulnerable to mood lability, but thankfully it has recently been extinguished quickly with the help of my mental healthcare team, and the coping skills I have started to master.

16 thoughts on “Obsessive or maladaptive daydreaming easing back into grounded creative thinking

  1. bipolarsojourner October 12, 2017 / 5:27 pm

    i’ve been reading blogs infrequently and writing even more infrequently. i do always make it a point to read yours and i continue to not be disappointed. i like your style. i like your stories. they draw me in and tell a story.

    this post will have special meaning to a friend. she recently lost her grandpa and struggles with acceptance of the absence of the significant person in her life. hopefully, your words can be an island of peace in her emotionally stormy world as she misses a great man.

    Liked by 4 people

    • updownflight October 12, 2017 / 5:34 pm

      That is so extremely kind of you to say, bipolarsojourner! I hope that I can keep up writing posts that interest people. I generally try to, and yet I also will write just for myself, and if people also like it, it’s a bonus.

      I’m so sorry your friend lost her grandpa. Losing grandparents, especially a very special one, is quite painful, especially since it is often the first major loss a person experiences. When I had that dream I described over 20 years ago, he was the only major person in my life that had died. Since then, I’ve lost all of my grandparents, my mother, and very very sadly, my nephew (to suicide).

      I always enjoy your posts, as well. I’ll be looking for your posts as you feel ready to write them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Robert Matthew Goldstein October 13, 2017 / 3:37 am

    Interesting post. Some problems resolve with time. We get better at managing difficult emotions and fearful in general. I love the way you processed the portrait of the avatar.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight October 13, 2017 / 4:09 am

      Hi Robert. There was a period when I was experiencing multiple psychiatric quirks. I am lucky that some resolved, as you wrote is sometimes the case.

      I’m glad you like the look of my avatar. I’m not sure what I did in processing it. It is a photo my husband took in Costa Rica. Yours is extremely cool. Did you paint that image?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robert Matthew Goldstein October 15, 2017 / 11:47 pm

        I sometimes do. It depends on what the image is illustrating. If you mean the male avatar I blended to different sized versions of the photo together to sharpen the lines. I’m glad you like it.

        I don’t go into VR often but I do enjoy using it for photography.,

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Melissa A. October 13, 2017 / 6:56 am

    This was a nice post. A bit more upbeat. You are very knowledgeable about your disorder. Some of your sentences read like they were written by a professional psychiatrist. I’m wondering if your daydreaming period, although excessive at two years in length, was your brain’s way of taking a break? By disengaging from reality and plunging into stories of your own making, your brain wasn’t struggling as hard to cope. Your daydreams sound like they were creative too – perhaps allowing new (healthier) neurons to be created. idk…

    Just my two cents worth of thoughts 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight October 13, 2017 / 10:08 am

      Melissa, your theory sounds extremely reasonable. Though it was maladaptive, it was indeed an escape. Thanks for your comment.

      I have tried to post some upbeat things lately (culinary post, apple post, parrot photos), except maybe the anger post.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Melissa A. October 13, 2017 / 10:32 am

        You’re posts are just fine, no matter what the topic may be. I enjoy reading your blog, as do many others. I suggest you stick with mental illness though because the topic needs to be out there and talked about! It’s so important for people to seek help if they are suffering.

        If you want to post ‘happier’ topics, just write about a good day you had with your family. Or a day where you accomplished what you set out to do. Those are all happy and don’t stray away from the fact that you have Bipolar Disorder. Of course, you can always post about your parrots…they are part of your family and I’m sure are therapeutic for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight October 13, 2017 / 11:23 am

        Hi Melissa. I know the topic of bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses need to be out there. I try to fight stigma, but I don’t want my blog to be strictly about mental illness, even if that limits my followers. I use my blog as a tool in my recovery, and for me that means sometimes thinking and writing about other things.

        I participate in various bipolar forums, where I can write journal type posts. I vowed not to use this blog as a journal, though on rare occasions I have written poetic posts that reflect my current moods. You may have seen one or two, and will likely see others someday in the future.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight October 13, 2017 / 12:52 pm

        No need to apologize, Melissa. I took your comment as a complimentary encouragement to continue sharing about my psychological struggles and insights. I definitely will. So far they represent about 50% of my posts.

        Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight October 19, 2017 / 6:01 pm

      I’m glad, Kate. It took a while for me, but I’m very serious in that I have experienced a real difference in recent years.

      Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight April 7, 2018 / 5:59 pm

      Thanks so much, exampleofbeauty! I’m still feeling grounded and am now rather living positive experiences, even if they are small ones.

      Liked by 1 person

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