By Shania Cox
This piece dives into the rather complicated relationship that I have developed with my daydreaming. It has been a pretty interesting ride.
They were a nuclear family—a mom and a dad, three kids and a Siberian Husky named Sparky—living in a one-family home. The house was painted white on the outside with sprinkles of black along the window frame and the door. As soon as you entered, you would see that it was beautifully polished with marble all throughout the first floor. The placement of the couch in the living room was calculated enough so that the flat screen TV was perfectly centered in front of it. In the kitchen, there lay no dish or stain. The dishes lay perfectly on top of one another in the cabinet and everything was coordinated by dish type and size. After exiting the kitchen, you would find next to the living room area, a shiny spiral staircase rimmed with gold on the handle bar. Going upstairs, there would be doors on each side of you: the bedrooms for each child and one for the parents. One room could fit a whole baseball team if you tried hard enough. The mattresses were plushy and it would be a pleasure to sink into them and lie there every night. It was beautiful—the house and the family. It was all perfect. It was everything that you’ve ever dreamed of.
Everything in my brain regarding that scenario was thought out, from the way the parents met, to how old the kids were and the date the parents got married. I thought about the family during walks home from school, while I was doing my homework and even when I was preparing to sleep. Every moment was spent devising that story and making it better than it was a moment before. As I got older, more characters were added. They were a combination of people I knew and people that I just imagined on the spot. These scenarios were stuck in my brain for so long. It was as if I were living a double life: the life in my head and the reality. It grew isolating to not say anything about the life in my head, but I simply could not describe it. It wasn’t a movie that was recently released or a book that was just published. It was one big thought stuck in my head, just waiting for the right moment to jump out.
Most of the time, daydreaming was a leisure activity. When I would finish my homework, I’d go straight to my room. There was no music and no lights; just my brain. Eventually, I’d scroll through my phone to find the perfect song to fit the scene that I was trying to create. Back then, I actually had control. As I got older, these scenarios took up almost every minute of every day. I started to become unable to focus on anything at home. The thing that was originally used to escape my reality was now making me unable to return to it.
I did not begin to realize the severity of my daydreaming until a couple of months ago. As a person with autism, there were a lot of things about myself that I already knew did not conform to society’s standards. My lack of social abilities (at times), lack of eye contact, and high sensitivity to sounds were pretty much obvious markers for my uniqueness. However, daydreaming was not something I expected to be an abnormality. Daydreaming is something that everyone does.
I found out that my thoughts actually had a name: maladaptive daydreaming. As I looked into this term, every single website said the same symptom at the top: “extremely vivid daydreams with their own characters, settings, plots, and other detailed, story-like features.” If each symptom was a checklist, every box would have been filled. Although some may see this as strange, I see the opposite. I am at a point now where my thoughts do not control me. Having the ability to just think of stories in your mind, and essentially have a free movie theater in your brain, is not something that everyone can list as a skill. In all of my English classes, I always enjoyed reaching the end of the school year, when the assignments would give us creative freedom. From making our own stories to analyzing pre-existing passages, the possibilities were endless. These assignments gave me a break from my own mind and allowed me to pour my creative juices on a page.
I currently have a love/hate relationship with my daydreaming but, overall, it’s mostly love. Because of my daydreaming, I am filled with creativity; it is something that I don’t ever want to get rid of.
This piece is my personal statement, with a few extra revisions. Essentially, as I was writing this piece, I wanted to focus on an aspect of my life that heavily influenced who I am as a person today. Initially, I figured I would write about a specific event, or an award that I won in school. Even though I could have written about those events, they would not have been as impactful on my life as what I chose to write about, which is my experience with maladaptive daydreaming. Maladaptive daydreaming is something that heavily influenced my high school career and continues to shape the experiences that I have in my life.
Shania Cox is a Brooklyn, NY, native and currently a freshman at Tufts University. She has been part of the Girls Write Now community for two years, having joined Girls Write Now in her sophomore year of high school. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, writing in her diary and reading. She is a fraternal twin and also has an older sister. Shania plans to major in Computer Science and minor in English, which would allow her to pursue both her love for both STEM and the humanities.