Monday, January 18, 2016

These are My Monsters...

In the wake of the passing of David Bowie, I found this quote of his that sprung out at me like a Jack-in-the-box on a mammoth dose of meth:

This is significant to me because I just recently landed the lead role of Maggie in a community production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I am beyond ecstatic to be playing such a dynamic female role on stage! That being said, I should also declare that I haven't been on the stage in almost 20 years.
And that terrifies me.
So, it's a leap into the deepest end of the biggest Perturbation Pool I can find.

Yet, I am no stranger to anxiety. I have dealt with it for as long as I can remember; always doing things people tell me to so I can "deal with" it, (I should mention that these people, albeit are well-meaning, have no idea what anxiety really is and how debilitating it can be at its roughest). These things usually include, but have never been limited to: 

"Take deep breaths" 
(The anxiety does enough of that for me).
"Try thinking more positively"
(Ok. I'm positive I'm having an anxiety attack right now and there's nothing you can do to stop it!!!).
"I heard counting backwards from 10 helps with that sort of thing"
(It's also supposed to be a tip off as to whether you're drunk or not so...)
"Try redirecting your thoughts"
(I'm assuming you mean into more meaningful topics, rather than my impending doom?).
"Turn to your spiritual/religious leaders"
(You obviously don't know me well enough to know there's a constant silent prayer in my heart forever trying to ward off these episodes).
"What you need is a good old-fashioned pep talk" 
(No, thank you. I don't need a proverbial egotistical smoothie choked down my throat).
"Look at all your past and present accomplishments"
(Yes, because those never brought me any anxiety either).
"Don't drink caffeine" 
(As if I'm not high-strung enough that I need caffeine to get me through the day).
"Maybe you need medication?" 
(Thought of that, thanks).
"Get more sleep" 
(I'll get right on that. Right, after my brain reminds me of all the things I didn't accomplish today).
"Just accept that you can't control everything/you can't be perfect at everything"
(This is so ironic, it hurts).
"What you need is a night out/a good laugh"
(And have everyone else fawn over and pity me?)
"You need to find out what triggers these attacks and avoid them" 
(Hmmm, then, I guess I'll just crawl into my hidey hole and die because one day it's the stage that causes these attacks, another day it's my work, and any other day it could be the fact that I screwed something up last year).

As a child, I went through a traumatic event that left me damaged emotionally.
However, it also made me a stronger individual, and consequently, a stronger woman.
Those are the positives I have been able to mold from the ashes of that situation.
It still left me scarred, no matter how I choose to look at and react to it.
I don't trust as readily as most.
I question motives.
I am a loner (yes, I'm an introvert, despite the fact that I am also rather outgoing).
In reality, I'm simply a people-pleaser.
I imagine the worst first.
I'm a perfectionist - leaving little to no room for error in even the most mundane activities, so that the worst (see above) cannot happen.
I doubt myself and my abilities but, oddly enough, never my capabilities.
(Abilities being my possession of certain talents and skills. Capabilities being the extent of those talents or skills). 

Every day, I must choose to not let that event affect my life or my daily activities. In fact, I've done a significant amount of self-motivated personal transformation so that I would not hinder anyone else in the wake of my struggle. This was more difficult than it sounds. 

In reality, it could be compared to patching a parachute with scotch tape while plummeting to earth in a death spiral of tangled cords...
not impossible, but certainly necessitating an utter feeling of urgency...or else, well, the worst.

I can't, for the life of me, remember what I was searching for when I stumbled across these images drawn by artist Toby Allen that depict different disorders and hindrances as mythical monsters. These monsters are given characteristics that, if they walked among you today, would be the epitome of the trials we face every day with our different demons perched on our shoulders. Although, the monsters are mythical, the struggles are anything but.
Some of us have more of these monsters lurking around the dark corners of our minds than others.
These are my monsters...
(click on the pictures to enlarge and read).

My attacker lent me this monster back in my childhood. However, I tamed my beast long ago and buried him alive along with the anger and paranoia he always seemed to bring with him. 

This little guy packs quite the punch when he comes out to play. As debilitating as it is to deal with, there is relief. 
Once I step onto the stage to perform, there's no turning back. So, the fear subsides. 
Once the party I planned is underway, it's all good. 
Once the company we are having over for dinner arrives and begins to mingle, I'm fine. 
But up until those moments, it's complete and utter torture. Sweating, nausea, shaking, dizzy spells because I'm hyperventilating, heart palpitations and racing heartbeat, the headache that forms at the base of my neck and creeps up to my temples, racing thoughts of failure and what-if's, all poke and prod at the psyche leaving it bruised and exhausted before the show even begins. 
The irony of it all is that as much as it scares me to be on stage singing, acting, dancing, giving a speech, whatever - it scares me 10x more to think that no one will show up at all.
In my own personal world of absurdly ironic struggles and quandaries, I'd rather you see me try my hardest and fail than for you to fail to see me try my hardest. 
Don't fear my failure for me. I do enough of that for the both of us. 

This usually accompanies the anxiety. Once I've had an attack, even a minor one, it takes quite a while to climb off the emotional roller coaster of it. The racing thoughts are usually the last to leave the little party in my head, overstaying their self-invited welcome by several hours. 

 I can at least say I only suffer with this little bugger on rare occasions. But its effects last for days because of the rest it stole from me for seemingly no reason at all. Sometimes, I've looked at the clock and it's 3 a.m. and though I'm beyond exhausted, my eyelids as heavy as manhole covers, sleep does not visit me. This spirals into feeling so fatigued the next day that I get nothing done around the house or I'm so tired I screw something up at work. These instances almost always trigger mini anxiety attacks that are usually self-contained with a little logical thinking about the sleep I lost. 

In my years of coming to realize that I suffer with anxiety (for a long while I was in denial - trying too hard to keep up my fractured facade) I have also come to terms with the fact that this sad creature lives inside me as well. For the last few years I have been able to keep him at bay, although he pokes his head out every now and then (usually during a mini panic attack). I give him a good cry or cursing out to tide him over for a while and have thus far been successful in his hibernation.
However, there is no telling when he may come bursting out at the same time as one of the other monsters and collide in an all out war over territory.

As a busy mom, a wife, an individual with hobbies that I rather enjoy and would like to continue pursuing, I decided to do the unthinkable.
(Clarification: "Unthinkable" for some).



That's right. I got help from a medical professional.
I was not deemed mentally unstable.
It was not jotted down in a little notebook that I was "crazy". 
The doctor didn't give me a look over his glasses that discounted everything I had just confessed to him about what I go through.
He told me 50% more women than men experience anxiety.
Only about 1/3 of the population that suffers with anxiety actually gets treated (I, myself, almost didn't go because of the different fears I experienced just imagining having to tell the doctor about my anxiety. Go figure!).
 Although, I will never be cured from my PTSD, anxiety, depression and maybe not even my sleep disorders, I found a way to coexist.
I took control.
These are my monsters. 
I claim them.

They do not claim me. 


Princess April said...

I found myself nodding my head to so much of what you described in this post.
I,too,take a pill to help me manage my anxiety. For years, (like from probably age 4) I didn't realize that it's -not- normal to lay in bed with thoughts and fears racing through my head, all while sleep his from me. If I had a heart problem, I'd take medicine that the doctor prescribed to manage it... why did I let a social stigma keep me from getting the help I needed for the disease of anxiety or depression? Thank you for publishing this.

Carissa Mason said...

Thank you so much for stopping by to read it. I am so glad you found my post if it brought you solace in any way. And you are absolutely right when you say if it were ANY other health problem we would most definitely seek professional help. Why not with anxiety and the like? It is just as debilitating and even life-threatening. Stop by again soon!

Carissa Mason said...

All artwork is credited to Ali Montgomery. Thank you for letting me use these original beautiful pieces!

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