Why It’s Worth Making Friends with the Monsters In Your Head
When my entire world is on fire and I feel like I’m in hell, it’s nearly impossible for me not grab a drum of gasoline and go with it.
Like an overly excited teenager who recently discovered the pleasures of their own hands, I engage in the most aggressive forms of mental masturbation known to man. The hours spent over analyzing my life has rivaled my full time job, with the payout being the added bonus of confusion. It has become a tireless game I play, one where I do not know the rules and there is absolutely no way for me to win. To top it off, I suffer losses as well.
It does not matter how many times my friends tell me to stop. It doesn’t matter how many times I attempt to quit. I’m addicted, and my substance of choice will always be thinking too damn much.
There is nothing more thrilling and comforting than feeding into my addiction, only it’s not comfortable at all. It does not matter if there are friends involved or not. Much like someone with a chemical dependency does not rely on social interactions to stimulate their overindulgence, the hours engaged in paralyzing overthought is sometimes best enjoyed alone.
Do not be mistaken. This is not a glamorous expose or a glorified manifesto to those who, too, are addicted to their thoughts. This is not a cry for help or a signal for someone to save me. Because anyone who lives with anxiety can tell you that anxiety is an invisible monster that will never, ever go away.
I have screwed myself out of some incredible opportunities (and relationships with some insanely good-looking men!) by acting on impulse. Do you know what anxiety can do to a very empowered person? The very same thing that water can do to stone over a long period of time: wear it down and cause it to crumble. Anxiety acts like a flash flood that whips around in the canyons. It doesn’t matter how strong of a swimmer you are, if you cannot move to higher ground, you will be wasted the minute the flood hits.
Mixed signals are made-up signs I’ve drawn in my head using mental Photoshop. My mind’s anxious eye has given me the creative chops to develop a fun new filter that allows me to hyper-impose distorted thoughts onto just about every person, place, or thing. Anxiety gives you the power to find Waldo in a Disney Movie and the inarguable proof to convince anyone willing to pander to your madness.
While meditation and cognitive behavioral pattern breaking techniques are tried and true, the gold standard I live by is acknowledging that living with anxiety is not a battle—it is a cooperative team effort. I’ve had to make nice with my monster in efforts of having him play nicely with me. My anxiety monster is a big, fuzzy, blue thing that stomps around in my head who is terrified whenever my feet are any higher than five feet off the ground and believes that I am going to drown if I allow myself in a body of water that goes past my waist. He trusts absolutely no one, refusing to leave my side whenever I travel anywhere outside of my comfort zone.
A PowerPoint presentation and essay regarding the many reasons why I will fail are submitted to me, particularly when my monster feels too much uncertainty or the risks are too high. Without any sense of confirmation or promise of where things are headed, he acts like a distrusting and overprotective father to keep me out of the arms of any gentleman who show any kind of promise. The little prick has talked me out of moving out of state to attend my first choice for graduate school, and once told me back out of an offer to work overseas.
So why do I allow this overbearing fuzzy sack of sh*t to ruin my life?
I don’t always give into everything that he says, but I do listen and consider what he has to say. His fears, often shared during the most ungodly hours, are born out of the premise that my safety is in jeopardy and further review is recommended. Although the majority of his asinine remarks can be perceived as delusional and irrational, there have been times his whistle blowing have spared me heartache or wasted investment. He’s given me the opportunity to challenge him in a debate regarding what I really want out of life and how hard I will push him out of the way in order to achieve it.
Sometimes all he wants is to be validated, comforted, and a chance to tell me how he feels.
Like a skittish child crying because he’s afraid of the dark, sometimes my big, blue fuzzy friend just needs me to hold his hand and listen to him speak. Sometimes all he needs is to be heard. I don’t mean the laundry list of reasons why distancing myself from my crush is a far better choice than telling him how I feel, or why I am in over my head chasing after a big promotion at work. I mean the part where he allows me in and shares the reasons behind his concerns, like: “I am scared of being rejected and failing because it makes me feel bad about myself. Please protect me.”
Moreover, his real admission “I feel uncomfortable knowing I am without control,” reveals my truest motives and gives me the greatest insights.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can pacify him and meditation can put him down to sleep. So long as we have a cooperative relationship, he and I can co-exist in the same space. He serves a purpose in my life, even if it annoys me. The path of least resistance is learning to befriend the monster and taming him. In aggressively trying to dominate him or push him out, I’m looking at a tireless battle that will even out to a zero sum game. After so many wins cancelled out by all of my losses, I can speak from experience how the latter will result in defeat when he decides to spawn from the dead and attack with swift vengeance.
Battle your monsters or befriend them. Regardless of what you chose, they will always be there.
I just hope you chose the path of peace.
This post previously appeared on Aileen's blog.