One of the most disconcerting things I ever experienced is to face the Bogeyman every week and try to figure out how to get myself out of its hold.
Oh, I know what caused it to appear. My head knows exactly why the Bogeyman is here and my overthinking, decidedly mutinous brain refuses to believe that talking it out with someone who knows me only from the evaluations of three different shrinks will banish it.
I went anyway. Because my overthinking, contrarian brain loves to argue with itself.
Not that I made it easy. I’m afraid I’ve been downright bitchy the first few weeks. Especially since becoming aware of its name seem to have emboldened the Bogeyman.
The thing is, even before finding out what it is, there is no question as to whether the Bogeyman would be there or not – it is always there. The only question you need to ask is which form it would take.
Because some days the Bogeyman comes in the form of anxiety, when you are assaulted with feelings of fear without warning. Those are days when even the thought of meeting new people would cause your thoughts to race and your heart to thud. Or those days when going somewhere that reminds you of something causes you to shake so badly that the only way to stop it is to flake out and stay at home, hoping that your friends would understand.
Oftentimes, it comes in the form of hypervigilance, when you feel threatened by almost anything. It’s those days when you fall in line to pay for a drink and panic because the person behind you seem to be standing too close. So you end up either picking a fight with that person or simply deciding to get that drink elsewhere.
Then there are days you wake up and feel that the Bogeyman is sitting on your chest. You can’t move, you don’t have the strength to force yourself to move, and you cannot be bothered to think of anything at all. So, you stay there and stare. And stare. And stare. You keep staring until something snaps you back and you realised that five hours have passed and you haven’t even moved.
Other days it comes in the form of bone-deep weariness, causing you to rack your brain for any physical activity you may have engaged in that warrants it but coming up with none. It’s those days when something as simple as getting up for a shower is exhausting and your body and brain feels sluggish. It’s those days when the only thing you can do is apologise because everything you do is slow, half-baked, or both.
Sometimes the Bogeyman gleefully clocks your head with frustration, especially on those days when you see or hear or read something that you know is just not right. Because how can treating people horribly be right? How can violating anyone be right? And you get angry and choked up and feel horribly helpless over a social media post or the news or an offhand comment made by an acquaintance who thinks that everything can be a joke.
And worse, the Bogeyman comes in the form of avoidance and detachment. It is it’s favourite form, always arriving just when your heart is about to tumble, catching it and ensuring that it stays in place. This form is worse not only because it stops you from getting too close to people but also because you somehow found yourself grateful for it. Because while your head knows that people are not the same, your heart believes the Bogeyman when it tells you that they are.
And, if I’m being honest with myself, I believe the Bogeyman because I trust the Bogeyman. It didn’t hurt me, I thought. On the contrary, the Bogeyman keeps me wary and prevents me from making bad decisions.
The Bogeyman protects me.
And I now understand why people cling to their Bogeyman. Why, even knowing that there are so many things the Bogeyman prevents them from doing, they insist on holding on to it.
Which is why when I was told that the Bogeyman would never leave, I was both angry and pleased.
Angry because I thought that the point of these talks is to get rid of it and now I was told that it cannot be. Pleased, shamefully so, because it felt wrong trying to get rid of something that kept me safe for years and quite a substantial part of me don’t want to see it go.
I wanted to be rid of it, but I was also relieved that I won’t be.
I feel guilt because, in the deepest parts of my heart, I do not want to be rid of it.
One of the worst things in this whole thing is being caught between relief for cannot and disgust for do not.
This is the second of a series of posts where I talk about my experience dealing with mental illness.