“In my age, as in my youth, night brings me many a deep remorse. I realize that from the cradle up I have been like the rest of the race–never quite sane in the night.” -Mark Twain, Mark Twain’s Autobiography
“Forgive me, Lisa. There’s a monster inside of me ” -Silent Hills Playable Trailer.
“Readers, friends, if you turn these pages
Put your prejudice aside,
For, really, there’s nothing here that’s outrageous,
Nothing sick, or bad — or contagious.
Not that I sit here glowing with pride
For my book: all you’ll find is laughter:
That’s all the glory my heart is after,
Seeing how sorrow eats you, defeats you.
I’d rather write about laughing than crying,
For laughter makes men human, and courageous.
- BE HAPPY!” -Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel
Imagine going to a circus. No, I mean as an audience member… not as a circus member. You see the ring master with his whip and chair. He has his stereotypical top-hat, jacket, and striped pants. Before him is a free lion, free elephant, and a caged monkey. The master does look in control, doesn’t he?
But wait! The lion, called the Doubt Lion, leaps at the master. The master can sometimes hold the lion back with his whip and chair. Sometimes, however, the lion succeeds in knocking the master down and pawing him around like a ball of yawn. Always, the ring master gets back his chair and whip while regaining control over the lion. The audience and ring master both breath a sigh of relief before cheering.
But wait again! The elephant, called the Panic Elephant, has awoken and begins charging wildly about the arena. The ring master does his best to get out of the way. There’s no way to stop that elephant. Sometimes, the master gets trampled. He does get back up, but he is weary which gives the Doubt Lion an opportunity to pounce. The ring master does regain his composure, yet it takes a good deal of time and energy to do so.
But wait yet again! There’s a Rage Monkey in a cage (no rhyme intended) tearing at his bars. That monkey has never escaped. However, the ring master does fear, once in a while, that that monkey will escape and attack the audience should the ring master one day fail to keep the Panic Elephant and Doubt Lion at bay.
Are my metaphors effective and comprehensible? I’ve tried many times to explain my anxiety problems in plain speech, yet it never comes out easily. My logical, happy, and rational side is the ring master. Doubt and panic are my constant opponents. I can rationalize the doubt away many times, only for panic to set in. For example, I doubt I will find a job that will make me happy and take care of my basic needs to live and thrive. My rational self calmly explains that with time, patience, persistence, optimism, and networking, the job(s) will come. Then, I panic and do something silly like applying for a job without checking my cover and resume properly or applying for a job I’m not really interested in or far outside my comfort zone. We all have the Rage Monkey within us. It depends from person-to-person whether he gets out easily or not. Thankfully, I have the self-control to keep him caged, even with my struggles.
Years ago, I took anti-anxiety medication that helped. However, I had problems with sleepiness and memory loss which, ironically, made it harder to relax. It eventually started to lose it’s effects this year and I came off them under a doctor’s supervision. No one wants to take medication, but I can honestly tell you it helped. The doubt and panic have made a resurgence. It will take some lifestyle changes, like cutting way back on caffeine, finding exercise time, socializing more with people, etc. I may very well have to talk to the doctor again or see a counselor at some point. Still, things are far better than the time before the medication. I sincerely hope I’ve reached a manageable plateau. When I’m out taking a class, working or volunteering, I feel so much better. I feel worthwhile in learning new concepts, connecting with people, making people happy, and more. If I can get out there more, I think those three animals will hibernate more.
However, it does bother me that I’m not “right” in my own mind. I do enjoy solitude and working on my own, but then I’m overcome with panic and doubt even when I’m dedicated to putting something stressful out of my mind. These struggles take time and energy away from me, and I need that energy to live and thrive. How do I get my energy back? How do I preserve it? How do I get more? These are important questions I’m trying to find out. I’d honestly like to shoot that lion, elephant, and monkey, though I recognize that may not be possible.
It may seem like a weakness to admit having these mental issues. It’s not. Years ago, I read webcomic artist Mike “Gabe” Krahulik’s post regarding his anxiety battles. It took about two years before I recalled that post and decided that a visit to the doctor was needed. One of my relatives fought depression and supported my decision. Just like Gabe, I was given anti-anxiety medication (though I was never given an official diagnosis). Posts like Gabe’s and mine break down the stigma of mental illness and mental health problems. We need more of these posts, not less. I know Gabe has been a controversial figure, but I owe him one.
At least one or two my past posts were influenced by the Panic Elephant and the Doubt Lion. Should you come across such posts of mine in the future written that way, you can understand why. Don’t be afraid to tell me I’m being too negative. I can be off-putting or standoffish sometimes, yet I never forget a kindness or a promise. The strange thing is that some of the greatest writers, artists, and actors have had mental health problems and were able to make the greatest works in the world. I try to write when I’m anxious or depressed, and I have a tough time writing anything. Going forward, I’d rather write about happy subjects or even weird subjects.
To everyone with their own inner circus problems, I’ll quote the immortal comic Red Green and say “Remember, I’m pullin’ for ya. We’re all in this together!”
Meta note: Good news! I’m using tags now to get a wider audience. I should have been using them from the beginning. D’oh!