“Why don’t you just stop being that way? Just power through and be normal!”
Boy would I love to.
I would love to stop having PTSD, and as a result, OCD and anxiety issues. I would love to not fall into periods of depression. I would love to not have to feel this way.
But I can’t. I know it’s hard for you to imagine feeling this way. There’s something that you don’t seem to understand about mental illness and how it feels. It’s not an emotion, temporary and fleeting like joy or lust. It’s part of you, and if it’s at all possible to kill off, it’s not at all easy to do so.
It feels like my brain is a completely different person. It’s illogical and sick and disturbed and wants nothing more than to destroy me, and by default, itself. It tells lies, it hurts, convinces you that you’re terrible, unlovable, unworthy of anything in life.
And then there’s me. I know, deep down, that this illness lies. When you hear nothing but lies and hate all day every day though, you start to believe it.
- My brain tells me I am worthless. I know, that by merit of existence, I have worth, but more often than not I believe my brain.
- My brain tells me I am stupid. I don’t think I am, but then my brain tells me that’s not a humble way to think, and if I were truly stupid and thought I was smart I might just be utilizing the Dunning-Kruger effect and that means I’m really very stupid.
- It lies and tells me that I can not work one week because of course I just need to lay around, and then I’m miserable all week.
- My brain tells me that my husband doesn’t love me. That he’ll leave me any day, that he’ll soon grow tired of me. I don’t think that’s true, but how can you ever know for sure? (Despite his daily insistence that he loves me very much.)
- My brain tells me every time I write a sentence that I’m shit, that no one cares, so why do I bother. I try not to think that’s true, but that Dunning-Kruger bullshit usually comes around again.
- It lies and tells me, late in the night, how worthless I am and how awful I make the lives of everyone I know until I haven’t slept in days. When I finally get to sleep out of sheer exhaustion, I have the most fucked-up dreams that are at times difficult to decipher from reality.
- My brain tells me no one likes me at all, that all people I know and consider friends merely put up with me. I don’t think people would be so cruel, but I don’t know that for sure.
- It lies and tells me that I need alcohol to get through parties or to be likeable, and I know that’s not true.
- My brain tells me that I don’t need treatment for my problems, because they are the source of my creativity. This is an outright lie, and I know it, but it crosses my mind each and every time I seek help that if I’m doing this, I will lose part of myself that I love.
You know what this sounds like to me? Stockholm Syndrome. My own brain often holds me hostage and tells me lies. I believe what it says and it tries to destroy me. Does it sound crazy? It feels that way. It feels insipid that I have to fight my own brain every day, but here we are. It’s a cycle that, through therapy and conscious effort, I’m able to widen each time–but it never goes away.
We’re often told that our brains are designed to be thinking, brilliant machines, but do not forget that the brain’s main evolutionary goal was to make as many things as possible unconscious thought. The brain identifies patterns and mutes them so that we don’t have to think. It’s exhausting to actively think, it’s exhausting to break out of a pattern and fight through your day actively thinking about each and every activity and thought so that you don’t fall into a depression or self-harm state or dissociative state and realize, days later, you have no real idea about what you’ve been doing.
That’s the battle of a lot of people with mental illnesses, every day, every week, every year. You fight your own brain’s proclivity to mute patterns and make them a part of you to the point where you don’t notice them because that’s how disease infects your life and tries to ruin it. You fight with yourself about who you are and what you are really capable of. The only thing you feel like you have to show for it at the end of the day is a seemingly inexplicable fatigue and the accompanying feeling that at least for today, you won.
So yes, I would love to just stop. I would love to just feel the way I imagine people who don’t have mental illnesses feel and carry on with my life.
I’m sure hostages feel the same way about people on the outside.