Metaphorically Speaking

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Feb 4, 2013 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood |

There is a scene in the Disney animated movie, Monsters, Inc., in which the lizard-like  villain monster Randall attacks the furry, lovable hero monster Sully.  Randall is strangling  Sully.  Sully is struggling and helpless and running out of time.  Sully’s best friend Mike, a goofy little round monster with one large eye, is standing right there with Sully.  But Mike doesn’t know what’s going on because Randall can blend into his surroundings like a chameleon, rendering himself  invisible.  So all Mike sees is Sully dancing around like a crazy person, shrieking and making strange faces.  Mike keeps talking, trying to have a serious conversation.  Sully is in trouble.  He is trying to fight, but he is losing.  He attempts to get Mike’s attention.  He calls for help.  But, Mike is focused on what he’s trying to say, and he  still can’t see what’s happening.  Mike starts getting frustrated with Sully, because he is trying to reach out and he’s in the middle of something important and Sully isn’t cooperating or paying attention or trying to do his part.  Sully is acting very strangely, but Mike just doesn’t get what’s going on.  Then finally Randall’s skin changes patterns and becomes visible and everyone grasps the reality of the situation.  And Mike comes to his aid.  And they  fight off the monster together.

It’s like that.  Depression and anxiety are like that.  I fight an invisible enemy.  So you think I’m fine.  You don’t see the monster threatening to squeeze the life out of me.  You miss the panic that is just underneath the surface.  The emptiness that fills me up.  You don’t know that when I drop my sweet boy off in your classroom I hug him tighter  because the thoughts I’m having of harming myself make me wonder if this is the last time I will see him.   That my heart is breaking because I can’t bear that thought, but I don’t know what to do with this desperation I feel.  That getting him to school late again, without the book he was supposed to return four days ago, wearing a sweatshirt and two jackets we found in the car because we left his coat at home, with signs of  lunch still on his handsome face,  and a backpack empty of the change of clothes it should be carrying, took every bit of the planning, timing, and energy resources I have and is a monumental accomplishment for me.

Or you wonder why I’m acting so strangely.  Why I’m so forgetful.  Why I can’t complete a simple task like making dinner.  Why I am impatient or irritable.  Why I always want to sleep.  Why I can’t keep my kids under control.  Why I don’t return your calls.  Why I can’t get off the couch.  Why I call my husband at work, wondering when he will be home.  Why I miss appointments.  Why I’m not making conversation.  Why I am gaining weight.  Why my appearance is disheveled.  Why I’m angry.  Why I am so needy.  Why I’m no fun.

Or you think because you don’t see it, it’s not there.  It’s in my head.  It’s an excuse.  Everyone has bad days.  Life is hard.  Stop whining and feeling sorry for yourself, buck up, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and deal with it.  Be grateful for what you have.  Count your blessings.  Think positively.  Be more optimistic.  Change your attitude.  Get up and do something.  If you don’t like your life, change it.  Happiness is a choice.   Put your head down and move forward.  Nobody’s perfect.  Don’t dwell on the negative.

If I were physically ill, in a way that is visible and understood, you might offer to take over child care for the day.  You would not question my need to stay in bed to get the rest I need.  Perhaps you would make meals for my family. You would urge me to see a doctor, take medication, go to the hospital if necessary, undergo therapy.  You would offer words of encouragement and hope.  You would help me complete tasks too great for me.  You would provide companionship and support.

But although my agony is palpable and very real to me, it is not visible or widely understood.  It is undetected, questioned, stigmatized, ignored, misunderstood, dismissed as a personal deficiency.  And so I push on in silence.  I fight my battle singlehandedly.  I daydream of having some obvious illness or injury so that someone might notice and take care of me. That the camouflage that hides this villain beating the life out of me might fail for just  a moment and  someone might come to my aid and we could fight off this monster together.



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