Monster in My Head

It took me a long time to share my last post, The Long Road Back, on my blog. See, there’s a monster in my head. Not the depersonalization. No, thankfully, Michael (my counselor) and I have worked out that depersonalization is on the retreat for now.

This? This is something stronger.I have this strong critic in my head. We’re not really sure where exactly it came from but it sometimes can be very powerful, to the point where this tiredness I have felt on and off over many years — a leech, a sapping of will power away from me, so much so that if I think I am physically tired and go to bed, I can’t sleep because my body is ready to go do something — completely robs me of my drive. It’s a mental tiredness masquerading as a physical tiredness.

Michael chose his words carefully when we were speaking about it in our last session. It wasn’t depression, per se, but it mimicked depression. That tiredness and lethargy that overcomes someone when they are depressed — and boy oh boy, I’ve been there, and I have the tee-shirt — is the same mechanism.

It was like a light bulb went off in my head. Because, yes, he was absolutely right. This sensation was almost (if not totally) exactly like those symptoms I experience during depression.

We determined that the critic in my head was very much separate from the editor in my head. Since I write a lot, there is this separate, less-creative part that comes in after I’m finished writing a section or a piece or a policy or a story or whatever, and, being more logical than creative, it helps me edit my work. This is a positive force, and it is a learned behavior, obviously, from taking so many writing courses.

The critic, however, is not a force of good. It tells me my writing is crap, I should give up, no one likes it; the critic extends into other parts of my life too. Several years ago, I worked hard to get in shape and be healthy, and even though I noticed others paying attention to me, the critic kept on berating me: “You’re still too fat”; “You’re ugly”; “You sound stupid”; “You will never be thin”; and so on.

I’m sure lots of people have a similar voice in their lives — or maybe I’m so used to mine that I think everyone has a similar voice — but mine is loud and overpowering, and it cuts me and my confidence deep when I’m not 100% myself. And, let’s face it, my confidence has been shit throughout my life to begin with. It doesn’t need help being even more shit.

The critic in my head blames me for my depersonalization.

It also tells me that I’m making it all up, that I’m an imposter, that I wasn’t ill and this all was just some attention-seeking venture.

Michael strongly refuted that. It’s not my fault I became sick, it’s not fake, it’s not attention-seeking. It was something very horrific and quite rare I went through, it has been witnessed and diagnosed by two psychotherapists, and I’m still facing the fall-out from the illness.

I need to shift gears here for a moment. This eventually will get back to the monster in my head, but it illustrates how this whole thing plays out.

I remember some of my dreams. More often than not, they have close friends or family in them, and, being so far away from home, that can have all sorts of emotional impacts.

A few nights before I went to counselling, I had a dream with a friend from “The Group” from Prospect High School in it. There was a lot in the dream, but one of the main things was I felt like I needed a shower. This friend said that I could use the shower at the place I was dreaming about, and I did. It was so refreshing and so warm and I felt so amazingly clean and whole and awake and alive after it. In the dream, he asked how I felt as I was snuggly and warm in my clothes and drying my hair, and all I can remember saying is, “I feel amazing. I have so much energy and I’m so happy.” I woke up in a lot better mental space than I went to bed in.

In dream symbolism, a shower washes away emotional trouble or pain. My last blog? That was the pain I was feeling. I’m not going to lie — I still feel that pain — but it isn’t as strong as it was before the dream.

And here was a friend I had known for a long time coming to me in a dream as some sort of spiritual guide, letting me use his shower and wash away my pain.

My friends and family seem interested in my dreams. I don’t know why but there are elements of wisdom and care and love in some of the dreams. So sometimes, I feel it’s important to share the dream with them.

I reached out to this friend and emailed him about the dream, and the symbolism and the impact it had on me. In a way, I felt it was a “thank you” as well, because, somewhere deep down within me, I saw him as someone I could trust and whose dream self represented some caring aspect about me within myself. We obviously share those traits in some way or another, and my subconscious recognized it.

He wrote back, and his words were very kind. He told me he has always felt I was a close friend and he always loved hearing form me. That meant a lot to me because, after all the crap I’ve been through with depersonalization, I had lost sight of how others feel about me.

This is how I opened my last counselling session with Michael. How I had forgotten how much people who know me care about me, and how much more “grounded” and connected to not only the world but also myself that that made me feel. How my good friends and family kept giving me hope and love and care, even though I might not have always acknowledged it or reciprocated it in my very damaged state, and they never pushed and they never prodded, but they always dished out the love.

How did it make me feel, Michael wanted to know.

A lot more “whole” than I had felt, and it made me feel cared about and wanted and loved. How I had forgotten how that had felt like when depersonalization had mugged me of those connections to my emotions.

And guilty. And sad. And full of grief. And ashamed.

Why? It was a good question from my counselor.

I explained that I felt awful that I couldn’t reciprocate at the time, that I had spent all that time when I was being beaten up by depersonalization so focussed on surviving that all those connections and all that love had drifted by, and I hadn’t felt a single moment of it.

The monster in my head. The critic. This strong voice telling me I should be sad, and feel guilty, and be ashamed for not being on my best behavior when I was at my lowest.

This was how the discussion about the critic started in my last counselling session.

For those of you who have stood by me throughout this all, I can’t thank you enough. I don’t know if I say it often enough, but I am thankful for having you in my life and for you being compassionate enough and understanding enough and loving enough to accept me for all of me. There are people who have walked away, and that has hurt me a great deal, so I guess that makes me all the more appreciative for those who have stuck by me.

There’s a lot of work to do, tracking and trapping and dismembering this monster in my head. But I’ll get there. I have faith.