Hiding the monster within: Who turns on the night light?

Today is one of those days when I am just trying to get through.

I feel like I should be able to take a deep breath and get going and get the things done on my list for the day. But the harder I try, the more I have to hold back the tears.

No, not tears.

Sobbing.

I feel like I am on the edge and it’s a pretty long fall. For some reason, hitting my head hard comes up as the most logical solution to the problem.

But of course, it doesn’t really help much. It just adds guilt that I’m not in better control.

Control. It’s all about control.

I can’t think clearly. My thoughts are like a water color painting that has liquid spilled on it – everything softly runs together and I can’t really tell one thought from another. This is unusual for me; I can usually run with many, many thoughts at the same time and I understand each one.

Or, at least I clearly distinguish each one.

But not now. Now they are far away. They are someone else’s thoughts. I find that faintly interesting.

My head is going to explode and I can’t really keep pushing, so I lie down on the bed and stare up at the light fixture.

I know the mental exercises to go through. What am I feeling right now? Are they real feelings or imagined? Listen to the real Greg to differentiate. Separate fact from fiction and hold on to reality.

I close my eyes and start the analysis.

I realize that I’m really not afraid anymore. I’ve gone through that list so many times and internalized the solutions in place for potential problems that I find it hard to listen to the fear message when it gets sent.

Even though the emotion for sadness is there, I don’t feel sad. No, it’s almost more of a slightly amused detachment. I’m on the outside looking in. It almost seems silly that this person would just be lying on the bed in the middle of the day when there is so much to do.

My usual friend, anxiety, isn’t there either. I don’t feel anxious about not getting the things done that I need to. That’s a bit unusual. I must be making progress. It is good not to be worried about something. Well, about anything really.

And there it is.

I realize that I just don’t care if I ever get up off the bed again. Everything is far away. I am far away. But I don’t know where, because my thoughts have now been hit with a burst of rain and all the muted colors are becoming one; yet separating into millions more at the same time.

Just close my eyes, and slip away. Sleep. I don’t even care if I ever wake up.

Should there be alarm bells going off at this point?

If you ask me, not really. What could be so wrong?

And that may be the reason that after bad things happen and mental illness is discovered, we so often hear: “I didn’t see any warning signs. They seemed to be doing all right to me.”

You see, mental illness has been such a part of us for so long that we stop being surprised by it, or scared by it, or even able to keep feeling as we work our way through it.

And if no one is really watching…

Then there is another tragedy to report on the evening news.

But I am determined that I will never be one of those stories. In my case, someone is watching. In fact, there are several someones.

I don’t really enjoy it, but each night when Ann comes home she gets out a little calendar book and we talk about how I felt during the day.

And she keeps track.

So when I hit the euphoric points when EVERYTHING is AMAZING and I can’t really remember things being tough, we know that, in fact, just yesterday things were actually hard for me.

And when, in my mind, I don’t see the point of the medication, especially because I don’t like the way that it feels and I ache to just be “me” again, Ann quietly opens the book and I can see for myself.

And I close my eyes and I work again at separating the fact from the fiction, and I hold on to reality.

Isn’t that what we all need? An anchor to secure our line to so that when we each begin to drift a little, we don’t get lost in the tide and find ourselves somewhere completely different than where we set out to be?

What are your anchors?

Just as important, what are the anchors your family and close friends are using? Do you know they have them? Do they?

Part of what keeps me focusing so hard on reality and working to keep feeling is my understanding that my anchors need anchors. And I have the great privilege of being one.

So I open my eyes and focus on the light fixture. I analyze if the best course is a short nap to refresh my body or if I need to get up now and fight a little harder. I roll myself off the bed and hit the floor on all fours and begin my prayer of gratitude for all I have and all I am a part of.

I stand up.

I make the bed and I move on.

I’m ready when Ann comes home to have our conversation about how my day went. Because, you see, we will also talk about how her day went.

And she knows that I’m watching her right back.

Everyone needs an anchor; and everyone needs to be an anchor. Together we stay secure through the storms.

8 thoughts on “Hiding the monster within: Who turns on the night light?”

  1. Anchors are important for everyone, but especially for the mentally ill. There is really no stopping/preventing mental illness – if you have it you have it. Medications might fully control symptoms for some people, but our experience is that they only help take the edge off. If the mentally ill can find/have anchors in their lives for “medication”, then maybe we won’t have so many mass killings.

  2. Ann, as I read Greg’s posts, it comes through loud and clear that you are the anchor in his life. Didn’t know you well 25 years ago but clearly you are the amazing woman he always said you were. Thank you both for sharing your lives for all to learn and lift from.

  3. Greg and Ann–
    You’re doing a wonderful thing…sharing something so private and difficult with everyone who’d care to read. Mental illness is as real as broken bones or diabetes, and *can* and *should* receive treatment and kindness, support and help. You’re very blessed to have each other and the strength in your unity is inspiring.
    I can’t help but CARE that you’re living with such challenges yet see you have everything you need to weather this storm. Hold on tightly to each other and to your faith.
    Warm Regards, Kristin (Sky View, class of ’85)

    1. Kristin,
      Thank you for your kind words. I hit the lottery jackpot when Ann couldn’t escape before I tied a rope around her ankle and held on tight. It is her wisdom and genuine goodness that make our life something pretty wonderful. I think that the things we are learning about handling this bucket of rocks is because of her. I’ll never let go of her or our faith. Life is good. Each night I close my eyes grateful for the happiness. I hope you do to – you deserve all the joy possible.

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    1. Thank you, I hope that there are people out there who may find life just a little better from reading, thinking, and choosing. We can all help each other to find more joy in each day.

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