Silence the Screaming Monkey in Your Head.
Waking up from a dark place is not as nice as you would expect.
I spent my entire life wrapped in anxiety, depression, manic swings and many, many masks. I was reckless and mean, thinking of no one but the screaming monkey in my head. I had made a lifetime of decisions based on madness and imbalance. I held all my madness close to the chest because I refused to let anyone know of the harmful thoughts that drove my every moment.
After seeing the long line of mental illness, instability and harmful personal interaction, I knew to keep silent. This path that was bequeathed to me was a curse, but I knew nothing different. I feared being the monster of my childhood and/or being the stone cold statue of motherhood.
Somewhere in the middle, I knew I needed to hold on to the middle. I needed to care, but not so much that I would smother and kill all around me. I needed to stuff down and hide the monster feelings I had, but not enough that I emoted nothing but a cold uncaring wind to those around me. This balance would never be reached, with the monkey in my head looking for anything to shove me around.
I was always trading actions like three paper towels anytime I washed my hand to ensure he wouldn’t bring some nasty pain upon me and those whom I loved. I counted steps to anywhere so I would hold back the monkey’s threat of making me have no legs from cancer.
I counted how long it took to fill up a coffee cup to ensure that I would know how long it took to fill up anything in case the monkey’s threat of taking away my sight came true. I was a hostage to my own brain, sending any OCD ransom that I thought would appease the monkey. Never telling anyone my quirks were not my choice, they were tokens of payment for bad things that were around every corner.
They couldn’t know that the only saving grace I felt was the thought that maybe one day I would win. How do I win? Kill myself and take the monkey with me.
From the outside it looked like I was a success story: girl from an abusive childhood who became a single teen mom with a drug and alcohol problem who turned it all around and had an amazing husband, two great kids, a great job and a house. But, behind it all was a drive to keep pushing beyond my limits to reach a never-ending race to save myself from the monkey.
I eventually found out my mental illness was caused by a physical disorder, and in one week, Poof! My brain is silent. No noise, no threats, no screaming, no monkey! Should have been amazing and calming, but I felt deaf, cold and unbalanced. It was like pushing a rock uphill for years, and suddenly it is gone and you don’t know how to walk upright or what to do from here.
I woke up like from a coma or an alien abduction. I was not the mean, short-tempered monster that I had shown my whole life. I realized I didn’t mean to be that way, but when you are trying so hard to keep yourself together and pay your ransom to keep walking, you have little patience for anything unpleasant around you.
I snapped at people and pushed my opinion, like it or not, to anyone in earshot. I was obsessed with everyone liking me, but not getting too close because I was a powder keg ready to take everyone down in the bog of eternal stench with me. So, now I had to relearn everything, how to do daily life without a ritual that seemed silly now.
The silence was deafening, and I worried I was now mentally injured and my whole identity was lost, and that I had become the cold statue of my childhood.
I had taken on so many masks in so many groups trying to fill my battered self-esteem with anything that would give me a moment of accomplishment and empty praise. Now I didn’t need it and didn’t want it. Some of the people I surrounded myself with were the land of misfit toys with my purpose of using them to look good and have them crown me queen.
I didn’t want this mask. It felt tight, I couldn’t breathe, and wanted to be me, whoever that was. Not everyone wanted me to be different from the damaged zombie I was prior. I lost people who were attached to the masked persona that ruled my life, wanting me to talk the same, bleed the same and harm the same, but that monkey is just a whisper now.
I would never be that person again, and I didn’t want to be.
I did realize that even without the crippling anxiety I was afraid of everything. Even though I didn’t have the threats and consequences screamed at me, I felt everything was a danger. I didn’t take many chances with the monkey, so stepping outside of my comfort zone was not something I was familiar with.
So now I wondered, how do people be brave? How do people experience life without the heart-stopping fear of everything? So many times, I felt like I had no choices, everything is bigger than me and out to hurt me, so why bother? After many times of sitting and doing nothing, I realized that I did have a choice. It might be against everything that life had taught me so far, but it was still a choice.
So I decided to try once a week and do things that scared the new me and wouldn’t be allowed for the old me. I realized the whispers and threats would get a little louder as I thought about stepping outside of my cage, but if I just took a moment, took a deep breath and leaned into the fear, I could see if there was anything I should be afraid of.
Yes, sometimes I fell, but I didn’t die and I walked a new path. I felt brave, and I felt like I had taken control over fear. I was finally in charge of making decisions based on interest and curiosity, not on monkey fears. So I walk and let even the slightest spark of interest become a focus, and just breathe and lean! If I fall or if I love it, I am doing it on purpose and not out of fear and monkey threats.
Take a chance, silence the monkey! Take a deep breath and lean into it.
Joey Smith has found light at the end of a 49-year tunnel of madness. She strives to bring light and help to those around her through mentoring and talk sessions. She is a chaser of adventure and a master of none. She lets light in to help share it with others. You can follow Joey on Instagram or Facebook.