by Katherine Kizer
Posted October 22, 2010
My monster is manic-depression. She emerges every three months or so and possesses me when I least expect it. I wake up one morning, or stay up all night, and I must do, do, do. During this doing, I am fast, talented, pretty, determined, unstoppable, concise and reckless. I start seven projects at 3 am and do not complete one of them. I buy five new shirts and hide the receipt. I go for a walk and forget how many times I’ve gone around the block. I go to the mall and am unable to find my car when I emerge loaded down with packages. Three days later, I find all the stuff I’ve hidden and try franticly to recall the past few days.
When I am just myself, it seems worse. I fear everything. My shaky self-esteem stops and starts, and I wonder each day before I get out of bed if I will be able to just have a nice, quiet day. I think that my monster has made any chance of a normal life impossible, and I question if those I love still love me. I wonder if I can ever love myself, monster and all, even though my monster, when she appears, is narcissistic and I seem to love only myself. Even my confusion is a form of self-love.
I spend too much time worrying about how I feel, and my monster makes sure I do this often. If she would just let me play the game of life and not look up so often. Instead I stop playing and dissect the game in order to figure out how I’m playing and compare myself to others. I know that it’s a natural thing to compare ourselves with others, but my monster makes sure that the one behind is me.
I can feel my monster coming. Her horns poke my organs as she rises up within me like a gathering storm. When I first feel her, I will do anything, or take anything to stop her. This desperation only makes her strong. She senses my fear as surely as I sense her arrival. Once my monster is fully alive inside me, all fear and self-loathing disappear, and she begins to tell me things. She tells me I don’t need sleep, just coffee. After the coffee, when my hands rattle, she asks me what I want and does not wait for me to answer. She decides what I need, and it’s usually is not something I would normally do.
My husband knows my monster well, and he hates her. When she has possessed me, the look on his face is somewhere between exhaustion and hatred. She picks fights with him for no reason. She ruins what were supposed to be nice evenings out. He cannot trust her with our daughter and must cancel his plans to accommodate her. I remember a look from him not long ago just after my monster left that seemed to say, “I cannot do this anymore.” He held my gaze for thirty seconds or more, and I was afraid to look away, afraid if I did, he would not be there when I turned back towards him.
My monster and I have a lot to say. She is half controlled, and I can revisit each episode and tell the truth about what it’s like to live with her. She is a part of who I am, her voice is intertwined with my own; I have accepted that much. Perhaps I can help others to accept their monsters too. Wrapped as a gift with a bow on top, I can give away those parts of myself I try to hide from everyone, then they will dissipate, and I will be lighter. I am old enough now not to care what people think of me – accept or reject, there is no shame in mental illness. We represent a facet of humanity that overcomes obstacles that are unseen and formidable.