I often talk about my mental health demons. Because something that no one else can see, that torments me from within, that tries every day to take me down, damn sure sounds like a demon. Yet what happens when it isn’t so recognizable?
The demons of depression are easy to recognize. They are dark and monstrous, shadowy titans that make my whole body heavy, keeping me from enjoying life, or showering, or getting out of bed. Sometimes even so heavy that I wonder if I can carry on with this heaviness. And this all might sound melodramatic to someone who doesn’t live with mental illness, but those are the worst nights. The scariest nights. And I know that I am extremely lucky to have a network of people I can trust, and medication that takes away some of the demon’s power, and a therapist. And these defenses are all great for the demon of depression.
But that demon is a irregular visitor. When it comes, it is easy to spot. The demon of anxiety, by contrast, is present everyday, even with the medication. And yes, there are some spots where this demon is also easily recognizable. My social anxiety for example, is a form that I can recognize it coming from a mile off.
Yet the demon of anxiety is so omnipresent, often in such amorphous ways, that I don’t always recognize it. Its greatest tool may very well be convincing me that it doesn’t exist.
I don’t know that I fully realized how bad it was until today when I had my regular therapy session and my therapist helped me shed a light on it and realize that it was my anxiety all along, just lurking along in the shadows in a way I didn’t necessarily recognize.
The dangers of my demons being in disguise is something I don’t think I fully appreciated until today’s session. And it will probably be many more sessions before I fully know how to manage the demons when I can’t see them or recognize them. But the one thing that I took away from today that I wanted to share with all of you is the importance of mindfulness.
Because mindfulness forces you to examine yourself in a closer way. It forces you to be still while you watch your thoughts move about. And when you do that, sometimes you get to see through the disguise. And then it can get better. And you can get better. Bit by bit.
And the best part is when you look back on the progress you’ve made, and you realize you’ve grown so much that you don’t even recognize the old you, the you that was tormented by demons you couldn’t see. And you realize that it wasn’t just the demons that took of their disguises. It was you.
Because you are not your mental illnesses. And the less you let them disguise themselves, the less they are able to disguise you.