Sometimes The Monster Gets Loose

Today was a rough day for me.  I’ll spare you the details.  The point is that when you have an obsessive psychological disorder, bad days are dangerous.  Over the years I’ve learned ways to cope and to identify the tendrils of the illness when they first start to squirm loose and to be proactive in staying ahead of them.

But sometimes the little monster I have chained in the back of my mind manages to get free anyway.  I have checks in place and people monitoring me to ensure I don’t exercise for more than an hour each day.  But last night I went out late and worked out hard.  Immediately I got the storm of endorphins letting me know that even though the day sucked that everything was ok.  I kept pushing.  I knew I should stop but I couldn’t make myself.  This was safe, comfortable, and I was combating my own reflection.

I pushed myself until I threw up.  And all the while I was perfectly aware that I was doing this because I’m insane.  My brain was screaming at me to quit, but it was also telling me I couldn’t.  The minute I was done vomiting the first time I got up, went back out, and pushed myself until I threw up again.

I sat there kneeling over the toilet pounding my fist into the wall in frustration, feeling like death, and livid with myself for letting it go so far.  Thank FSM Jen reminded me later that blaming myself wasn’t fair of me.  I’m sick.  There will be days when I lose control.

In retrospect, with my demons squared back away, I can look at down days like this and take a positive from it.  This is better than what it once was.  The self-punishment of working out too much is far better than the self-loathing that drove me to starve myself.  Progress has still been made, and this is the first bad day I’ve had in weeks – that’s real progress!

These posts always suck to write, but I write them because I want people to know that this is what it means to have a mental disease.  It’s like there’s someone out to get you, but it’s not someone you can ever get away from because they hide inside your brain.  You carry them with you everywhere.  Sometimes even when you’re doing something unrelated to food or your body, you can feel them staring at you from within your skull.  It’s a fight every. Single. Day.  And even medicated and generally on top of it, sometimes you lose.

Admittedly, I’m scared of myself.  Walking through a dark alley, there might be a threat to me – but wherever I go, I know I’m potentially a threat to my own well-being.  Even when the illness doesn’t dominate your life, you must always be aware that it can still bite you at any time.  This condition means being forced to admit that your judgment is corrupted in certain areas, which means you must trust that others know what is best, even when you don’t want to do what they say.  It means sometimes worrying when you’re alone because you can’t trust yourself.

And this is what the rough days feel like at best.  For the untreated, for those who feel guilt at their condition and who think they could be well if only they clenched their teeth a little tighter, it is much, much worse.  To all you anorexics out there and to all you people with chemical depression, you have a serotonin deficiency that is no more your fault than an insulin deficiency in diabetics.  It is not a personal flaw, but a condition for which there is treatment.  It’s a nightmare on your own, I know.  Believe me, I know.  I know what it’s like for days worse than this to be the norm rather than the exception, as they thankfully are now.  You get out of it by realizing you may be sick and going to the doctor.  I wish I had listened to my friends, not been such a hardass, and gone sooner myself.

There are people out there waiting to care for you.  Get help.  And if you know somebody in this position, assist them in getting help.  It’s often an invisible disorder and it’s mortifying for those afflicted.  We live in a world that wants to assign blame to the victims of mental illness.  As a result, seeking help can often be viewed as a sign of weakness.  But you’re not weak – you’re sick.  Failing to get treatment when you’re sick is like trying to beat cancer by toughing it out.

Take care of yourself – you’re the only you we’ve got.

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MENTAL ILLNESS: Time to go be a lab rat.
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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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