“How strong the stories we told ourselves were. What power they had to shape how we saw the world, even when confronted with evidence to the contrary.” Theo, from Roan Parrish’s Riven.
How strong the stories indeed. All these years later, despite the hard work of getting to a place where I am mostly comfortable in my own skin, those words resonate. Especially at this time of year when my depression is at it’s worst for a myriad of reasons.
When I am tired, stressed, depressed, or anxious, those stories re-surface and claw at my soul. “You’re not good enough…” “You will never quite fit in…” “You are not worth loving…” And I find my world getting dark again. A prickling under my skin that gnaws persistently, wearing me down until I give in.
I have strategies now, I’ve fought long and hard to get to a place I can call my own, a place where I can live in co-existence with the monsters in my head. But sometimes those monsters need to be heard and I cannot always predict how they will manifest. Oh, I have some guesses, as they have taken up residence for far too long to completely astound me with the damage they can inflict. But I am weary from being constantly on guard.
You see, I am the monsters and they are me. They have shaped my world and although they wear me down, I cannot imagine my life without them. They have brought me to this place where we can usually live in harmony now. They are an integral part of my story.
So when something triggers me, gets under my skin, I tend to regress. I let my guard down, listen with rapt attention to the stories that I have told myself a million times, and it rouses the monsters. Those old stories give them power and energy and they have no choice but to expend it; but at what cost? The cost is me. I run for cover, hide away from the world, retreat to a place where I can let the monsters have their way for a while. The monsters make me unpredictable, edgy, and melancholy. And that scares people. No one wants to see those monsters…
I have taken up the task of re-writing the story in my head, but I still have work to do. I am no hero on a conquest to destroy the monsters, just a weary soul trying to find some peace. I try to see the evidence to the contrary of what I have committed to memory so long ago. It has taken a lifetime to unravel the complicated and twisted plot. I cannot let it go completely; it has shaped me, it is the world I live in. But I now have the power to tilt that story little by little until I can see another plot emerging. This may take the rest of my life, but I want to stay curious, I want to make the story even more rich and complicated.
So I will let my monsters indulge for the moment and then I will get back to revising the story, finding evidence to the contrary, and work toward an ending I can live with when all is said and done. The story is not happening to me, it is happening through me, and I have the power to shape how the plot unfolds.