“Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.”
Everything was sunshine when I first felt the Monster rumble underneath my skin. It’s a glorious morning– warm enough for iced coffee, but October enough for some pumpkin syrup. And there’s a nice breeze in the air and the sun is out and nothing is wrong which probably means that nothing is right.
“Psst,” whispers the Monster. “Nobody likes you.”
“Nope!” I say. “I’m going to get a pumpkin coffee, and I don’t need your shit. Fuck off, please!”
Good for me. Yoga is clearly working. I don’t need this shit.
“Why should anyone like you?” The Monster insists. “You’re disgusting.”
“Yeah, I know,” I admit. “But I’m going to get a pumpkin coffee, so I’m okay right now. I don’t really want to get into this.”
“YOU THINK THAT PUMPKIN COFFEE IS AN EFFECTIVE WEAPON AGAINST ME?” She roars. “YOU ARE A FAILURE, AND NO ONE LIKES YOU. THEY FEEL SORRY FOR YOU. THEY PAY YOU ATTENTION BECAUSE THEY’RE WORRIED ABOUT YOU. BEING A MESS IS THE ONLY NOTEWORTHY THING ABOUT YOU. THEY DON’T LIKE YOU, YOU STUPID BITCH.”
The pumpkin coffee turns bitter in my mouth. My skin starts to tingle. What if She’s right?
I start to get really angry. At myself, at the Monster, at everyone I’ve ever met. I throw myself a Pity Sweet Sixteen in my head. I let my brain carry itself away to every manner of horrible nightmare. I imagine my friends telling me the Monster’s “truth”– that they never liked me after all. I play out specific scenarios with specific friends, and I make myself furious. How dare they? These unkind Imaginary Friends. I’m nice, right? Crazy, sure, but nice. Right?
“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe.”
The older I get, and the deeper I descend down this mental illness rabbit hole, the more I’ve come to identify with monsters. I feel loud and ugly and destructive and like a blight on the lives of those I love. Lately, I’ve found myself isolating more and more. Everyone I know has sat through me crying over nothing, most of them have had me spill my guts all over them, and some of them have known the times that I harmed myself because I felt like I deserved it. I wish that I could go back in time and keep everything a secret.
But I suspect that the only way actually out of this hole is by talking about it, so I’m going to keep spilling my guts all over this blog, and hope that you’re none the worse for the wear.
My favorite monster, whom I’ve written about before, is Frankenstein’s Monster. My favorite depiction of him is in the show Penny Dreadful. That show introduced me to the Creature, and it introduced me to a thing that is almost constantly overwhelmed by the beauty presented to him in the world and is tortured by the belief that he doesn’t belong in it. I can dig that.
Here is the thought that I fear I will never un-think: This is my fault. I did this to myself, and I have to carry it, and I do not deserve unearned happiness. It’s a gorgeous day outside, and it threatens to make me really happy, simply by virtue of its beauty. But I had nothing to do with it. I haven’t had anything to do with anything today. I’ve had coffee, and gone outside, and sat around in a bathrobe. The Voice, the Creature, the Monster, whoever She is tells me that this is unworthy. That I am selfish for sucking down the delights of the Earth without earning them. I can earn them by being successful, by being beautiful, by being talented, by being better.
“Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.”
This is Shelley’s Monster speaking. It’s my favorite quote in the book, and one of those blessed literary bits that keeps me going. I don’t really believe that life is only accumulation of anguish, but I do know what it’s like for a whole day to hurt. For a whole week or month to sit wrong on your skin.
But I think about my friends, and how I want every day to feel like sunshine and rainbows to them. Which must mean that at least one of them probably wants that for me too. And that’s fucking awesome. It quiets down the Voice, and adds sugar back to my pumpkin coffee.
So, I’m not giving up. I need to go back to therapy. I need to be honest with the psychiatrist. I need to release myself from the belief that sharing my fears and griefs with others makes me a burden.
I’m discovering more and more affection for the classic monsters as I get older. I’m hoping that soon I won’t apply it to myself as a capital-M, ugly word. I want to see in myself the capacity for joy and beauty, even if it’s timid right now. Like the Creature– my guy forever and always– I want to defend what is great about life, even on the days that I just can’t see myself inside of it.
But I see you there, and you’re great, and I would so like to join you.