I have been waking up for the past 15 years or so in the middle of the night in a panic. It doesn’t happen all the time or even often anymore, but it happens. When I was about 14 or 15, I hit some kind of awareness threshold. Thank you very much, marijuana. All of the sudden, I became aware of the terrifying fact that I was alive and, subsequently, became paralyzed with the fear of what that meant.
I had been in my childlike mind up until that point, accepting my reality as it was, never wondering what else was out there, aside from the prospect of a fun vacation of course. Life and reality felt fragile suddenly. It felt like one strong wind could change everything, could change me. I grew fearful of things that seemed to happen to people around me or more likely, on TV and movies. Questions like “how does someone become a murderer? or a bad person? or a lunatic?” began to trouble my tired brain. “Could I become this? Could I become that?” And then it grew into thoughts like “am I actually that? am I suppressing this?” Suffice to say, no one could really ease my worries. I was in the grip.
Admittedly and regrettably, I still find myself in this grip in some ways. I am still overcome with the anxiety of existing and not knowing all of the answers, but wanting to. I wonder if this is common. I wonder if we are all walking around scared to death of becoming like this person or like that person that we heard about on the news. I wonder if it is just me. Or, the likely answer, is it just those of us on planet earth that deal with a similar brand of mental illness that share in these thoughts. Perhaps we are the internally obsessive and tortured crew that spends evenings staring at the ceiling wondering if we are going to accumulate multiple personalities soon or if we are already have and are just not yet aware of it. Will we ever be aware of it? Ah the cycle could continue forever.
Last night, I found myself googling some cognitive behavioral therapies for obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviors. I find myself doing this a lot, as a self-diagnosed person with an interest in living a more stress-free life. It is helpful, but I find the craziness to be my baseline state internally. Externally, things are usually grand. I have stresses, but they don’t get to me too terribly. It is my inner, less rational fears that occupy more space. This might mean I am mentally ill, just like you :).
I still struggle and still could do much more to manage my mental health, but I often find more solace in the acceptance that this is sometimes normal in this life. We can be sad, anxious, worried, or even obsessed with things we know are either not real or not real enough to matter, and that is OK. Sometimes, we may fall victim to their temptations, and sometimes, we may be so exhausted with the idea of all of the madness that we tell it to “get lost, loser!” and go back to sleep. I hope that tonight I fall into the category of the latter tonight.