The worst of the things I struggle with are invisible to the naked eye: severe chronic migraines, anxiety, and depression. My chronic migraines are nearly constant and so bad I’m considered disabled by my doctors (though I’m not on disability). Apparently of the many types of migraines, I have at least three, so what works to soothe one, may irritate another. It’s really wonderful (that’s extreme sarcasm) and I’ve been dealing with the situation for over 20 years.
My anxiety and depression work in tandem to mess with my mind. My brain is constantly telling me I am worthless, I am a burden to everyone who is unfortunate enough to know me, and that if I reach out to someone, anyone, I am a bother and an annoyance. My brain tells me I will never make something of myself and that I never deserved to, anyway.
My brain can be a colossal dick.
My anxiety likes to play sudden and unexpected rounds of “literal worse case scenario” where I am immediately hurled into thinking through the very worst of any number of possible (but entirely unlikely) situations (up to and including how I would respond to an active shooter situation in public). My brain will come up with the most awful things that could theoretically happen, while having little to no basis in reality. I may know they are just brain farts so I can be prepared for anything, but they are exhausting and frustrating. I wind up having to use tactics I learned years ago in therapy to stop myself from spinning. It’s almost ridiculously simple: I look around me and start identifying objects (e.g.: that is a chair, that is a table). It almost sounds too good to be true, but it works every single time.
Every day, every single day, I am the invisible warrior fighting the good fight on the invisible battlefield that is my brain and chronic illness. It is exhausting and worthwhile. And I may have to fight it forever.
I’ve been asked before why, with my anxiety and depression being the way they are, I enjoy horror movies/books/games as much as I do.
The answer is simple: they provide the worse case scenario for me; I get to see the situation through and find myself intact and okay on the other side.
For most of my adult life, I’ve found horror movies soothing. I put them on as my comfort noise. I realize that must sound deranged, but it really does help. Knowing it’s all make believe and not some moronic invention of my mind sends a weird and wonky signal to my brain that it can take that time off. Sometimes it surprises even me that I love horror as much as I do, given the fact that I loathe suffering of any kind in reality.
Games also provide an interesting scenario for playacting. In games, I have a task and can focus on completing it. It doesn’t matter what kind of game; I can be tasked with something and complete it in short order, something that doesn’t happen with exceptional regularity in reality. I like ticking things off a to-do list in reality, and checking things off an actionable list in a game is nearly as satisfying. Never mind that I get to explore a game world while I’m at it and likely enjoy lovely graphics and sound. It’s a win/win/win.
Something similar can be said of the Baby-Sitters Club books I adore. Sure they were written over 20 years ago, but the lessons and hardships the characters face and overcome are mostly timeless. One of the only things that tangibly soothes my anxiety is reading a BSC book. It really does help me.
I’m grateful for the ways, however big or small, I’ve learned to deal with my various issues. Sure, I’m in pain a lot, and sure, my brain tries to lie to me every single day, but I try to remind myself: I’m still here, I’m still going to be here, and it’s statistically unlikely that every single person in the world hates me. Sure I may be restless at times, but I have strats to deal with those times, too.
I know I am far from alone in these ailments. If you are also out there invisibly fighting the invisible war, I fight alongside you, in tandem, and together we will get through this. It may not be pretty, but together we’re stronger.