mental illness as a personal monster: being a responsible monster-keeper

icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

When you have a mental illness, it's like you have an amorphous monster that follows you everywhere. If it's depression, it can sit on you like a lead onesie a lot of the time and make it damn hard to move, and it can cover your head and make everything dark and drab. If it's anxiety, it can whisper nasty things to you and sometimes shout them so loud you can't pay attention to anything else. If you have trauma flashbacks it can cover your whole body and force you to watch videos and listen to sound of awful things, and even if you can see through it, you can't stop it and you can't escape it. If you have a different illness I'm sure it does other things, but I can only speak about the ones I've experienced.

It can be awful to have this monster, especially when it contains multiple varieties of mental illness. But it can also be fucking awful to be around someone else who has a monster. It can be torture; at its worst it can be abuse. So people have a responsibility to manage their monster as best as they can to keep it from attacking other people. Just like if you have a pet who will attack people -- it's not your fault if they attack someone, but you need to do your best to care for them, train them on how to interact, and keep them on a leash when they're out. And if you know what sets them off, you need to warn people so that they don't end up getting bitten when it could have been avoided.

I have known people who have the most massive, powerful monsters and yet they keep that thing on a leash and it almost never bites anyone. It will blob over them and scream at them from every direction, and they will quietly tug on the leash and pull it away from people so that no one is hurt. They know that it lies and so when it tells them "that person doesn't like you" they don't accept this and they ask the person. They know it predicts things that won't happen and so they refuse to believe it. When their monster is incontinent they take it outside, and if it makes a mess they clean it up. Their monsters are not dainty or polite, but the way those people handle them you might think they are. Some people I know have monsters three stories tall yet I've barely heard a peep out of them.

And then I've known people who don't bother leashing their monster at all. Who will sit and watch while their monster rips someone to shreds, and later say "it wasn't me" or worse yet, have no comment and try to pretend that it didn't happen. I've known people who let the monster shit anxiety all over people, instead of taking it outside to poop -- and then complain when the person takes time away to go shower! I've known people who refuse to feed their monster and let it climb all over other people desperately begging for food. I've known people who get angry when someone who has been feeding their monster stops, because now the monster is grumpy and loud again and is turning to them for food when they had gotten used to ignoring it. I have been most of these people, as well. Sometimes I slack off in training and my monster starts getting rude and gross again.

It's never your fault when you have a monster like this attached to you. But it is your responsibility and no one else's. It's your job to feed and tame your monster so that it is as respectful and kind as possible. It's your job to take it to excrete waste away from other people, or perhaps with the attention of a monster vet. It's your job to keep it from attacking people with words or deeds.

If you have someone who has offered to help you tame your monster, that's awesome! Just don't try to leave it with them. It's not 'help' if the other person is fighting your monster while you do nothing. Just like a rowdy pet, if you don't train it, it will get worse and worse no matter what people try to do from outside. You have to tell it no. Every single time. And when your monster damages other people? That's on you. You are the only one who is responsible for your monster. It's shitty because nobody signed up to be a monster-keeper, but it's yours now. And if someone who usually helps is not up for it, don't complain to them about it and don't make them feel bad. Your monster is NEVER someone else's responsibility.

You can have terrible monsters without those monsters constantly hurting others. Training monsters is a learning process and no one does it right all the time, but if you don't do your personal best to keep your monster from hurting others, then you are just as guilty when it does. I'm not suggesting that you avoid all people if you have an unmanageable monster. I'm suggesting you use every tool you have to tame it, and in the meantime you warn people about how the monster sometimes acts, and when the monster does make a mess or cause damage, you do the cleaning up. On what is possible for any given person or situation, I cannot guess and certainly cannot comment; only the monster-keeper knows if they are doing their best.

I don't think I'd feel fully at ease around someone who had no monster at all, simply because I think it would be hard for them to understand monster-keeping which is always a pretty big part of my life. But I also know that my monster is very suggestible and if I spend too much time with someone who has an out-of-control monster, mine will get increasingly difficult to handle. And despite not having physical form, these monsters can kill. So for me, it doesn't matter the size or type of monster; I feel safest with people who have a monster, but keep it in line most of the time.

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Mood Swing
wantedonvoyage ══╣Mood Swing╠══
This is really excellent.
thatunicornfizz ══╣╠══
This is absolutely wonderful, thank you for sharing.
Disney ★ Mulan
ragnarok_08 ══╣Disney ★ Mulan╠══
Thank you so much for sharing this - this was wonderful to read ♥
cactus_rs ══╣thoughtful╠══
I was actually thinking about a very similar issue recently, so I appreciate hearing your perspective on this. One of my . . . friends? acquaintances? . . . has a mental illness, or some kind of neurodivergence, or both; from my end it doesn't seem to be well trained, as you put it, and it makes her a worse person for it (through incredible impulsiveness and general disregard for others). I wonder a lot about about the right thing to do in that situation.

("All about me" time: I'm an anxious and introverted, but I don't think it's "real" anxiety; sometimes I'm sad, but I'm pretty sure it's not "real" depression. So I don't think I really have a monster, by your metaphor, but I hope that I have enough empathy to at least not be a total asshole? I hope?)
belenen ══╣╠══
I can't respond fully right now but I appreciate the comment! I edited to be more true to what I meant. *smiles*
rosefox ══╣anxiety╠══
This is so good and really relevant to my life right now. I have not been great at leashing my anxiety-monster around some folks who are very patient and forgiving but have reached their limit of having it leap at them and slobber all over them. Working on training it better. It's hard but important.
callmebee ══╣╠══
This made me have feelings.

Beautiful analogy, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect.

Also, credit where credit is due, I think you do an amazing job of naming and taming your monsters. I have my own monsters to face, so I understand how hard it is. I appreciate you. Lots and lots.
fangirl - existence - hope
kehlen ══╣fangirl - existence - hope╠══
This is a powerful image, but some of it I do not completely understand. What constitutes feeding the monster? (To me, feeding a problem normally means making it worse, like feeding the fire.)

I think everyone has a monster, including those who are mentally healthy. Those people's monster is their baser self. And so I read your image this way: it is difficult and scary to deal with people who do not work to self-improve. And it is very true.
shadowwolf13 ══╣╠══
dee_aar2 ══╣╠══
The insight into those monsters inside our heads ... very strong and some of it so relateable. We all have these in some form or the other .... But I guess we never acknowledge the fact of it.

I am marking this for a reread after voting. I feel I could pick something here :)
bleodswean ══╣╠══
You really got me thinking with your amazing analogy here!
halfshellvenus ══╣╠══
I really liked this abstraction of mental illness, and how it affects not only the person it afflicts but those in the periphery as well.

A lot of this could apply to alcoholism or drug problems as well. They affect everyone who loves you, and while they aren't easy, you really owe it yourself and others to try.
sinnamongirl ══╣╠══
All of this is so true and so well said. <3
veritas_st ══╣╠══
I live with a gay man with a manic depressive monster and this just hit so hard. As we live together everyone sees it as mine to look after, a joint monster if you will. He is one of the most generous and irritating people I have ever met and in his darkest times he can be so mean, cutting and harsh but yet I still feel like it's mine as well.

I really appreciate this view and your words. Thank you for writing and sharing.
murielle ══╣╠══
I love how you've used the "monster" analogy to talk about handling mental illness. In fact, I just love the way you've written this, period.

webgirluk ══╣pic#124969441╠══
Beautiful entry :-) I love this.
rayaso ══╣╠══
This was great! I think this is the first time I have read something about the responsibility of those with a mental illness to control it for the sake of others. It was an important perspective. I enjoyed your imagery, particularly depression as a lead onesie. I also liked your icon very much.
my_name_is_jenn ══╣╠══
Those monsters can be tough to keep on a leash sometimes. Thank you for writing this.
eternal_ot ══╣╠══
You gave it a whole new perspective and I like that. This indeed was a great read and thanks for penning this <3
baxaphobia ══╣╠══
This is wonderful! I don't have a monster (that I know of) but have been very close to a couple whose monsters had a profound effect on my life. And in my job I try to help those whose monsters need help. I will keep this entry close as it is one of the best explanations and advice I've heard. Wonderful!
zimtkeks ══╣╠══
Very well written, so relatable! Thank you.
And I think you're doing a great job with your monster(s).
kehleyr ══╣╠══
Very well put!
wanderipity ══╣pic#126421096╠══

Beautiful post.

esaatas ══╣╠══
I really loved this.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
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Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.