Because the voices said so, therefore I am
by Carolyn Wyler
I crawl into bed at night, exhausted from the emotionally and physically draining day, shut off the lights, pull up the covers, in the hopes of falling asleep. The TV is turned off and the phone has stopped ringing. The neighbors have gone to bed hours ago, (the advantage of living in a 55-and-older-neighborhood, though I am not anywhere near that age, but have snuck in, my husband having robbed the cradle). Outwardly, everything appears at peace, the quiet sending out seeming waves of calm that absolve the stress of the long day.
And then the vociferousness starts. The sudden onslaught of voices condemning, yelling, all of them vying for my attention. My husband lies quietly next to me enthralled in a solitaire game, oblivious to the blaring invasion.
The source of the noise is not external at all, but internal. The voices in my head have, once again, begun their nightly ritual, making it impossible to sleep.
“You really could have done this differently….” “You know ______ (fill in name of that person who always does everything perfectly and who you simultaneously respect yet despise), would have done it this way.” “Do you really think you should have said….” “If only you were younger, leaner, smarter, wiser, meaner, nicer, bolder, richer,” All the coulda-woulda-shoulda’s and if-only’s begin a full-blown battle in my head.
But tonight I have no patience for them. My husband looks at me with genuine concern as I let out a scream, loud enough to assure I was overheard above the voices.
“Shut the hell up!” “I’m trying to sleep here.”
For a moment everything is quiet again as the coulda-woulda-shoulda-if only’s, shocked from my sudden outburst, retreat to the back of my cerebrum. I can hear their muffled, confused whisperings, surely uncertain as to what had just occurred, as they had never been yelled at before.
They seem to have an uncanny sense of knowing when I am most vulnerable, when I’m thoroughly exhausted, overwhelmed, or when my estrogen and progesterone stir up a boiling pot of raging hormones. It is these times I truly believe in alien life forms and their ability to take over a person’s body and mind. (I’m pretty sure that my husband, friends and family are convinced as well that body snatchers do exist).
I’m not sure when the battle started, nor am I interested in putting blame on who started the conflict. (Life is too short.) All I care about is getting out of the crossfire and away from the war zone.
You see, I don’t like conflict of any kind. My normal M.O. is avoidance if at all possible and if that is unsuccessful, then denial. When the conflict is happening inside of your own brain however, it is next to impossible to avoid or deny.
Throughout the years I have tried various methods of silencing the voices. I scarf down a chocolate truffle, my favorite drug of choice, and for a bit, (as the greedy little bastards are distracted and munching quietly away at the creamy rich treat) I can relax. As soon as the chocolate is gone however, they come back in full force. I unknowingly added fuel to their fire. They laugh hysterically at me as I walk past the hall tree mirror.
“Ha, shouldn’t have eaten that candy because look at what it did to your once flat stomach!” “You definitely will not be fitting into any bikini this year!”
OK, so the chocolate therapy backfired. Maybe I could aspire to be an alcoholic? Hmm, no, that won’t work, as the evil verbose critics have gotten into my subconscious, leaving me almost convinced that alcohol, of all kinds, (well maybe not Isopropyl; I am a nurse after all) is pure evil and they have taken control of my gag reflex, triggering bouts of nausea at the mere odor.
Legal drugs? Celexa? Ativan? Yeah, the three of us have hung out at times when life’s situations have become unbearable, but the side effects the commercial man rambles on for 30 out of the 45 seconds of the television ads run caused me to discard them.
So then, where does that leave me? It would seem that even if I could take the alcohol or the drugs, it would only create a temporary numbing fix to the underlying problem.
So I set out to find a better resolution.
I resolved that with each negative attack, I would replace it with a positive one. I’ll see your “I could tell by the expression on her face that she thinks I am a bitch” and raise it with, “I am an amazing, wonderful, strong and caring person.”
Slowly, one by one, I take the negative voices down and I hear them screaming as the bucket of water I have thrown on them causes them to melt away into a puddle on the ground. Take that you stinkin’ sons of witches!
I might add that I do not try to unrealistically inflate the view of myself or overly estimate what I might be able to accomplish, no matter how farfetched it may seem. If I don a Superman cape and jump off a roof of a house, I know I will not be able to fly, (though best to keep that one a secret so as not to upset my husband’s childhood absurdities, er, I mean dreams).
I don’t even think that it is possible to totally rid my head of all of the negative voices. I am not perfect after all, nor could I even tell you the definition of what a perfect person is. I have made many mistakes and I know I’ll continue to make many more. My goal, though, is to not dwell on the mistakes and to move on. I want to get to where the majority of the voices in my head are positive ones, so when they speak I can say, “You are right. I am awesome!”