I love analogies and metaphors. Love 'em. So when I saw a post titled "How depression is like the X Files" on the World of Psychology blog, I was kind of intrigued.
Before I get too much further, let me add a full disclaimer: I have never seen The X Files. It doesn't seem that interesting to me, and my innate skepticism keeps the whole "aliens are amongst us!" part of the plot from getting me hooked. But even I understood this post and found the metaphor quite wonderful.
Blogger Erika Krull writes:
They [Mulder and Scully and co.] can’t tell anybody, they don’t know who to trust, and whoever they do tell surely will think they are crazy. Really, who would ever believe that the informant who is trying to feed the agents helpful information really has the scar from a metal chip in his neck because he’s an alien hybrid? Even though all the viewers and the key cast members know all about this threat, the agents never seem to know who they can trust. They live in a world of worry, peril, secrecy, and confusion.
Ta-da. There’s my connection. I have often said to myself that my depression felt like an alien had taken over my brain, though the takeover wasn’t complete because I still knew that I was me. I was just disabled enough to have little control but aware enough to realize I wasn’t able to get the alien out by myself.
I needed help. This wasn’t normal; I knew something was different. But what? And how do I describe this? Would anyone believe me? And would I wish I would have kept my mouth shut once I said something? How will this affect my job, my kids, my marriage? I can’t keep going on like this, but I don’t know if I can tell anyone either. Which is more dangerous?This perfectly describes my experiences with basically any mental illness that I've had (and the list is long, kids. The list is long). For me, though, the "alien takeovers" where I've felt the most bewildered and confused have been with OCD and with anorexia. When I first developed full-blown OCD in middle school/high school, I had mostly obsessions. I was paralyzed by anxiety, and yet I didn't feel I could tell anyone. My fears were either correct, or they were wrong and I was crazy. I knew my obsessions were bizarre- who would believe me? Half the time, I didn't even believe myself! But I was so worried that I could be right that I kept on obsessing, and later added the compulsions.
When I first got sick with anorexia, I didn't realize I was in an "alien takeover" situation. I thought I was fine and dandy- everyone else had those problems. I would imagine that my parents felt an awful lot like Mulder and Scully, trying to convince people that I did, indeed, have a problem. Many other caregivers have probably had this same situation, especially in the first days before the eating disorder becomes patently obvious to anyone who cares to look.
Now that I'm more healthy and more aware, the anorexia is much more frightening. Not always, of course, but I think that fright is healthy. I can perceive when I am starting to loose control a little bit quicker. I am trying to identify which thoughts are from the healthy (or trying-to-be-healthy) Carrie, and which are the voice of Ed. They're not always that different, which is also really frightening. That's probably how I got in trouble with the exercise this past time.
I ultimately have to keep the "aliens" at bay, and learning how to respond when I sense they're trying to take over my brain is probably going to be a key part of that.