I found a crazy psychotic fear monster living in my head

Now that I've been back from Mexico for over a week, I think I can confidently say the trip has helped me banish a long-running stress program from my psyche.

When I describe it, it's going to sound so simple, but the impact of this on my life is GIGANTIC. Ginormous even.

Here it is:

 
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Apparently, every morning since at least Jr High School, I've had a standard practice of waking up, thinking through my to-do list for the day, and then a crazy psychotic fear monster would latch onto something and point out the worst-case scenario for how my life will be ruined if I don't get up right now and perform my day perfectly as planned.

This would cause an immediate stimulation of stress response, filling my body with a toxic cesspool of cortisol and adrenaline and other stress hormones, yanking me from sleep and getting me going in a panic.

And it wasn't like I didn't notice this was happening, exactly, but it sort of flew under the radar of things I felt I could choose, I guess. Like it was just part of the decor, and I was just renting the room so just kind of living with it.

(Whoa, what a weird analogy. Like I don't even feel like I own my own head? I'll need to think about that one some more!)

So I lived with this for my entire life, yanking me through school, through college, through my first few jobs, relationships, everything. Until in my late thirties, when prolonged chronic exposure to stress hormones triggered adrenal fatigue, or, more properly, HPA-axis dysregulation.

The psychotic fear monster still sounded the alarm, but instead of jumping out of bed in a panic, my system would sort of just get overwhelmed. And my overwhelm response is fatigue, it turns out.

So then there'd be this argument going on between the crazy psychotic fear monster who thinks my life will end if I don't get up, and the totally worn out exhausted me who just can't be bothered.

Meanwhile my awareness of what's happening is only vaguely aware that waking up each morning is a huge argument, and that I'm too tired to get up.

(So for like 2 years I spend a bunch of money on medical tests & treatments trying to get more energy, thinking that'll solve the argument and make everything peachy, but I digress.)

So totally worn out exhausted Sarah checks herself into a little bungalow on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in a sleepy little Mexican fishing village. She has no agenda and nobody around to impress, and happily acclimates to the relaxed pace of the day. She drifts off to sleep, and the next morning…

… Her brain kicks into to-do list scanning mode and the crazy psychotic fear monster is getting ready to pounce…

And Sarah feels the gears shifting from lazy fishing village pace of life to toxic stress argument phase and says, "Wait a minute. There's no need for this here."

And suddenly the spotlight of conscious awareness fixates fully on crazy psychotic fear monster for the first time.

"Oh, hello. I didn't really know you were there. I mean I sort of knew, but … you're good at hiding, somehow."

And crazy psychotic fear monster freezes with this spotlight fully illuminating her game.

And she hasn't been allowed to come back.

And that is HUGE.

Will it last? It was easy in relaxed Mexico, so I had to wait to see until I got back home and went through a regular week of life and work …

… and I have experienced stress, and I have had to make difficult decisions, and each time the crazy psychotic fear monster wants to speak up, I can just fixate her with my conscious awareness and she freezes.

It's working.

I'm still tired in the morning, but there's no argument. There's no panic. I can get out of bed, or I can choose to lie there and rest for half an hour if I want. It's just easy.

Maybe this is what it's like to be like regular people.

So… have you met any crazy psychotic fear monsters living in your head? Tell me your story.

💖🦄 Sarah

Inner WorkSarah Harrison