It’s Like Living with a Monkey – My Grand Personal Analogy for Mental Health, Treatment, and Getting Through the Day
It’s like living with a monkey. Not one of those cute helper monkeys, or even one of those little plague monkeys from the movies. It’s living with a big, angry, wild, possibly rabid, monkey.
It spends every day throwing shit at your walls. It pulls all the dishes from the cupboard and smashes them on the floor. It yanks the books from your shelves and shreds them. It pulls the clothes from your closet and pisses on them. You can never find anything or have anything nice. You give up even trying. And at night it screams and thrashes around the house keeping you from ever sleeping well.
But still you go through your day. You see other people smiling and laughing, having careers and relationships. Since you’ve lived with this monkey your whole life it never occurs to you that other people don’t have a monkey. You assume everyone has a monkey and if they can do all those things then you must be able to as well.
So you smile and laugh and have relationships and hold down jobs spending every spare moment fighting that monkey.
But after a while you start talking to people and you realize that not everyone as a monkey, and that’s just not fucking fair. You realize that other people are laughing and smiling and are able to focus because they don’t have a monkey chronically screaming in their head. They’re not faking it.
Still you go through your days because even if other people don’t have a monkey you are still expected to smile and laugh and have a career and relationship.
Later you learn that there are other people with monkeys. Not everyone and not always the same kind of monkey. Some of the monkeys are a little nicer, some are worse. You learn to recognize other people with monkeys. You don’t necessarily want to associate with them. If they are doing better than you with a monkey then they must be stronger. And if they are doing worse it’s a reminder that you could lose your daily fight with the monkey at any point.
But among the monkey people you start to hear about things that can get rid of the monkey. Or at least make it a little better. You ignore it at first. It’s almost a matter of pride. Look at how far you’ve gotten living with a monkey. All those non-monkey people couldn’t have done that. And when you think about living without the monkey it’s strange. You’ve had the monkey your whole life, it’s a part of you. A horrible shit flinging, book shredding part of you.
But you start doing little things. You read books that tell you you can get rid of the monkey by running marathons and living on fish oil. Sometimes they quiet the monkey a little bit. Other times it just makes the monkey mad.
And one night, in the darkest hour of the morning, the monkey gets extra mean, or maybe you are just too tired. The monkey gets violent like never before. You realize it’s going to come down to you or the monkey. Then you realize it’s YOU or that fucking monkey.
You start asking around and talking to people about monkey pills. You have to get the right kind. Wrong type of pill for the wrong kind of monkey just makes it mad. It knows what you’re doing. Finally you get what you hope is the right kind of monkey pill. You take it and it doesn’t seem to do anything, but it’s not making it worse so you keep taking it.
Then when you’re about to give up you wake up and the house is quiet. You carefully creep through it, tiptoeing around the broken plates and torn books, sure the monkey is going to jump out at any moment. Then in the distance you hear the monkey shrieking. You peek into the backyard and there is the monkey in a monkey cage. It’s not happy, not at all, but it’s in a cage and for the first time in your life you’re not spending your morning getting hit with monkey shit.
You don’t quite know what to do at first. You spend the first few days convince the monkey is going escape, but it doesn’t. You start putting books back on the shelves, even putting them in order. You sweep up the broken dishes and get new ones. You buy new clothes and sleep through the night.
It’s not perfect. Occasionally the monkey gets out and makes a mess but now you’ve got some tricks for getting it back in its cage. Sometimes it screams loud enough even from its cage that it wakes you up. And in odd weird moments, for half a second, you even miss the monkey.
You are always aware that the monkey lives, and that non-monkey people will never truly get it, but you’ve gotten this far with a monkey and that’s more than many can say.