You know how Inside Out starred the emotions that govern us? The following features a cast of characters sort of like that.
A few are relative newcomers, and some are so old that I can’t imagine they’ll ever vacate the niches they’ve carved in my gray matter. But one thing’s for sure: They’re all gigantic pains in my ass.
Imagine a Chinese dragon. Now, give it a spiral-shaped body and wings like dark shrouds. Oh! And instead of fire, it spews a murky fog that makes me feel bad about everything I do, say, and think.
My shame monster likes to toy with me. It blows little puffs of toxic fog over my shoulder then disappears when I turn around. But eventually, it wraps those dark wings around me and starts to whisper. It tells me to be ashamed—for having problems, for trying to get help, for existing. This is a tactic to keep me paralyzed, so Shame can devour me—pulling me down into its infinite spirals because, like a Tardis, it’s a lot larger on the inside.
Sometimes it works.
This is a disgusting little slug with a voice like a banshee. It squeezes into crevices and screams. There are the typical concerns—Did you forget your phone charger?! Watch your step!—but it also enjoys making me irrational. Don’t order food after 6:30 P.M. because it’ll be too dark and the delivery person will murder you! If you breathe in a bad smell, it’ll infect you! If you gain self-esteem, everyone you love will abandon you!
Sometimes Fear teams up with Shame to morph into Embarrassment, a huge, neon pink moth that draws far too much attention by trying to hide from attention. It bumps into and breaks open memories of past failures. Yet it’s great at avoiding flyswatters…
Don’t let this monster fool you. It’s almost human, but it hides a mouthful of razor-blade teeth and a devious ploy to use them. For honesty deals in both truth and lies—and if you think only the latter is dangerous, just wait.
This monster sits next to you and, almost offhandedly, says, “You should reach out to that guy you had a crush on in seventh grade. You know, the one you haven’t spoken to since.” It sounds so reasonable, it becomes the only thing you want to do. So when the monster adds, “Tell him you thought about him in the shower,” you don’t even blink.
Then, when you’re in a panic and don’t know how to be upfront about it, the honesty monster will wrap a freakishly strong arm around you and say, “A little lie will save everyone a lot of drama when things eventually blow over.”
The most common lie it wants me to tell: “I’m fine.”
This chaos demon appeared in the fourth grade. In high school, its visits were so frequent, I barely registered all the mental destruction. My best friend decided to put a face to the creature, so for reasons hilarious but unexplainable, the migraine monster looks like a sandwich. Specifically, like one of those sandwich mascots that waves around signs to lure you into their restaurant. Only, this one uses its sign to wreck my shit. It has no real agenda as far as my emotional stability goes; it just likes to make a mess.
This is the most terrifying and dangerous of my monsters. This is the shapeshifting son of a bitch that makes life suck. You know how in Harry Potter, no one (except for Mad-Eye Moody, that tight-lipped bastard) knows what a boggart looks like? That’s how this monster operates. Its true form is a mystery—it spends its days masquerading as depression, anxiety, OCD, agoraphobia, or any other disorder it can muster.
It’s also a master manipulator. Mental Illness can take control of my limbs and emotions with no warning. Suddenly, I’ve spent 30-plus minutes pulling out my eyelashes, or I experience an anxiety so intense, the veins in my arms feel like they’re burning. It’s this monster’s favorite game, and the least fun I’ve ever had.
My love monster is fuzzy, green, and precious. It’s begging to be hugged—literally. Remember that episode of The Powerpuff Girls where Professor Utonium creates the perfect pet that only needs to be fed once? But the girls kept feeding it, so it kept growing and eating until it was Godzilla’s size? That’s my love monster. It gorges on affection until it’s unfathomably huge, and then ruins things with its good intentions.
They say love is blind; this monster has tunnel vision and no boundaries. It tells me to incessantly text friends so they know I’m thinking about them. It insists that I come up with elaborate gift ideas to prove that I care. This creature snorts pure, uncut adoration and uses that rush to turn me into someone desperate to spread it around.
Obviously, Love is one of my better monsters. But, it has a tendency to make Embarrassment show up, so it’s still capable of pissing me off.
These are my monsters. They have abilities I can’t even describe, and they like to invite friends over to Monster Mash all over my thoughts. Some days, I’m just glad they left me breathing. Then again, they need me to exist, so… how about some damn respect, guys! Don’t make me come in there.