I live with an invisible bear. I used to the think the bear appeared when I was 14 and got closer over time, but lately I’ve started recognizing signs of the bear for my whole life.
Every day, in nearly everything I do, I have to deal with the bear. I have to monitor what it’s doing and plan around it. I have to try to avoid being bitten and I still get bitten so I have to treat the wounds. It’s bitten me badly in the past, but I have 30 years of practice living with a bear and now I can usually keep it from biting the most vital areas. I have a lot of help with this, too. I’m lucky to have very supportive family, partner, friends, and coworkers and they help me and encourage me so much, but it still hurts getting bitten all the time and it’s stressful knowing the bear is always there and might attack me. I have to work very hard to do simple things and I do fewer activities that are close to the bear because that feels too risky.
I’m not completely sure what my bear is made of. I’ve thought that it’s made of depression and anxiety and a lot of doctors have thought that, too. My bear may be wearing a depression coat, but the tools for wrangling a depression bear mostly don’t work very well on my bear. More recently I think the bear might be made of ADHD but it’s proving very difficult to figure that out. Because doctors and therapists can’t see it, they don’t seem to understand the shape of the bear and often they don’t believe the bear is there or that it is as big as it is and that it hurts me so frequently. I say to the doctors “I have a bear” and they say “You’re being too hard on yourself and you should learn to be less self-critical”.
I try to show them a bite. “That’s just a small bite” they say. “That’s a mosquito bite and everyone gets bites like that. You need to learn not to take little bites so seriously”. I’m not so bothered by one bite, but I have thousands of them. Since every bite is a small bite each one gets dismissed and they don’t seem to understand how my injuries add up. They say “You’re jumping at shadows. You would feel all better if you could learn to relax. If you do the things you find difficult or scary you’ll see that they aren’t so bad after all”. I want to do that, but it’s very difficult because I don’t have very effective ways to handle the bear. I still try to do what they ask and approach it. I get into my bravest state of mind. I inch closer to the bear and it bites me. I sneak up on the bear and it bites me. I run right at the bear and it bites me. Each time it gets a little bit harder to try again and these bites keep forming scars.
I’m going to keep trying, but I need to have hope that people will believe me and that bears can be tamed.