Monsters Have a Name
To understand the true significance behind the point I wish to make with such an odd title as “Monsters Have a Name,” I’m going to take you on a journey back to 2012 and the end of my first year at UCLA.
When I went to UCLA, being away from home and my support system left me the most socially uncomfortable I had ever been in my life. I was strongly against drugs and alcohol, I had a boyfriend back home, and I was notoriously awful at making true friends and connections. So, needless to say, college was setting up to be very... weird for me. Even before college, no matter where I was or what I did, I never truly felt like I fit in, [ESPECIALLY after my bipolar diagnosis]. I felt like I always had to be holding the reins to some invisible monster that was lurking, just waiting to reek havoc on my life. Then suddenly I was at a University where the temptations my monster fed on were everywhere. But college is where you’re supposed to explore life a little right? And even though I wanted to be in control, I also wanted to have fun. Even more so, I wanted to fit in. As an attractive girl at a University, that was a pretty simple task, no matter how awkward I was. It at least presented me with no trouble in getting invited places. And so the partying began.
At every party I went to I was pressured to drink, smoke, and “let loose.” I held strong for the first year until one day it became too much. I was overly stressed, repressed, and my monster was just itching to show itself. So I decided to let go of the reins and join in on the fun! Most of my memories after that are extremely fuzzy. Whether it was from booze, weed, or my out of control manic depressive episodes, it was pretty safe to say that the monster I was so intent on containing had very much taken over my life.
But amidst my seemingly out of control behavior, I somehow managed to make a few close friends along the way; friends who left a lasting, positive impression on my life. I’m not sure any of them know the real impact they had on me, but today I would like to focus on one friend in particular. This person did something so simple, so seemingly insignificant, I doubt that he even thought about it again in his life.
His name is Daniel. He was the only man, in my college years, who did not cross over the boundaries of friendship and something more. In my instability, my memory loss, and my manic decisions, Daniel was the only person I could count on to be my friend and JUST my friend. He sat with me and watched anime instead of utilizing my unstable emotions for his own agenda, which is not something I could say about any other male figure in my life at that time. I respected him and felt respected by him. This mutual respect was a feeling I did not experience again until many years later when I met my husband.
Though his friendship meant the world to me and he had such a positive impact on my life in more ways than one, the biggest thing he did for me, as funny as it sounds, was introduce me to the anime Naruto. If you have never seen this show before *spoiler alert* here is an extremely generalized summary of the plot:
The anime revolves around a boy named Naruto who has a tailed beast, or monster, sealed away inside of him. Throughout the show he struggles with controlling the monster‘s power by either completely denying it control or letting it take over entirely, leaving destruction and ruin in its wake. Both ways inflict pain upon Naruto and all those around him, but his resilience keeps him moving forward. It is this strength of character that inevitably prepares Naruto to meet his beast face to face. However, before this meeting can occur, he has to pass through the waterfall of truth where he ends up battling none other than his own inner darkness. You see, the beast was feeding off of Naruto's own negative emotions to gain control of his body. So to master his beast, he first has to master himself. And though this step draws Naruto closer to control, the beast is still unwilling to partner with him, creating a constant tug of war between their energies, which is not only draining but incredibly unstable. It isn’t until Naruto learns his monster has a name that they begin to establish mutual respect and become strong enough, through the balance of working together, to save their world.
The story of Naruto was the hope I needed to believe it was possible to find balance with my own beast. For so long I had repressed it and then it reared it’s ugly head in rebellion. What I needed now was to master myself, learn my monster’s name, and work with it instead of denying it existence.
It is because of Naruto that I chose to look at my bipolar as my partner through this life rather than a monster I have to conceal and lock away. It is a part of me and we do better when we work together than we do playing tug of war for control. When I began to release the negative emotions of my past, my monster started to work with me rather than against me. It used to be that voice in the back of my mind that tormented my psyche but, now that I understand it, it lends me power. Now my monster is the voice in my head when I am afraid to share my story that gives me strength to push through the fear. It is because of my monster, Kurama (named in reverence to Naruto), that I have the strength to persevere even if Shannon's past experiences make it difficult. Kurama is the best of me and the worst of me all wrapped up in one; the mania and the depression. The difference now is that the only time he releases his darkness is when I get scared and try to lock him away again. It is when I myself try to control the aspects of my life that are uncontrollable that he comes out to remind me I am out of balance.
David Goggins, the man deemed the "toughest man alive," endorses a similar concept in regards to his alter ego, Goggins. As he says, it all starts with facing the real you. The real you may have fears, both rational and irrational. The real you may have unresolved traumas from your childhood that rule your life. The real you may have an eating disorder or an inward perception of self that does not match your outward façade. No white lies, no justifications, just the hard FACTS that make up YOU. Then you have to face yourself in a dark room, because that dark room is the only place you can create another person who is capable of walking out of it. It is in that dark room where you can create a stronger form of YOU to face who you are; and that is the only way you are going to get over your negative emotions, pains, and fears. David Goggins, "viewed [himself] as the weakest person on the planet earth," but his "goal in life was to in [his] mind believe [he's] the hardest man alive." And from his dark room is where he created the superhero version of himself that accomplished all of that, Goggins.
So I encourage you, as my psychologist encouraged me, to sit in that dark room, face the real you, and give your monster a name so that it may in turn transform into your superhero.