Hiding 'the Beast' of Mental Illness


About five years ago, I realized I was born with a debilitating mental illness. As a child, my family said I was “sensitive.” I was praised for my achievements in school, for keeping out of trouble, for occupying myself in my room for hours on end. The truth is, I was sad. I was lonely. I was teased and bullied. I didn’t get invited to parties. I never had boyfriends. I spent hours alone in my room with my dolls and when I got older, with homework and books.

With the advent of puberty, fed by hormones, the Beast within me grew. I experienced anxiety and panic attacks, some so severe that I had to be taken to the emergency room. I was always accused of taking drugs. I wasn’t, though I should have been. The Beast fed on every thought and emotion until it became so big, so powerful, that I could no longer see any light. Everything was darkness. The world was black. “It’s hormones,” they said. “You’re a teenager,” they said.

The Beast and I went off to college. I partied, made friends, had sex. I worked hard and got good grades, but the Beast was always there. It’d show up when I was drunk or rejected by a guy or didn’t score an “A” on an exam, it’s taunts bellowing in my head. So I worked harder, partied harder, added to the list of one-night stands. Then, I fell in love and subsequently went through a devastating breakup. The Beast consumed my emotions like a fire consumes oxygen, and soon I couldn’t breathe. It took over, screaming, crying, throwing things, and I watched, horrified.

You would think someone would have insisted I get help. The Beast went back into hiding so everything, once again, appeared normal. Hiding it became a daily focus. I hid it from my spouse, my family, my co-workers and my friends as best I could on a daily basis for years. It was exhausting work, hiding this Beast from the world, keeping its constant abuse to myself. With the exception of an occasional meltdown, I did it very well.

Life and circumstances change. There are events we can’t control, and often they snowball into a giant, tangled mess that, try as we might, we just can’t stuff down any longer. They feed the Beast that consumes us from the inside. We become simply a shell, a host for this monster that steals our joy with its constant abuse. We merely exist. There is hope, however. In my case, therapy and medication help me keep the Beast at bay, most of the time. There are days where it visits like an unwanted guest. My job is to make sure it doesn’t stay too long.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Electra-K-Vasileiadou


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

young woman smiling

When You're Afraid of Getting a Mental Illness Diagnosis

When writing about mental illnesses, the audience usually reads about what it’s like having a specific diagnosis. But I want to talk about what it’s like being undiagnosed because I am too scared to speak up. Nowadays, we hear all kinds of talk about ending the stigma, which is so important. Stigma towards mental illness [...]
A mask

How the Story of Purim Gained New Meaning for Me as a Psychiatric Survivor

Once upon a time, in an ancient kingdom, there was a vizier named Haman. Haman hated the Jewish people so much that he convinced the king to have every Jew in the kingdom killed. There was only one problem with the king’s plan: little did the king know that his wife, Queen Esther, happened to [...]
Woman with a umbrella on a dock

Coping With Life After Being in the Psychiatric Ward

There are so many stories and websites telling you how to cope when you’re actually admitted to a psychiatric ward or hospital. But there seems to be a big gap in support for when you leave. For some people, adjusting to life outside the ward can be just as, if not more, difficult than adjusting [...]
Friend comforting a crying friend sitting on a bench outside.

5 Things People With Mental Illness Wish You Understood

I feel that it’s lucky to find someone who is willing to be patient and understanding with your mental illness. Mental illness isn’t always easy to understand, so when our friends and family decide to be onboard, it’s a relief (and sometimes feels like a miracle). It’s hard however to explain every part of a [...]