Joint Base Charleston


The monster under your bed

By Chief Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes | 437th Airlift Wing command chief | June 25, 2014

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- I was cruising down I-26 the other day and a song came on the radio that immediately caught my attention. The song had a groovy beat and my head swayed rhythmically side to side. Most of the time I am oblivious to the lyrics but this song was different; the words really grabbed me.

It turns out the song is by Eminem and if I give you the chorus, chances are you will know the rest:

"I'm friends with the monster that's under my bed
Get along with the voices inside of my head
You're trying to save me stop holding your breath
And you think I'm crazy
Yeah, you think I'm crazy
Well, that's nothing"

After listening to the whole song I thought, dude, you're not crazy. You're not alone. I know exactly what you're talking about. I've got a monster under my bed and I hear voices inside my head. There are times when I'm pretty certain other people think I am crazy too.

Oh boy, now I've gone and done it; talking all crazy about monsters and voices. I can hear the questions ... Chief are you alright, do you need to talk to someone? Do you really hear voices? What do the voices say? Which one do you hear most often? How do you deal with the monster? Chief, why you acting so cray cray (cray cray means crazy for those folks who are not up to speed on the cartoon Gravity Falls)?

Holy smokes that's a lot of questions and I am not certain I can answer them all to your satisfaction. None the less, I will do my best.

The voices inside of my head are a motley bunch. I have heard them for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, the voices antagonized, tormented, and sought to control the monster under my bed. The voices seized any opportunity to yank furiously on any loose string as if my monster was their puppet and they were the puppet master.

Every once in awhile the voices whipped themselves up into a frenzy and my mind would erupt into pure pandemonium; all the voices raged simultaneously at the top of their lungs and made such a loud cacophony of noise that I couldn't even think straight. Some of the voices I heard were Failure, Fear, Success, Abandonment, Rejection, Love, Happiness, Death, Commitment, Self-Doubt, and Regret. Those weren't all of the voices inside my head but they are a pretty good representation. Do you hear the same voices? Has this or does this happen to you?

I have tried to deal with the voices in lots of different ways over the years. I've tried to ignore them, run away from them, argue with them, and drown them out. There was a time when I used to watch the sprinklers go around in circles. The rhythmic sound and motion of the sprinklers was mesmerizing and my wife would find me, still in my uniform, standing in the front yard lost in my own private Idaho. I tried stress reduction techniques and also spent some time looking at the bottom of beer bottles. Running, ignoring, and avoiding did not make the voices go away.

When none of those avenues brought resolution, I sought out professional help. I went to personal counseling. Yes really, with Mental Health. No, it obviously did not ruin my career. Yes, it was difficult to walk thru the door the first time but it got easier and was a real eye opener. Additionally, I took a psychology class and read lots of books and medical studies about the inner workings of human emotion, personality, and emotional intelligence. Both counseling and education helped me understand the different voices inside of my head and how they influenced the monster under my bed.

I would say the most important thing I did was make peace with the monster under my bed. I took ownership ... it was no longer the monster under my bed, it was my monster. This was the start of a great awakening. I came to the realization that the monster was my inner self. Not the person on public display that may or may not be a reflection of other people's perception, but who I was at my core. I chose to no longer live in the perceptual world ... perception is not reality. This allowed me to develop a very strong friendship with my monster. My monster can be aloof, stubborn, and eccentric ... I can live with those quirks.

This doesn't mean I think I'm perfect in any way shape or form; it just means I am comfortable in my own skin. It also doesn't mean I don't still hear voices. It just means that I understand the voices and they no longer control my monster.

So if you're hearing voices inside your head and they are really tormenting the monster under your bed, you are not alone. You're not crazy and maybe I am trying to save you. I won't stop holding my breath because there are many things you can do and several avenues you can take. Getting help will not ruin your life or career. Likewise, if you see someone who is struggling with voices and monsters, don't be afraid to reach out. With one simple act of kindness you can change someone's life and that alone is worth living for.

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