“I’m good…not great, but I’m okay.”
Are you really?
Well, no. I wasn’t.
But I didn’t want to worry anyone…didn’t want to bring them down with me.
Because that’s what we do, don’t we?
I wrote an article about it for The Mighty last September…about The Pretender Mask. The smile that hides the pain. The “I’m fine!” on days we definitely are not fine. The tough I’ve-got-this front when we’re falling apart inside.
About how I wasn’t wearing that mask any more to hide my illness.
So why do I still find that I’m wearing it at times?
Probably because at the time, I was thinking in terms of my “physical” illness. I’ve stuck to that one–I see no reason to hide it. But as much as I believe that many mental illnesses are often physical illnesses with a biological cause, and that they are every bit as important as physical illness…it seems I have trouble owning up during rough patches with depression and anxiety.
In other words, I keep finding myself behind the mask again…and again…and again.
Skimming the surface during some of my hardest moments…not wanting to worry people…not wanting to talk about it.
Not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed to be struggling, but because it’s harder to SEE them in action. Because…well, they hide. And they hide so well that I don’t always realize I’m in the Rabbit Hole until I start climbing out.
Depression and anxiety are champion Hide-and-Seek players.
I can feel my physical illness; there’s no way not to.
Physical pain day in and day out demands notice. Sometimes it demands so much notice that other things get ignored or go unseen. Sometimes those things just blend into the world of chronic illness so well because it seems completely normal to feel them when your illness gets the upper hand. Who wouldn’t be stressed and depressed?
I’m not saying this to make excuses. I’m saying it because depression is sneaky…and it lies. And sometimes it even hides itself from us by camouflaging itself as background noise until it starts making its own demands to be felt.
So I’m no longer saying I never wear my Pretender Mask. It feels like hypocrisy to say so when I realize I’m taking it off too often.
But I am saying that I’ll keep trying. I am saying that I’ll continue being transparent, even if it’s transparency after the fact.
Because my struggle is the struggle of so many of us…and if my struggle helps someone else feel less alone in theirs, it’s worth baring my not-so-pretty pieces of me.