I know this post is coming late in the day, but I really meant to write it earlier – then I threw out my back and have been lying down for quite a while since….anyway, this is what I wanted to talk about today…
Today is Mental Health Awareness Day and because I promised to do the October 2012 NaNoBloPo and didn’t even start it, I wanted to use this post to honor the blogging challenge even thought will not be taking part after all. The October topic was “Masks” – now this can be understood in so many ways, but I wanted to discuss the masks I have worn in the past and in the present day, specifically to hide my mental illness from others.
About twelve years ago was the first time my mask failed and exposed my illness to the world. I didn’t even believe it myself, to the point that I allowed my rage to let me quit finding the path to wellness. Perhaps the mask never quite fell apart then, because I never truly believed I had a problem until years later – only after years and years of abusing myself and those close to me…or perhaps it worked so well that it hid the truth of myself from me….
I did not believe I had donned another mask after that – a new mask of denial that kept me from e rage and depression because I had decided that ere was no way I could not manage my condition. I was doing so well – I had a life that was going the way I wanted, my relationships with my family were on the mend….why would I be depressed or anxious?
Then, earlier this year, the beautiful, perfectly smooth and clean mask I had been wearing for a decade or more shattered. I had believed that I was strong enough to be 100% on my own, yet when my husband left for the UK and all the conference blogging buddies returned to their lives, the mask began cracking, revealing the raw, untouched reality beneath it.
Masks are funny things, though. Pride continually creates them – and because I was exposed, I created another type of mask, one not to protect me from my reality, but rather to protect you, my loved ones from it. If you called I would smile and say I was fine. On Skype with my husband I acted as if life was so good. I told no one that the reality was that I was really falling apart. I told no one that I would get dressed in the morning, sit staring at the front door for an hour, undress and jump back in bed for the fear of crossing the threshold to the outside world. I told no one at the only time I could leave the house was late at night when no one was on the road, and when someone did happen to pass by, I would flinch away as if their mere presence gave me third degree burns. I lied to others and myself about my inability to sleep, my constant rocking and crying, the body pains and fear that enveloped me every second of every day….the fear of nothing and everything.
I thought this mask was so real and so good that no one could tell, but I am sure now that it was really just me blindfolding myself. Why did I do this? Well, I guess partially because I did not want to admit I was “this weak”, partially because I did not want others to see my weakness. Partially because if I did admit it, then what would society say? It would be failing – worse than before because I let it happen a second time and I should have been strong or sane enough to have dealt wi it the first time.
Well I couldn’t exist with is mask over my face anymore – either I outgrew it or it shrunk, but either way, it fell off and I saw me – possibly for the first time. I no longer cared if society judged me, I no longer cared nor believed that I was “weak” …. Instead I accepted this “flaw”, sought help and am noticing that my true face is not scarred and bloody and disgusting as I previously thought it was, but instead it is a face of beauty and strength and character – one that cites me to get to know it better – and I urge you to get to know it better too.
My point is not really to tell you about the many masks that I have worn and that I still do wear, nor to boast that I believe through continuous work on myself that my mask of denial and shame about my mental illness. My point is I want to point out that we all wear masks. Yes, you who are reading is and feeling sorry or pity or disgust or pride or love for me because of this log, you are wearing a mask. It may or may not be the same masks that I wear, but it is a mask formed and created by society, family and cultural traditions and others’ expectations that prevent the beautiful real you from emerging and smiling at the sun.
So, to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Day, I would love if you do yourself this favor. Go sit in a cool, dark, silent room by yourself and remove all the masks that have been forced onto you in one way or another. Don’t be afraid of what is underneath. It may not be pretty – it may be anger, grief, hurt….but once you face those challenges head on, imagine how good it would feel to just…..be…..and to be content with who you are when you are and how you are with no pretense – even for just a moment.
So I urge you, find your happy today, even for five minutes all alone. Find your happy everyday and try to embrace it and be true to yourself. Remove your masks and reveal the true beauty underneath.