“You wear a mask for so long you forget who you are underneath.”
“The saddest people smile the brightest!” Robin Williams
The Mask or ‘My Mask’ is something I have written and drawn about over the past few years. Before this I don’t even know if I even realised I was wearing one.
Since I have been poorly and more vocal about my mental health issues, I have had so many people message me saying,
“I never knew you were ill”
“How did I never know?”
“I’ve known you for years and I would never have guessed!”
“You always seem so happy, confident, chatty etc …”
Well this is precisely why I am talking about the mental health mask today. Just because someone is smiling doesn’t always mean they are happy. That smile may hide something.
Looking back I’ve worn a mask for as long as I can remember. It was my way of hiding the pain I was afraid to discuss or couldn’t understand. Putting on a mask became my way of coping. It became my way of making friends and fitting in. No one wants to be around someone who was miserable or had awful thoughts and feelings to discuss. The one always bringing the mood down or generally being a burden.
The more I developed my mask the more I gained. More friends, jobs, invites and even a husband!
I wore it so often I think I did actually forget who or what was underneath sometimes. There was a period of time were I wasn’t even taking my mask off when I got home. I would keep up the act right up until I got into bed at night. It was absolutely exhausting!
It got to the point were I wasn’t even wanting to spend anytime alone on my own at all. I was so scared of what I would discover about myself. What would I really be like? I didn’t even want to think about that!
Any time that I found myself alone I would make myself extremely busy! Cleaning the house top to bottom. Shopping. Cooking. Baking and always had the television on so there was no risk of any quiet time for me to think or to let my mind wander.
I have always said that I hate people that lie! I don’t understand why people can’t just be honest and deal with the consequences. It’s much better to be honest. It’s much easier to deal with the truth than a lie!
WHAT A BLOODY HYPOCRITE!
Yes I know, I know! But somehow It didn’t seem like lying. I was just ‘pretending’. And I was doing it for others as well. I was doing it to protect others and to ensure that I wasn’t being a burden to them or blighting their lives in a anyway.
Ok, it was lying!
Lies, lies and more lies.
My mental health mask was a lie. That smile hid so much pain (and sometimes still does) but it’s all I’ve know It was my defence mechanism.
I’m scared – Smile
I’m sad – Smile
I’m nervous/anxious – Smile
As long as I was getting through each day I was going to continue.
“I’m fine” became my safety blanket. It’s a blanket I still pull out now when I am struggling. I do try not to but hopefully now you may understand why I use my mask and why it’s so hard to drop. I don’t do it intentionally to deceive. It’s just my automatic response to being in hard, difficult situations. As I said before I have got better at being honest about the way I’m feeling but I know I still have a long long way to go. So please be gentle with me I am trying my hardest.
I hope I’ve shown that even those people who seem confident and happy might not always be. They might be hiding something much darker that they just don’t know how to deal with other than to hid it behind a smile.
I’m not ready to say goodbye to my mental health mask just yet but I certainly do spend most of my time without it.
Remember to be kind always. You never know who else might be wearing a mental health mask and what battles people might be facing.
Lots of love