The Cove is usually about light and silly matters…
But today, I decided to speak for you my friend. And for all of other nameless yous that might feel that need to come out of the closet, but can’t. And unfortunately, there are way too many men and women in this situation.
Wearing a mask.
Most people who have gone through, or are dealing with depression know about “the mask”.
I want to write, because before meeting you, I had never shared about my darker days with someone who knew what I was talking about. Someone who had lived what I had gone through. And it felt good to take off my mask for once.
I want to write, because I have that liberty, being anonymous here. You can’t, at least not yet, and I want to spread out the word, so others may recognize themselves and feel the relief I think we both felt, putting our masks on the table, and speaking openly.
Depression is a plague that comes with a complementary smiling mask. As soon as you start suffering, you put it on, and after a while, it is easier to keep it on than let it sit on your night table.
Personally, I consider that I have won the war against depression, but feelings are never quite as easy to deal with, even when you’re out of the dragon’s den. And my mask is always at arm’s lenght. And I still use it. Regularly.
Why? For so many reasons… But mainly, because it makes life easier. It is that simple.
Just try this simple trick one morning. When getting to the office, when the first co-worker you walk by asks you the casual “How are you doing?” Answer “Terrible…” leaving an open door to discuss your bad day. Guarantied instant uneasiness!
People are not comfortable with dark feelings, and usually don’t know how to deal with them. And I don’t blame anybody. Dealing with unexplainable pain is complex and confusing.
At the early stages of depression, you don’t even know how to deal with those bursts of weird unhappy feelings yourself, how could you discuss them with others? And, anyway, you truly beleive they will go away. And they do… Until they’re back in your face again. And you wear the mask, thinking that with a little rest, you’ll shake those blues away, and just forget about it.
As time goes on, and happy times are fewer and fewer, you get overwhelmed by the shadows creeping in the back of your head. Week after week, you wear your mask more and more, learning to lie not to spend useless energy on explanations. You lie to your co-workers, to your friends, to your family, to your better half.
You lie because you don’t want to hurt people. You know nothing they could do will change how you feel, and no matter how much they love you, they just can’t help. You lie because you don’t want to add making your loved ones worried to the burden you already carry. There is just no spare energy in your soul left to spend reassuring mom and dad. You lie because having people treat you normally is one of the last things you can hang on to. You fear that they’ll look at you as if you were an alien, which is not so far from the truth, or so you think!
You keep your mask on, because you know how ugly you have become underneath. You know how tired your face looks without your forced smile. You know the channels tears have carved on your cheeks, and how your eyes burn from crying…
And you just push it in, until the mask cracks up, and you have to come clean with the people closest to you.
I’ll pass on the recovery stage… Because it is a subject in itself, and because it must be so different from one person to another.
People think that once the mask has burst, there is no more lying.
Personally, I went back to lying as soon as I could. Because I hated seeing the sadness in the eyes of others. And mostly, because I hated the hush puppy pity looks. I don’t want people to worry on my behalf, and feel sorry for me.
I know how my fucked up (pardon my French) emotions, work. I know that from time to time, I still get hopeless and exhausted for no reason, and I allow myself to live those moments. I know they are temporary. But I can’t share them with people who never felt them.
Not because of a lack of trust. But people try to understand what I have accepted as unexplainable. To others, darkness will lead to darkness eventually, and I don’t need that kind of thinking around me.
So yes, I still wear my mask every once in a while… Not as often as I used to, and hopefully more than I will in a few years. I do it for my surounding and for myself. And it is not always easy.
When I fought depression, I lived by myself, which made things easier. If I needed to, I could hide home, close the blinds, and cry until I no longer had the energy to sob. Now, alone time is not as easy to get. I just have to work harder to keep the mask on, waiting for a chance to let the steam out.
If people knew what I sometimes hide behind a smile, they’d understand how surviving mental illness can make a person strong.
And I know how strong you also are, my friend. I know how hard you work to get through your own challenges. I know how you fight to protect your husband and your children from a shadow you wish they never experience. And how your love for them is so deep, that you’d prefer that they never truly understand you…
Because you have to live it to understand it.
And I wish to all of you out there, wearing a mask, to find someone like my friend. Someone you can tell when you’re having a rough day, who won’t ask “why?” but just comfort you, because he/she simply knows how it goes…
Sometimes… Under the mask…