I was out to dinner with a friend of mine Monday evening. He broke ice by saying he never knew I was a blogger. Well, honestly, how many blogs does it take to be considered an official blogger… five, ten, twenty-eight, ninety-six? Anyways, he had read my second post and started giving me feedback. He then began to say that he would have never guessed that I was the type of person that experienced any mental health challenges. He then said, “its like you’re wearing this mask. You wear it well.”
I’ll agree with him. Truth is I probably have many masks that I’m not even aware that I have on most of the time. I don’t wear these masks all the time. No. They’re for special occasions like going to the grocery store, meetings at work, or when I interacting people outside of my immediate circle. I put a mask on when I feel threatened. I put one on when I feel ashamed or embarrassed. Sometimes I’ll wear one to hide; to just disappear when I feel ignored, awkward or out-of-place.
Above all, a mask is worn to survive. That’s right: SURVIVAL. It’s a coping skill we learned in order to deal with the threats and ambiguities of life. It’s a way to cover up the damage that was dealt to the individual and any residual scaring. For me, wearing a mask helps me get through the inner turmoil that certain social situations create for me. Its been a keystone for keeping the alert and alarm of others down when I’m really freaking out inside. “I’m OK, everybody! Don’t mind me! Carry on!”
These past couple months I’ve really been letting my guard down. Which is good in the sense that I’ve been slowly starting to show how I really feel and opening up to people who I’m close to. I’m very lucky to have my wife at my side supporting me. She’s become my rock. More and more I’m putting the masks away when I’m with her. PROGRESS! Just last Wednesday I drove up from Vermont. I was not doing well. Therapy was hard that day. I walked in the house and didn’t even bother pretending I was fine. I let my sorrow shine. No fear, just raw emotion. My body was showing all the warning signs of “I am NOT doing well.” I felt terrible, but it was a step in the right direction. I opened up to my wife a bit. A friend of our’s was there too, a good friend, so I didn’t feel it necessary to pull out the “guest mask” for the night. The three of us went for a walk around the block. Movement and a change of scenery are great combinations.
I felt better as we made our way back to the house after our short promenade. I had got some things off my chest. It felt good. I saved the more intimate pieces for my wife later on in the week. The shadow that had been following me was fading away in the distance. There’s always some sort of shadow nipping at my heels. I’m used to it.
Its been baby steps for me and it should be for you too. As terrifying as it may be to show your true, damaged, and vulnerable self, it can really be therapeutic. The outcome may surprise you. Perhaps something that scared the daylights out of you may turn out to be not as intimidating as you thought. Maybe a person you’ve always been leery of opening up to might turn out to be that rock you’ve always needed.
What sort of masks do you wear?