“You have depression? But you are one of the happiest people that I know! That can’t be possible.”
Friends commonly blurted this out to me. Confused, I giggled nervously in response while trying to hide my confusion. How was it that my outside looked so much different than my inner feelings? Apparently the mask that I wore worked well. In fact, the optimistic, naive girl that I pretended to be kept not only others but also myself guessing my true identity. Pasting a smile on my face covered up the tears streaming down as I gazed at my image in the mirror. Brightly lit eyes drew away attention from red streaks on my arms. Everyone seemed fooled by my facade – even me.
A dear friend recently told me that she is tired of that mask. Pretending that everything is fine and dandy only can last for so long. Pretty soon, one loses the strength to fake it. This might motivate them to receive help or despair. Both responses have happened in my life. Restricting became my way of surrendering with the hope of eventually dying. At least that would end the pain. However, now I am turning to the difficult but hopeful journey of recovery. Starting to be honest instead of hiding behind a smile is still a daily struggle for me, but progress is made each moment that I choose to be authentic.
Yet, I feel my friend’s pain. Being at that place where you can no longer pretend is terrifying. Anything in the world seems easier than letting your guard down and allowing people to see the true you. Even worse, you do not even know what to expect. What if everyone hates you as much as you think that you will hate yourself? Suppose they want you to slap back on that smile and pretend life is all good.
The scary but blunt truth is that this might happen. People shy away from the messiness of others. I hate to say it, but it is my experience with many family members and friends. Sure, others love you. Yet sharing your deepest fears and pains scares them away. Suddenly, you are left alone and miserable with not even the mask to comfort you.
And yet, hope remains. Not everyone will leave you. Some will wipe the tears from your face and question the smile that you force to appear. Instead of awkwardly changing the subject, true friends will look you in the eyes and speak truth about your worth and inner beauty. Listening to you as well as speaking truth to calm your fears is how they will react to your problems.
Those who run away are dealing with their own issues. Honestly, they probably fear their own emotions as well as yours. Their hearts might be in the right place, but their inability to help you is not your fault. Please try to remember that.
Last night, friends stayed over at my house. After eating a home-cooked meal in front of them, my anxiety bubbled up inside although I stayed silent. Feelings of accomplishment and joy mixed with eating disorder and self-harm urges. Then, one of my friends asked me about the meal and mentioned how well I did despite the difficulty. In spite of the inner voices, I smiled genuinely.
Someone saw through my smile into my pain but stayed by my side. There is hope.