People are hard for me. Trusting them. Interacting with them. Understanding them. And yet all these things that have so escaped me are things I have to do if I want to work, and pay the mortgage, and pay bills, and put food on the table, and so much more. And so I put on a mask.
I think most people who struggle with mental illnesses have a similar mask. A mask that isn’t quite human, but is a close enough facsimile. Sometimes the mask is a smile and a quick, “fine, how ‘bout you?” when someone asks “hows it going?” Sometimes the mask is biting your tongue to keep from screaming at the crushing sensation you feel when you’re trapped in a crowded situation. Sometimes it is a hidden bottle of booze to help numb the worst of it. Sometimes it is the ways we harm ourselves physically, hoping that the pain will reflect the struggle within.
We’ve all seen the horror flick with the villain in a mask that no one wants to see. But our mask is just the opposite. It is what we think everyone else wants to see. And by wearing this mask we voluntarily trap ourselves in our very own horror show, letting our demons fester while our mask hides how desperately we need help.
And our mask stays on as the darkness envelops us.
Our mask stays on as we smile and thank others for burying us deeper in the darkness.
Our masks stay on as we sink.
Our masks stay on because we’ve worn them so long they’ve burrowed into our skin. We’ve worn them so long that we have forgotten what it is like without the mask.
I want to take off the mask. I want to escape the horror show. And maybe someday I will. And people will see me and it’ll be okay. Maybe this blog is just the start, me peeking out from behind my mask hoping to see someone one else peeking out from behind theirs. Maybe someday the mask won’t be needed for any of us.
Maybe, but unfortunately that day is not today.