My office is letting employees wear their favorite football gear today, a tip of the hat to the start of the NFL season. So, I dug out an old football jersey and put it on because it is a lot more comfortable than the normal business casual attire I’m supposed to wear. And don’t get me wrong, I’ll be cheering on the Bears tonight like the rest of Chicagoland, but that doesn’t really matter as long as I have the right look.
Because so often it seems like that is all that matters, having the right look. There is no way for people to see the pain of my depressive episodes, or the rapid heartbeat of anxiety. And for so long I didn’t want them to see it, even if they could, so I hid it. Like a football jersey that helps you blend in, I put on a smile that I thought was passable, and told everyone everything was fine even when it wasn’t.
And I am so damn good at that look. That fake smile. The small talk. I put it on so often that after a while it started to get worn and faded. And then you feel like even more of an impostor. And you are terrified of going out without that “look.” And you want so much to be able to take it off and just be naked.
Okay, maybe this analogy has taken a wrong turn. I most definitely do not want to go out naked.
Except that I do. Because naked in this analogy is honest. It is being yourself. It is being vulnerable and letting someone else see you, scars and all, and letting yourself be accepted not because you the right “look” but because you have your look.
Mental illness is a terribly isolating disease, a reality that is made worse by the lies it whispers, telling you to just put on a fake smile because no one wants to hear about your demons, no one wants to see you, the real you, the broken you that you see when you look in the mirror. So you put on something that will help you blend in. And you hope no one sees past your disguise.
But like I said before, the best look is your look. And if you take anything away from this post, take away that.
Well, that and Go Bears!