2009 v 2019: A Story of Two Smiles

You may have noticed some people on social media posting photos of themselves from 2009 and 2019. I’ve commented on this before, but these 10-year challenges are an excellent chance to reflect. As such, here are my photos. 

 

Maybe it isn’t visible to anyone else, but behind those smiles I see very different stories. 

In 2009, I was just finishing college. This photo was taken at a reception held the night before graduation for the graduates and their friends and families. And behind my smile, I see the discomfort of someone with social anxiety being forced to interact with the world. I see the anxiety and fear and depression of my undiagnosed darkness and it still terrifies me that I ever let myself get to that dark of a place. The smile is a lie, a mask meant to make others feel better, but not me. 

Behind the most recent photo, I see someone much more comfortable in his own skin. This photo was taken as part of a series of family photos, and despite the social anxiety, this photo is me being surrounded by people I love. It is far more honest. The anxiety and depression are still there, and there are certainly days where smiling in the sunshine wouldn’t even be possible, but it is still worlds away from the smile I had in 2009. 

Sometimes the changes that occur from therapy and medication and from all the other management tools are too gradual to fully notice and appreciate them. But these 10-year challenges truly are worth a thousand words when it comes to recognizing how far you’ve come.

So if you get a chance, I encourage you to do this challenge too.

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