Throughout my life I have suffered with depression. I remember the first time I really felt depressed I was about 10 years old in 5th grade. I was sitting on the swing set, I had quit playing with my friends at recess, and I and just couldn’t find the joy in anything anymore. Despite this though, no one knew anything was wrong with me. I was attending a Math, Science, Technology Magnet school, I had amazing grades, participated in extracurricular activities, and overall I appeared to be very social within the classroom. This continued throughout middle school and high school for the most part.
While a few people new about my severe depression and during my senior year of high school it did begin to show quite clearly to a few teachers, for the most part it stayed well hidden. For those of us with mental illness – we are pretty good at hiding our feelings. We wear what many of us refer to as a mask.
We cover up our emotions. We don’t let anyone see how we really feel. We are afraid of letting people in for so many reasons. Or I have been anyway. I have been afraid of how people would react. I was afraid people would leave me and not want to be my friend. I was afraid people would think I was crazy because of the stigma. I was afraid people would not want to help me and yet I was also afraid people would overreact to how I was feeling. I didn’t want people to see how vulnerable I was. I didn’t want people to know how hurt I was feeling either just because I felt like I needed to be strong and I had a personal stigma that being depressed meant I was weak.
I finally had to take the mask off though. I needed help and I had to just let me emotions out. It was the most freeing thing ever! Wearing a mask is a coping skill. In some ways, it can be a health coping skill. But it is not a healthy one when it is done all the time. If it is done all the time, then you avoid feeling your true emotions and avoid letting people in to help you. I had to learn new coping skills so I could take off my mask. I had to learn how to accept my feelings and ask for help. I had to learn to express my emotions in new ways. I am still working on that quite honestly. And I am still working on asking for help. I still do wear a mask a lot, but not all the time. I only wear it in front of certain people where I know it is healthy for me because of certain reactions I might receive. But for others, when I know I am in a safe place, I know I do not need to wear the mask. Taking off the mask allows me to face my challenges without a barrier.
I found this picture on http://satprayana.blogspot.com/