I keep quiet about the pain because if I reveal the truth, people will judge me. I fear the stigma that will exist once someone sees the me – the real me. I don’t want other people to view me differently, to recognize how dark my shadows can run, to know how lost and alone I often feel. I say I’m fine when I’m not, and I put on the smile. But behind the mask of happiness that I wear on the surface, I have spent years struggling with mental health challenges.
The irony of this whole charade is that I now know that countless people around me and around all of us are just pretending that they are okay, too, even when they are clawing to just hold on. Every single time that I write about depression, multiple individuals post comments or send me messages telling me how they feel the same way but don’t talk about it.
We stay silent in an effort to maintain a facade that allows us to assimilate with society. We want to blend into a world full of people, but those same people are playing that “fake it till you make it” game, too. I’m not suggesting that you display every colorful detail of your life for all to see. More to the point – don’t do that. Big time no to that. Your whole story should not be the world’s business. But you should be able to be honest with people whom you trust. You need a genuine support network, and I guarantee you that they need you more than they are saying, too.
I don’t typically delve into my personal experiences with depression, anxiety, or OCD nor do I discuss my sadness regarding people who lose their lives to suicide or my own survival stories. The nightmare stories of my personal mental health challenges aren’t conversations I would ever have at work nor would I bring those topics up casually or at random with anyone else. I am selective about my audience for those kinds of discussions. Admittedly in this moment my selective audience consists of the entire internet, but the odds are high that you can relate to my words if you are still reading. In truth, the odds are high that almost everyone can relate.
Life can be a seriously rough ride at times, and we don’t always know how to react or even how to feel. We don’t receive a “How to be a Human the Right Way” when we are born, but we spend our lives trying to figure out what that even means. There’s no set answer, life is not black and white, and every person you know has struggled with mental health in one form or another at some point in his or her life.
We need to accept that it is okay to not be okay all the time. We can’t keep pretending like nothing is wrong when we need help. We have to speak up, and we need to be honest with each other. The day you reveal your struggles to others is the day that you will discover that you are anything but alone in this.
So even though I do fear the stigma, the judgement, and the misunderstandings, I know that I can’t live my life hiding the person I really am – good or bad, dark or light. I fall down, but I get back up, too. I sometimes feel like I’m drowning, but I know that I will find my way back to the surface again. My lowest points have been the most revealing moments in my life, and while I would not wish those experiences on anyone else, I wouldn’t eradicate them from my personal history either.
Own all parts of your journey. Learn from the falls whenever you find your way back to your feet once more. Search for the meaning in the madness and the calm in the storm. Discover that brave voice within you, and speak up when you can. And if you can’t find a safe place to speak your truth, I’m always happy to listen. Others have been lighthouses to me in my darkest times. I would love to be yours in return.
Much love to you. Jo
*Thank you Janie at https://authentically50.wordpress.com/2018/06/27/7-day-bw-photo-challenge-day-four/ for tagging me to participate in the 7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge (7 days / 7 b&w photos / no people / no explanation / challenge a new person daily)
For day 3 of the challenge, I am tagging my incredible friend and wildly talented artist Lisa at https://playamart.wordpress.com/. The reality is that I have no expectation that Lisa will be available to do the challenge because she eat, sleeps and breathes art and frankly has a million other bigger things happening at this point in her life. However the reason I am tagging her specifically on this post is that Lisa has been an amazing lighthouse in my life for many years. I was blessed to meet Lisa when I first began to write years ago, and I am immeasurably grateful for the light she continues to bestow on my world today. Thank you for your endless kindness and wisdom dear friend!
**The photo above was inspired by Cee’s Black & White Photography Challenge specific to birds. I have become an avid (but absolutely still learning) bird photographer and will frequently use those shots in my posts. Thank you so very much to Cee at https://ceenphotography.com/ for the lovely bird photographs that you shared as well as the beautiful inspiration you gave me! 🙂