The blinds are shut. The phone is on silent. There’s no food in the fridge. Dishes are piled. Laundry is all over the floor. Headphones are in. The lights are off. Mail is unopened. Fast food wrappers are hidden. Hair is up. Makeup is faint. The smile is fake. Cue the disappearing act . But why?
It started happening over normal growing up stuff. Like taking a math test. Walking through the mall. Gaining weight. Moving somewhere new. Important people fading out of life. Not making the starting team. Trying on clothes in the dressing room. Being compared to other people. Competition. Not getting asked out. A friend being mean…
One disappointment or failure after another was swallowed and the cycle began. Crocodile tears became annoying and noticeable. The tears turned into frowns. Frowns made people ask what was wrong. The frown turned into eating junk or not eating at all. Different food patterns made people ask what was wrong. The food patterns were hidden and worked off at the gym or through laxatives. People noticed the weight loss or gain. Yoyo weight turned into sleeping too much or staying up all night. People asked about sleeping patterns. Sleeping patterns turned into “feeling tired” or “being sick” or “feeling creative”. People asked about how I was feeling. Feelings turned into a smile. Everything eventually turned into a smile. No one asked about a smile. Checkmate.
Hiding mental illness is quite the creative and manipulative process. It’s the balance of appearing “fine” to others and being what you really are behind closed doors. I started this balancing act at the age of 8 years old and maybe even earlier than that… The patterns came in waves. Some longer than others. I learned that when one thing started to show that something was wrong and I had to change it up. I adapted and molded into something else quickly so no one would notice. I never wanted anyone to know anything was wrong. I didn’t want anyone to worry or feel the need to help me. I felt like a bother. I felt annoying. Or, completely out of my mind. Until, I didn’t feel anything at all. I became comfortable with being a chameleon and no one really knowing me well enough to know my unhappy parts. And, that is when it became dangerous.
I kept up the act all through high school and then college came… It started to show. Things started to be brought into the daylight. People knew. I took more drastic measures. And, that is when it became even more dangerous. I still didn’t want people to know. So…I changed my environment completely. I changed my whole life over and over. Location. Friends. School. Jobs. Phone numbers. Social media accounts. Cue the disappearing act. Again. And again. And again. And again…
It’s been 10 years of adulthood now. Ten whole years of changing every year or every other year. Never staying somewhere long enough to get close to anyone. Or getting close to people and then leaving because they would eventually learn about my unhappy parts and I couldn’t handle that. I continued to change, disappear, and recreate to just do it all over again seven months to a year later. I’m now at my eighth month at my current job. Everything in my being is telling me to begin my process of changing again, but I’m tired. I’m tired of the smiling mask. I realize that the pattern will continue until I fight back.
SO tonight, I’m taking off my mask again. This is my truth. This is my brokenness. I suffer from severe depression with suicidal ideations. I think about dying a lot. I suffer from anxiety that keeps me from going places, seeing people, or to life events. I suffer from disordered eating patterns–either binge eating, restrictive eating, or over-exercising. I suffer from past trauma. Sometimes all I do is go to work, sleep, freak out, and not leave my apartment or see anyone for months at a time. When I’m going through a spell of depression or anxiety, I shut people out, because I don’t want anyone to see me or remember me that way. I am stating this not for a reaction or pity, but to shed light on the fact that there are people around us that are putting on an act, being chameleons, and masking their mental illness. That is scary. All it takes is one weak moment and the right amount of loneliness for a person to end their life. I’ve been there. So, I am taking off my smiling, “I’m fine” mask in hopes that other people, who are suffering in silence, will do the same.
I am not perfect. I am not smiley all the time. I do not have my sh*t together. I am just like you, Carol. Human. I happen to have mental illnesses that take over my entire existence sometimes, but that is also not who I am as an individual. I am not defined by the darkness that takes over my mind and body. I am a light. I am caring. I am passionate. I am funny. I am creative. I am intelligent. I am loved. I am the daughter of a King. The devil keeps trying to kill me, but I will not die until God says so! Not today satan!
Take off your mask. The world and social media needs you to be real and messy. Enough with the fake smiles or running or disappearing or bitterness or whatever your “brand” of chameleon is. Be truthful. Ask for help. Let the people that care about you into your brokenness. Believe it or not, they actually want to be there for you…if you let them. I am praying for the both of us to get the hell out of this darkness! And if you’ve been asking God or whoever you talk to for a sign to reach out and get help, HERE IT IS!
God reminded me the other day that no matter how dark it gets, we do have the power and the choice to turn our light back on. It’s time. Turn your light back on.
Brave ones who reach out for help, you are my hero! Please remember, some people may not understand what you’re going through and they may reject you or tell you that nothing is wrong with you… I want to tell you from one mental illness fighter to another that YOU know you best. Know your truth and stand firm. If someone rejects you or makes you feel worse for asking for help, give me their address and their phone number. Just kidding. Seriously, if someone doesn’t understand what you’re going through in your inner circle of people, it’s okay they just don’t get it. You don’t have to shove them out of your life, but it’s probably best to seek other support systems for help right now.
Some ideas on where to get help:
- The back of your insurance card has “behavioral health” information on it–call them and find some help.
- Go to a local church and ask to speak to the pastor.
- Google something about counseling or mental health help in your area. You are not alone and there are other people out there that want to help you! You got this. One step at a time.
- PRAY. God is with you all the time.
- If you’re in a serious emergency or feeling suicidal, call 911. Get help right away.
Alright, I have to go clean up all the guts I just spilled out over this post. See I’m quite punny. HAHA. But seriously, I love ya and you’re not alone. I’m just as weird and messed up as you. We got this. Darkness and all.
SHINE ON! 🙂