Okay so you’ll never see me at the Oscars. You’re unlikely ever to see me perform on stage. Yet I act every single day. Every single second. I probably even act in my sleep. Giving a performance so realistic and award worthy that most people never see me. The me with depression and anxiety.
Hiding away my struggles with my mental health – my tears, how overwhelming sound can feel, the panics induced doing the simplest of things, the ever-present questioning of everything I say, do and am, my sheer bleakness and emptiness at times – well it’s easier. Pretending to be someone else, someone who is doing okay, is easier than admitting that I am broken. That sometimes I need help.
I act so you don’t see me. Because it is easier than dealing with other people. Easier than facing the prejudices directed at those of us unfortunate to live with an illness we have no control over having. Easier than seeing the looks of pity in the eyes of those we tell. The helplessness in the eyes of those who care. Easier than living with the guilt of hurting others with our inability to engage with them, with life. We don’t want to deal with what we see in your faces, in your actions.
So we act.
This acting is exhausting and it makes recovery that much more difficult. It takes energy already depleted simply facing each day. Energy that would find a far better use in finding how to accept and live with our mental health issues. Sometimes all you want to do is be honest, show the real you hidden under all the pretence. To be accepted.
But people don’t want the acting to stop. The pressure to appear ‘normal’ is immense. People don’t want the truth when they ask ‘how are you?’. They don’t want to hear anything other than the standard replies of ‘fine’ or ‘okay’. To say anything else feels like breaking an unspoken code. People either don’t want or know how to deal with the admission of mental health struggles. We have all suffered rejection or being let down by those we have been brave enough to let under the mask. And it hurts.
So we pretend. We get up, slip into character and act in a category none of us want to be winners in.
Photo from Pixabay