Hiding Behind A Smile

It has been a rough day. I cannot pinpoint exactly what triggered my anxiety, but I can tell you that it woke me up at 5:00 AM. Sweating and heart pounding, I sat up and didn’t know where I was. I felt around for my phone and turned the flashlight on. I was in my room. Safe. Okay, now what? Took my meds and eventually drifted off to sleep again.

It’s like having this dark, gloomy, rainy cloud that has followed me around all day. Everything else around me is covered in sunshine, except for me. I am completely exhausted and felt like a zombie walking around today. My body felt heavy, and my muscles ached. This is happening because I have been trying to hold myself together. To keep from crumbling. To keep my feet stable on the ground. I’ve spent most of the day under a weighted blanket, or in a sweater with the hood up. The feeling of being protected, or compact or together, helped me get through the day. I knew it would not take much to make the tears fall and they did. Half an hour earlier I posted a picture on my social media accounts of me smiling. But no one knew what was hiding behind it.

I was trying to keep it together. There is already so much going on, people are going through their own stuff, that I convinced myself no one had time for me and my feelings. And that’s when the tears began to fall.

At times, I feel like people avoid me because of my mental illnesses. That it is easier for them to avoid me than to see what I am dealing with. Especially because I have an invisible illness. I don’t want to frighten anyone with the symptoms of my illnesses, most of the time I just want someone to listen and talk to. To feel safe and welcome. My illnesses effect my brain and because of that it has an impact on everything I do. Good day or bad day, I live with clinical depression and an anxiety disorder. It sounds scary. Stigmas have made it harder for people like me to live openly with their diagnosis. Every time I share my story, I am allowing myself to be vulnerable and open to people’s thoughts and opinions, no matter what they may be.

Today, all I wanted was to feel wanted. (Yes, my parents and my sister make me feel wanted every day.) But today I needed more. I’ve struggled with negative self-talk, since I was a little girl. Today it was loud and obnoxious. It was ridiculous and none of it was true, but I let myself hear it and listen to it. You see because the people I would have turned to in the past, aren’t in my life anymore. And it’s something I am really struggling with. They were the people who knew everything about my illnesses. The good, the bad and the ugly. And finding people who accept you for you and ALL that comes with that is tough. They knew my triggers, when I needed a ear to listen to, or a distraction. But because these people aren’t in my life anymore, I am trying to do all of these things by myself. Yes, I feel empowered when I can accomplish things on my own, but when I need a helping hand or a kick in the butt and I don’t know where to go to get it, I crumble. Or that is what it feels like anyway. Some people might think it is ridiculous that all I want is to feel wanted, but when you live with mental illnesses, it can be the one thing that keeps you going on a bad day.

I’m not very good at hiding my emotions. My body language and facial expressions give me away within seconds. But because of having depression and anxiety I have taught myself how to hide behind a smile. It kind of sounds pathetic but people would rather hear about how good you’re doing instead of hearing about your struggles. Grin and bear it. Or you smile because if someone sees what is really going on, they may ask you how you are doing, and you just know that you will break down. You don’t want to open up the flood gates because you don’t know if you will be able to stop. This has happened to me more than once. It sucks when you have to blink away the tears before anyone sees them. Or you excuse yourself to go hide in the bathroom for 5 minutes and have a mini meltdown. Been there, done that too. If you smile people assume nothing is wrong. It can be such a toxic thing to do though. Hiding what is really going on. Hiding behind that smile can do more damage than anything else.

Today I felt anxious. I was quiet and withdrawn. Every part of my body is sore and achy. I cried off and on for at least 20 minutes. I reached out to a friend; the conversation didn’t go far because I didn’t want to pull them away from their own life stuff to bring them into my own life stuff. I hope that makes sense. I have this deepest fear of being a burden to friends and family. I apologize way too often for it. Yes, I apologize for being me, and all that comes with me. Is it ridiculous that I do this? Yes. Do I realize how silly it sounds? Yes. Do I continue to do it? Also, yes. Do I hide behind a smile? Yes, again. Do I realize how silly that sounds too? Also, yes again.

So, if you’re reading this and have ever hidden behind a smile, I 100% get it. It’s not as easy as it sounds and can be exhausting. Here I am, making this declaration that I am really going to work on NOT hiding behind a super cheesy and fake smile.

Instead, I am going to let me be me. 100% authentic.

h.

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