I have a friend who is gorgeous, tall, svelte, and talented. She’s always fashionably dressed, has great hair, is good at her work, and fun to be around. Basically she’s perfect.
As we became closer I began to notice that she didn’t feel perfect. She felt shunned by a few co-workers, pressured by her managers, and wasn’t enjoying our work environment. Everyone has these experiences so it made her more human to me. Yet she still looked pretty perfect and I loved being around her and her light.
Recently we went out for lunch. It was one of those catch-up ones where you try to condense four months of living into one hour. Near the end she asked, “How do you do it? You’re always upbeat and you’ve got your stuff together.”
I laughed and said to her, “It’s the drugs.”
My laughing remark became serious as I saw the effect it had on her. Then I had to confess. I told her it’s a lot of therapy and occasionally a pill I’ve been prescribed to help me let go of the anxiety and focus on the lessons learnt in therapy. I told her I adore the psychologist I work with. That her goal on day one was to see less of me and give me the tools to fight my anxiety on my own. I told her I went from multiple sessions a week to visiting my psychologist a few times a year when my tools need sharpening. I offered to send my friend her contact information.
Then it was her turn. She told me she’s been suffering with body dysmorphic disorder since her early teens. Everyone compliments her body, her style, her life, but she feels that she’s barely hanging on. She’s in a committed relationship but confessed , “He didn’t fall in love with me. He fell in love with the girl I pretended to be, not some sick woman.”
Listening to her I knew how she felt. The gift of mental illness is that we can wear a mask so beautiful that it fools the world. So people look at us and think,”She has it all!”
To be honest, I usually don’t mind people thinking that. Today I’m clear so I can see that I have a lot. Can I improve? Yes! What’s the point of life if you can’t improve and learn and grow. Does this room for growth mean that I’m rather incompetent and only making it through by faking it? Not at all.
On days when I’m less clear it comes crashing down. Every mistake is an emergency failure. I’m not really successful I’m just some talented fraud who will be found out at any moment.
I know I’m not alone and unfortunately my friend was honestly hoping for a secret that could help her. Some trick I’ve got to great mental health. My only trick, which has come from therapy, is to attempt to recognize when I’m engaging in distorted thinking and immerse myself in the truth.
The mask I mentioned, well it’s interesting. As we’re busy fooling the world, we’re also fooling ourselves. We really are the strong, fashionable, smart women we’re pretending to be, but the masks are on firmly. When when we take them off we don’t recognize that the faces in the mirror are even more beautiful. The faces behind the masks are everything in the masks, but so much more. The face have seen darkness, survived, and continue to battle. We are warriors.
youmeanme is the pen name of a millennial blogger who is blogging her journey out of debt on Saving without Scrimping. She has been battling anxiety and depression for the last twenty years and is learning to cherish each day as a victory.
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