Mask of Lies

On the outside I’m smiling and laughing with my friends, but on the inside I am falling apart. However, most of the time no one has any idea that I’m panicking. All they see is a happy face, maybe a little fidgety or drowsy, but nothing out of the ordinary. My impressive acting skills get me through school in one piece, but I feel like the biggest fake on planet earth.

It isn’t uncommon for me to have panic attacks in class, but no one notices since it doesn’t involve me crying or hyperventilating (most of the time at least). At school I go to great efforts to keep the panic attacks internal to avoid drawing attention to myself. I am pretty successful, but the fact that no one realizes I on the brink of completely falling apart makes me feel very alone.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been in class holding back tears. Anything can set me off, a test, quiz, homework assignment, etc. One awful day I was holding back tears for two hours straight (it was awful) and no one had a clue. I probably looked pretty out of it, but I was able to brush it off as just being tired.

Society expects people to keep it together in public, and those who don’t get judged. Since I have a huge fear of judgement (social anxiety strikes again), I am going to do everything in my power to not cry in public. I even go as far as to try not to show my emotions in public, but enough leaks out so that I don’t seem like a robot.

I envy those who can express their feelings freely. I want so badly to be able to do that, but even with close friends it’s a struggle. Putting what I am feeling into words is difficult for me, since there are no words to describe the all consuming fear I feel a lot of the day. How do you explain that on an average day it’s not uncommon to have only really felt fear the entire day? How am I supposed to say that I can’t remember I time when I didn’t feel at least a little fear? When I’m at school, a high stress situation for me, talking about what I’m feeling gets even harder. I am not about to try to talk about things when I need all of my energy focused on not having a breakdown.

Whenever I do share some of my feeling, I feel like most people don’t think I’m serious. Since they don’t see me crying or having a panic attack they kind of assume that it must not be that bad. Why would I over exaggerate? If I wanted attention, I would get a lot more of it if I actually cried in front of people, but I don’t. I also tend to use humor to cope with what I’m going through, which also probably gives people the impression that it really isn’t all that hard. For me, sometimes humor is the only way I can bring up certain things that happened because they are so anxiety provoking. Also, joking limits the number of sympathy responses I get, which is good since they get old really fast.

This is a slight detour from my point, but if someone is talking about their mental illness or disability or something like that, they probably don’t want sympathy. It is not a good feeling to be looked at like you’re a cold and wet lost dog. I, and most people struggling, just want to be able to vent. We want someone to ask questions, and actually take interest in the inner life that others don’t see. Talking things out with people can really go a long ways.

In addition to all of the ways I already struggle to voice my feelings, I also don’t want to burden people. I know that other people go through hard things in their life, and they shouldn’t have to deal with all of my feelings as well. Some of my friends are very happy and optimistic, and I feel like a horrible and pessimistic person whenever I mention something hard in my life.

I also don’t want to tell someone about what I’m feeling if they don’t want to hear it. People are nice and say that they are always willing to listen, but I know at least some of them just say that because it is an expectation of being a nice person. They don’t actually want to deal with it; they don’t want to be mean. I really don’t want to burden those people because I understand not wanting more stuff to deal with, but I have no way to identify them. They say the same things as those who actually care. Therefore, I try not to share too much with someone at any given time.

My struggles put strain on my relationships with people, and I really don’t want to lose a friend because they get fed up with me talking about what I’m going through too much. I could talk about it for hours and hours since it’s such a huge part of my life. However, most of my friends would probably avoid me because they wouldn’t want to deal with that, and I don’t blame them.

I’ve worn a mask for years, and because of that I worry that people became friends with the mask, not the real me. So, by talking about what’s under the mask, people could easily realize that I’m not what they thought I am or want me to be. I don’t have many good friends, so I really don’t want to risk losing them, even though I feel like I’m making the friendship a lie.

While I want to keep my friends, I also know that being me is much more important. Besides, if someone doesn’t stay friends with me because I talk about personal issues, then they weren’t really my friend. I know that I have at least one friend that will always support me, and I need to accept that the others might not and move on, potentially having to find some new friends. Having mental illness in not something to be ashamed of and hid, and I am working to the day when I can let my feelings fully out.