Pain. We live in a world where we are expected to hide it. It’s not ok to be not ok. Several weeks have passed now. People tend to withdraw sympathy as time moves on. Sympathy moves on and they want you to also move on. To be ok, to live and mirror their own happiness or whatever is happening for them in their lives. Whatever they want from you, your own pain needs to be put away. You need to move on from it because others tell you to, often long before we are ready.
Once you show your mask, that is the version of you that they expect to show up the next day. There is no going back to the truth.
I masked too hard this week. My eyes are broken from tears and fatigue. Literally. They are swollen to the extent that there’s a daily rigmarole of hot compresses, eye drops and ointments. Then, the outer world. Makeup and fake-up - a pretend smile. Pushing on, playing and pretending because it’s easier at the time. It’s easier to pretend everything is ok when we live in a world of judgement. Someone else’s pain is always going to be greater or more profound. I know where this goes. Too many of us have to hide our inner realities, be it with friends, family, in the workplace, or even on social media.
There have been times this week when I’ve been awake in the night, the usual panic attacks and not-so-usual wake-up times. Writing obscure poetry and prose in an attempt to get some of this stuff out without giving it all away. Shaking and juddering through the day. Coming away from the world at the end of it completely hazed. It’s an expectation. Don’t give too much away, be professional, be normal, pretend and everything will be fine - wasn’t that what that study said yesterday? Suppress it. Pretend. Let them think that we are ok.
Let's not begin to go into depth about the online world, we'd be here all day. But that's a problem also. So much emphasis upon creating a pristine digital identity, 'don't do this', 'make sure you come across like that'. It's yet another realm of life where we are being instructed to mask our raw, true selves. Sometimes, we don't want to be a carefully curated brand or a digital commodity to be 'liked', followed and engaged with. When in pain, we often just want to be real.
That said, I am all for personal privacy. Someone I love deeply taught me the value of that. I truly believe that it is safer to keep some things back. But that doesn’t mean that we should all have to keep masking to this extent. Because masking this much pain, and pretending to be happy is not making us happy. It’s leaving us with one of two options. The first being speaking out, at the risk of oversharing and making ourselves more vulnerable. The second, completely burning out after weeks or more of pretending to be ok.
So, then why should we blame others? After all, if we give them the signal that we are ok then what else are they to think and do. It isn't down to them, right? This is the official line, but the reality is that if we do unmask and tell the world that we are not ok, then the likelihood of being criticised, compared to more serious stories of pain, or simply being ignored becomes more likely. The truth is, we cannot unmask because there are some types of pain that we don’t want to be judged. Judge my depression, my lows and my blues, because that’s my own and I’ll fight back all of the way on it. But this time, this pain is not for others to judge. It’s too personal. I’m sure that we all know that kind of pain.
I guess the parting question then, is how do we unmask in a healthy way? Somewhere between a chronic overshare, and saying nothing? Imagine that. Being able to say, I’m not ok but I don’t want to go into detail. Imagine saying that very thing and it truly being accepted? Imagine not being compared to others, just having compassion without judgement and measuring contests. Honestly, I know that I sound like a crap version of John Lennon but it’s true. How do we find that balance without the comeback?
I don’t know the answer, but what I do know is that people think we’re ok because of our masks. The same veils that make us perform pseudo versions of ourselves. The masks that were given to us by the same society that attacks us without them. Masks that make people think we are ok, because it’s easier.
So, that’s why I have written this today. Because if there is anywhere I can be honest, it is here on my blog. And the truth is that right now, I am not ok. I just wish that there was a greater understanding of the things that cause us to pretend that we are. Because my eyes really f**king hurt (literally), and I could do with unmasking for a while.