For this blog post, I thought up the name before the post. Usually, my posts veer off in numerous directions and then I try to pick a name that’s fitting. Tonight, I have a main idea: Pretending that I feel better than I do. Faking wellness.
Who doesn’t put on a face every once in a while? Most everyone has days when they roll out of bed wishing they didn’t have to go to work, take care of the house, do the chores and feed the kids or walk the dog. But, for me this disguise seems so ingrained in me that I never have let down my guard. A good example is I do not cry in therapy because I can’t. In public, all I know is how to mask my emotional pain. I live an outward life totally opposite of what I’m really feeling on the inside.
Depressed or not, I don’t go to the extreme of acting ecstatically happy because even when I’m not depressed I tend to be calm and flat lined, unless someone is satirical or tongue in cheek funny. I like sardonic humor and I can genuinely laugh at myself and others in that manner. So, when I’m depressed, as I am now, and feeling angry and hateful, I will “fake” it by doing what I normally do, without a visual difference. The sham of it seems to be only how I feel when I’m doing it. I’ve learned to hide my illness from everyone.
I’m back in touch with my best friend and we talk frequently on the phone. She always says “you sound really good today” and I’ve started to reply, “Well, I feel like crap.” I explain my depression has returned and life feels like it generally sucks. She says again “I wouldn’t know by the way you sound.”
So, am I so good at this disguise that even my best friend doesn’t know when I’m depressed? A resounding YES. Does my mother recognize my sadness? NO. How about my husband? Not really.
I want a glass of wine so fucking bad right now. It’s Friday and there’s nothing to do tomorrow except see Linda. AH, Linda. I must keep up my sobriety for one more day so when I see Linda in the morning I won’t be hung over. When she asks how my drinking is going I can honestly say, “I haven’t had a drink since last weekend.” I will see her, masquerading as a person that I am not. This is done purposefully and with intent. I want to look better than I feel. It is a pattern etched in stone.
Why am I trying to fake out the therapist? What’s my problem that I can’t be honest about my faults? What would happen if I drank tonight, arrived at Linda’s at 9am with dark circles under my eyes and a puffy face, from the alcohol and lack of a good night’s sleep? Who really cares? Why do I care so much?
I can only answer those questions by explaining my experience as a child who was sexually abused. I learned to hide problems. I kept up a good front for my family when I was little. I mastered the art of faking it. (Can I get a degree in that?)
In my family, no one had faults. So, how could I? Not one person in my extended family ever had a mental illness, or alcoholism or committed suicide. Seriously. The only problem I recall is my mom’s grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis and was bed ridden. (Today, my mom is 78 with the same arthritis and she is so flawless she won’t even get on pain meds). It was one fucking perfect family. Except for the big brother molesting the little sister. How unlucky am I that the little sister was me and that I am the first family member to ever have a mental problem? Or a drinking problem?
I don’t have a role model for how to be depressed so I’ve learned to pretend I’m not. I can get up every single morning and do what I have to. Even on my worst days, when I wish I were dead. I still go to work and do what’s expected of me. Once I was so sick I got to work and my boss sent me home because I looked so horrible. I had 2 babies without pain meds (because my mom had all four of hers that way, of course!) I look back with regret at times when I did what I had to in spite of myself. My actions are usually for the sake of someone else.
Just once, I wish I could take a day off because “mommy’s depressed.” I think the world would fall off its axis and life would come to a screeching halt.
What is keeping me from exposing the depth of my pain? The extent of my self-hate? Telling someone I fantasize about being dead? Admitting I want prescription meds for mental anguish, not physical pain relief?
The sad truth is even during times of deep depression the hat of a realist rests upon my head. I tell myself “Many depressive’s wish to die each night when they go to bed and look where it gets them?” I once told a therapist “I would never commit suicide because of the legacy it would leave to my nieces and nephews” (at the time I didn’t have children of my own). What kind of shit is that? Why am I so rational even in the throes of suicidal thoughts?
I can’t even invent images of my depression without a little voice whispering, “it’s all in your head so just get on with it.” Do what you have to. Keep faking it. ♥