You see me with a smile and a joke, you see me making the most of tough circumstances, and you see me propping up others. In fact you often compliment me on how I have handled the circumstances that got me here and the saddest duty in life. You congratulate me on the work that I do professionally and as a volunteer and the influence it has. You tell me what a difference that makes, you tell me of the lives it has probably saved. You tell me you admire me. You see a dogged and determined person, you see me as a success.
Sometimes you see me wearing a mask.
Picking a mask
You don’t see me picking my mask…. slipping it on to present to the world. Picking a mask to protect, to hide, to conceal.
You don’t see the feeling of abject failure, you don’t see the pain that racks every joint of my body. You don’t see the weight sitting in my shoulders. You don’t see the fear that rests in my gut. You don’t see me struggling to enjoy little things in life. You don’t see my frustration and the effort it takes to do almost anything.
You don’t see the tears the well in private, the tears that wet my pillow as I drift off to sleep, or the hours of tear filled eyes watching the ceiling in the middle of the night. You don’t see the tears that accompany my solo drives.
Behind the Mask
All those things are currently lurking behind that mask that I choose to show you and the world.
The truth is that lurking behind the mask you see is the deep and dark shadow of depression. A shadow that is currently cast over everything.
It doesn’t matter how successful you may appear to be, depression does not discriminate.
I’m fortunate, my training and my history means I recognise depression for what it is…. I’m fortunate to have a wife and children that love me unconditionally. I’m fortunate that I know where to go for help. I’m fortunate that to some extent I know how to sit with my sadness.
I’m fortunate that I know that seeking help is important (as hard as it is to acknowledge that depression has a grip on you and to take that step).. I’m fortunate for a wife that guides in that direction. I’m fortunate that medication has a good effect on my depression. I’m fortunate for a lot of things.
You just never know what the person in front of you is dealing with behind the mask that they have chosen to wear for you that day. You don’t know what battle they might be facing in private. Be kind, be aware.
Know where to send people…..
Lifeline, Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute, SANE
Image Credit for this post Richard Jonkman