The other day I was chatting with one of my coworkers, and a family friend of about ten or more years, and he told me, “You are always happy,” and that really got me thinking about how much of a ‘fake front’ I have put up for most of my life. To this day, I have not told my mom, step-dad, or (while he was alive) my dad about my depression. Occasionally I get this urge, and a brief moment of warrior-like courage and convince myself I will tell them. I am not close with my step-dad really so that makes sense, and my dad always saw me as his “perfect-happy-little girl” and I would have done everything in my power to let him keep that perception of me – though it was far from the truth.
If you read my testimony (Before and Now) I give a brief explanation of my journey through depression and how that has brought me to where I am today. I always walk around with a smile on my face, even in the worst of times I still smile for the world. If you ask the majority of my friends and family, they will probably tell you the same thing – I am always happy. Don’t get me wrong, I am (now) generally a happy person. As I dived into my relationship with God, I found so much to be happy and thankful for and that alone is a mood booster. Even when my dad died earlier this year, aside from the funeral, I only cried and broke down when I was alone. At the lowest and hardest points in my life I focus on making other people happy and then let myself feel my emotions later, alone. I smile, I laugh, I joke like nothing is wrong. This can be a toxic thing – I am working on this and slowly making progress – but at least I have learned to share the weight on my shoulders with God and not do it all alone. I can turn to my friends for prayer and guidance because I have those resources now.
I will always be a person trying to make others happy because I have been on the other side of the line. But I spent so many years convincing people that I was happy, that life was grand. It is a lie to agree I am always happy, and have always been happy, but hey, I did a good job of convincing the world, right? I feel like there is an expectation for me to be “the happy one,” and that makes it harder for me to show a different, truer side of me, when life gets hard.
I am learning it is okay to feel sad, hurt, angry, happy, or somewhere in the middle. It is okay to feel bleh. It is okay to feel. It is also okay to let people know how you are feeling, and I am coming to terms with that, since it is a battle with myself. Even this year as I have faced probably the most difficult year of my life, I have put on my happy face for the world (my progress is slow). I figure though, if I can conquer the battle I have with myself, and then conquer the stigma I am the happy person, then I can overcome that perception I WANT people to have of me and just simply be me.
There is a saying that there are three sides to every person: the first side is the person that people see in public, the second side is the person that you are at home and around your close friends and family, and the third side is the person that you only know and is the side of you that only you (and God) know. I add God into that third part because he knows me better than I know me and in my time when it is just me and him, I am more honest and upfront with myself than I am ever am. I think this is a true expression (at least for me it is).
For me, the first side of me that people see in public is that over-the-top happy and chatty person.
The second side of me is a bit mixed – part 1 and part 2. Part 1 is my brother and close friends who know a bit more about my depression, but they still don’t see the whole picture, they only see what I allow them to see. Part 2 is my family, with the exception of my brother, who only know a bit about my thoughts, feelings, and struggles.
The third side of me is the complexity that was me, is me, and will be me. The truest part of me there is and the part that I share with myself and with God. Here I am a mix of light and dark, a person with scars, open wounds, and healed wounds. It is the most intimate and innermost part of me and I don’t dare share that person with the world. I might give a glimpse or two, but not much past that.
I see the same thing in the people around me – the three versions of themselves. Maybe we all do the same thing to a certain degree. Maybe we all have this perception of ourselves that we have created for the world around us to see and we stick to that. Maybe it is time for us to overcome this and just be our selves, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Until next time,