If you’ve “known” me long, you know that depression and anxiety is an undeniable part of my journey. It comes and goes, yes, in seasons that arrive as unexpectedly and as forcefully as a preschooler’s tantrum. (Honestly, sometimes it feels more than a little like that, too.) The threat of sadness and panic lingers in the background at all times, and it’s something I have learned to live with. Most of the time, I carry on and resume life as normal until I feel like myself again. It’s just what I do. I’ve learned to adapt.
Sometimes, though, it is not something I can simply push through. Sometimes the storm in my spirit stays awhile. Sometimes it consumes me like a fire, enveloping me from the inside and burning through my carefully constructed exterior, leaving nothing in its wake but a faint memory of normalcy. Sometimes my own face becomes unfamiliar in the mirror because on the inside, I have lost all sense of myself. Sometimes it burns away the core of who I am, forcing me to read old journal entries and blog posts to remind myself who I am and what I am about.
I’m in that place now, and I have been for some time now. Usually, when my writing voice falls silent (or nearly so), I’m in a place of inner turmoil. I ask you to please pray for me when you have not seen anything new here for a few days. It’s not that I don’t want to write, because I do – it’s the only thing that makes me feel really alive sometimes. It’s more that I have no words, and it’s much deeper than mere writer’s block.
Things have been sad for me lately. Sad and anxious and fearful and preoccupied with all of the wrong things – things that are not true or lovely or noble or good. I don’t know what brought it all on, but I have some elements of a plan and I will be emerging again soon. I can promise you that.
At times like this, hiding what is going on is difficult. Withdrawing from my internet friends and not putting pen to paper is one thing, but hiding from the face-to-face people I love is quite another thing. I could probably put on a happy face, smiling bravely through the numbness inside until I again found myself alone and free to cry. I could probably practice the idea of “faking it until I make it,” pretending I felt good until I did feel good. I could do that, and yes – sometimes life requires it. My preschooler, after all, doesn’t need the burden of mama’s heartache, and the cashier at Panera shouldn’t have to pass me a tissue and wait for me to collect myself before I can order my bagel.
Hiding something like this is hard. It makes it worse, increasing the feelings of isolation and making the burden of wondering what’s wrong with me even heavier. Yes, I could write happy Facebook statuses, noting the banal events of the day without mentioning the heavy mood that accompanied them. Yes, I could smile and claim that, “I’m doing well, thank you!!!” when a friend asks how I am on Sunday morning. Yes, I could hold it in so that no one could detect the gray undertones of sadness and hopelessness that hum in the background of my life. I could probably do all of that.
At what cost, though? What would it accomplish?
I really don’t know what the benefit would be. Granted, one of the core values of my life is transparency – opening up and baring everything in a real and authentic way. It’s my character. I believe in the power of transparency, and I’ll fight for it until I don’t have any fight left in me. I realize that’s kind of unusual – this belief in the power of transparently baring who and what we really are. Not too many people think it’s a good thing, and even fewer people still think it’s doable.
No, it’s more common for people to paint on a happy face. We think it’s easier to cover it all up and pretend everything is as perfect and pretty as we want it to be. It might be easier right this second, but what are the consequences later? What are we teaching ourselves, our friends, and our children when we make a habit of concealing what is going on?
What happens when we hide our pain? What happens when we’ve concealed it all so that everyone thinks we’re fine? We’ve successfully covered up the ugly parts of what we have going on, but then what?
I think we’re drilling into our heads the idea that reality is unacceptable. I think we’re teaching ourselves somehow that everything will fall apart if we uncover the ugly things in our lives. We’re teaching our friends that they have to look perfect, too, because we’re all in a game we didn’t sign up to play. We’re teaching our children that the truth of who they are and what they deal with is just not okay, and that they have to hide it all away from everyone. We’re telling the world, essentially, that who we really are is not all right.
Friends, I’m just not okay with that. I’m not okay with seeing all of you hide yourselves away in darkness, painting on a happy mask so that I and everyone else think you’re okay. I want to know what my friends are dealing with. I want to really live this thing called “life” with the people I love, and I can’t do that if I don’t know what’s going on. And frankly, it breaks my heart to think of my daughter going through hard times in her life without companionship simply because she thinks she can’t let people into the dark ugliness of her journey.
I know that my transparency makes some people uncomfortable. I understand that this is weird. I get that. But this is a mountain I’m willing to die on. It’s just that important to me. My dream, honestly, is that it would somehow catch on. That more and more of us would take that first scary step into transparent living, somehow opening the door for everyone around us to become more and more of who God created us to be.