The following is autobiographical, but dated. It’s largely taken from an email I wrote about a year ago. My wife was wondering why I seemed so 2-dimensional and this is more or less what I wrote back. I don’t feel as strongly as I did when I wrote the email (for instance, I’ve gone from being suicidal to merely wanting to die from time to time). In any case, it’s still relevant. Hopefully you DON’T see much of yourself in it.
No one knows me, not really. Every morning I put on my mask and face the day. My mask is serene, even happy. No one bothers you if you’re happy, no one tries to lift the mask if it’s convincing enough. They trust the mask and you trust no one. Whether they love the mask or hate it, that isn’t you. The real you is protected.
Whatever hurts, you hold it in, bottle it up. You tell yourself, “I won’t feel this. I refuse to feel this. I won’t let myself hurt, except just a little sting so I know it’s still there.” You can walk around, listening to the music that’s in your head taking little sips of the pain that one day will destroy you because the mask smiles even when your grimacing.
“Tell me more about your troubles,” you’ll say. Whenever you see someone, you’ll be sure to ask about them. You’ve got them filed and cataloged for easy reference so your mask can display a perfect simulation of caring as the situation requires. People don’t care about you if you care enough about them first. And as long as you don’t have to share your feelings with them, maybe you don’t have to feel them either.
Behind the mask, you’re sick of yourself. You’re sick of this mask you wear, but it’s become so much a part of you, that there’s not much left. You want to just pass out of existence like a stone thrown into a deep pond. But like the stone, your passing will leave ripples – a lifetime of grief and guilt for your friends and family. And you know you can’t do that, you hope you’re strong enough to keep going.
So you sigh to yourself and push those feelings deep down, bottle them up tight. You look at your smiling mask in the mirror and tell yourself you’re okay. You replace the self-loathing with anything else. You find something else to hate. You try to love and to help those around you, hoping for a share of their happiness and strength. Or you just find something shiny to keep yourself from thinking or feeling too much, distracting you from the blackness just behind the mask.