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On pretending

16 Mar

On pretending

A friend shared this quote from George Takei’s Facebook today. As someone who has suffered from recurrent depression this made so much sense to me.

I like to pretend. I’m really good at it. Especially when I’m not feeling well. Inside I feel like I have rocks in my tummy, like anything could make me cry and I’m exhausted. Outwardly I’m sunny and for the most part, I seem like the regular me. Those that know me well will eventually detect the truth, the different side. The familiar voice or hug gets the real story when I dissolve into tears. Sometimes *I* don’t even know things aren’t good until they really aren’t good.

When I’m experiencing an episode of depression, I tend to isolate. I cut myself off from those that know me the best because its easier for me not to talk about it. To keep up the charade. That way, I’m really good at convincing myself that I’m actually ok. But I’m not. And the distancing… well it actually makes it worse. The “feeling bad feelings” creep in more intensely, burrow deeper and convince me that my friends don’t care, or don’t want to spend time with me, even though its me that is doing the pulling away. It just makes it worse and worse.

When I was going through a particularly dark period last May I decided I needed support and I was seeing a Counsellor regularly. I spoke to her about the fact that pretending that I was ok all day at work was exhausting. She asked me how I acted at work, I told her I smiled all day, when people would ask me how I was I’d reply “great!”. That I would laugh, move quickly, and try to be as ‘normal’ as possible. She challenged me on this. She said “Laura, do you think you could ever respond honestly? Do you think you could try telling people: ‘I’m not feeling that great this week’?”

I was confused. This suggestion did not make sense to me. Wasn’t it my job to “think positive”? To “fake it until I make it”? To try to send out positive energy with the hopes of it shifting my own mood? The suggestion that there was another option was mind-blowing to me.

For someone who has pretended for so long it is hard to be honest with yourself and with others. I started slowly at first. Having more honest conversations with myself first, and then with others.

What I discovered was that being honest about what I’m thinking and feeling is REALLY freeing. Giving myself the time to feel when I’m feeling bad is good. Being honest with others about how I’m feeling is good. Its OKAY to be blue for a week. To skip the gym now and then and lie on the couch, watch a few hours of Netflix and eat pizza for dinner. To let myself off the hook. When asked if I’m okay, I CAN say “you know what? I’m a bit grumpy today” or, “I’m kind of having a tough week”. Its okay not to be the chatterbox or the social coordinator for a week or two. To not try to be everything. To just be.

So now for my mind blowing advice: don’t worry about being Eeyore now and then. Let yourself be blue. Take comfort in the friends and family who love you anyway. Let them sit with you to watch Netflix, or talk to you on the phone while you cry. Be honest with them about how you are feeling. Don’t feel the pressure to be together all the time, because who is? But MOST IMPORTANTLY know when being blue is a little more than a passing phase. When to reach out for help and talk to someone who can support you. Know when you need to take it a step further and see a professional who can suggest the appropriate interventions for whatever you might be dealing with.

It can be hard not to pretend. But know that being honest with yourself and others is so much better. Even if that makes you feel a bit like Eeyore once and awhile.

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