My Mask of Happiness
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When I was younger I had always felt jealous of my friends, neighbors, and almost anybody who I knew, and I always wondered how these people always seemed to be happy and why I seemed to be so miserable. Depression was my constant companion throughout my childhood, but I never revealed that truth to anybody - I don’t know, it just felt weird that I would seemingly randomly become upset, tense, panicked, and cry all night. These things made me feel weak, and I didn't want to let others know that I had these experiences – They were my secret. I would pretend as if I was the happiest girl on earth while I was in school, where I always said positive things to others, performed well in class, etc. No one was aware of the depressed aspects of myself, and I was content with my mask.
However, I couldn't mask my depression for long, and during my final year in high school the stress began to build more and more intensely. My fear of the future made me incredibly anxious, and I was affected by insomnia for weeks, which made it difficult for me to concentrate in class and spend time with others – I sought isolation, yelled at my parents, fought with my siblings, and suffered from an even more severe depression. I just didn't know how to find help for my severe depression.
During this time I made my situation more comfortable for my friends than for myself by continuing to mask my pain, but my anxiety was affecting my ability to connect with others – The mask was separating me from my friendships, and my anxiety was branching out to specific events in my life. I was always worried about whether or not I would receive admission into a good college, if I could find a job by studying in a particular program, if I would be successful in my career, if I could get a great boyfriend, or if anybody would love me despite my anxiety and depression. All these questions arise in everybody’s life, but for me these questions resulted in panic attacks. My fear and states of anxiety and depression were my primary focus, and the painful feelings increased and increased.
Shifting My Focus
However, I soon began to shift my focus and reflected upon my blessings - My close friends and my parents came to my rescue when I was feeling most in pain, and they stayed with me and shifted my mind toward positive thinking. One of my close friends was very optimistic, and she stayed with me for the whole day and explained that I had always created negative thoughts that led to my anxiety and depression, so she asked me to try an exercise. Every morning I would wake up and imagine all of the good things that I wanted to achieve in my life, and it was very difficult to try this exercise because every time my mind thought about future it seemed to automatically think about all the negative things that could happen. To change these negative thought patterns into positive thoughts was very difficult, but I managed to practice this exercise for 1-week, and after 1-week week it became much easier to envision a positive future for myself. After 10 days of this practice, I was feeling cheerful and happy; those positive thoughts had developed my confidence, and now I was beginning to understand how my friends and neighbors could feel positive in their daily lives. They were simply thinking differently than I.
Over the next few months things improved significantly as I did well in my final exams, and my friend who trained me in the positive thinking exercise also helped me in preparing for college interviews. She and I managed to pass the admissions process and gain entry into the same college. Meanwhile, we both worked on various physical and mental exercises and also played tennis together; I had a general thought that playing games would increase my anxiety, because after playing a game I would breathe fast just as with my panic attacks. However, I soon learned that physical exercise and games were the best remedy for me, because these games helped to relax my body, mind, and soul.
My college days were generally good but again I found myself trying to hide my anxiety problems, and my friend was worried because this was the starting point of the whole issue (isolating myself from others and focusing on my pain in solitude), so she suggested that I connect with another person through counselling. We both met our college psychologist, and she gave me a prescription for antidepressants after we had a long talk – The first thing that struck me about what she said was that I must first accept myself. She explained that it was OK to expose the truth to others if things were not going well, that everybody on the planet experiences pain, failure, tension, and depression. Nobody’s life is *perfect*, and no one is always happy. Everybody experiences their own problems, and some share their feelings with their trusted friends and family, but that many people mask their pain and keep their problems to themselves, which can increase their anxiety and depression. She explained that masking my pain with an artificial facade of happiness is not necessary, and that separating myself from others through rejecting the truth of my inner pain would only exacerbate the problem. From her I learned that it’s important to be yourself and live your own life, and to not try to conform to social norms to intensely.
It was initially difficult for me to accept what she was saying, but later when I sat down and gave thought about her perspective, I felt that she was right - Why should I pretend to be perfect? By doing that I was not being honest with my friends and loved ones, and if I truly wanted love and connection I would need to drop the smiling mask and be real.
Author: Anonymous Contributor