The worst mental illness someone can have is any mental illness they are afraid to be honest about for fear of what will people think. So many broken people choose to live behind a mask, perhaps thinking it’s the only way they can protect either other people or even themselves from whatever dark, sad or broken things are lurking within them.
Case in point: I just lost my husband to suicide on August 22, 2019. He had been diagnosed with severe, childhood abandonment-related depression a year prior. However, no one that thought they knew him had any idea what we had been dealing with at home, such that on August 23rd, when the news “hit the wall” on my Facebook page that he had taken his own life, everyone was shocked beyond belief. No one saw it coming. He wore a mask.
My husband was always the brightest light and happiest face in every room with a larger than life presence. His smile was infectious. But behind every one of his smiles, jokes and laughter, he was secretly dying inside. He believed for the longest time he could self-manifest his depression away by “faking it until he made it”, but sadly that was not to be. He drowned inside himself and the demons that had been circling his living carcass for a lifetime won.
I personally believe that mental illness is still such a stigmatic issue that people who are suffering in silence are less likely to be forthright about their situations and seek the help they need for fear that in doing so they will be seen as weak, crazy, ungrateful or just plain lazy.
“Mentally ill” are not two words people want to be associated with in conversation. I myself struggled with a debilitating mental illness of my own for many years, so I do have that very personal point of reference as well. I was ashamed of myself and so afraid to let people see what was really going on inside of me for fear of “what would people think”. So, I too hid it behind a mask with the biggest smile I could fake. Thankfully I survived to tell about it.
I’ve been writing incessantly about both my and my husband’s mental health journeys in “The Diary Of My Perfection” and specifically wrote a piece that I believe correlates to this topic in an entry entitled “Solitary: Life Behind A Mask” if anyone cares to read further on my perspective with this. It’s a commentary on The Joker movie, which I believe was a sobering eye-opener on this subject and really delves into what I am saying.
This is a great question, by the way, and an important one. Chances are that someone you know, and perhaps even someone very close to you, could be hiding behind a mask of their own and fighting a mental illness “in solitary”. In which case, it’s imperative that as a society we find a way to enable those who are living in such darkness to take off their masks and start walking towards a light. The more awareness we bring to this? The more lives will be saved!