“Smile, it confuses people”

my smile has made me a master of deception. to say that I have merely confused people would be an outright lie. the joyful young woman in these photos existed only for those brief moments. my smile was a distraction from the emotional and mental decay that took place beneath it. immense feelings of inadequacy, shame and insignificance had a way of stealing all traces of my joy. under the surface of what my siblings long ago deemed my “kool aid smile”, there was an ongoing struggle to stay afloat. since I haven’t shared much about that phase, I am currently fighting the urge to hold the backspace key until this post is nothing more than a bad idea I had. BUT  GOD.

about a year after giving birth to my son and ignoring the first diagnosis, i was prescribed antidepressants for anxiety and depression.

at the time, what most people knew of me did not fit the description of a mentally ill person. that made it extremely difficult to talk about. when i did share what i felt, i was told not to speak that way. as if “someone like me” had no right to be in that state of mind. needless to say, my peers weren’t equipped to properly handle such a confession. here’s the wicked thing about mental health issues: they don’t have a look, they are no respecter of persons and they don’t usually make sense to anyone other than those suffering from them.

during that time, i secretly began to question my relationship with God. i believed i was a total lost cause as well as a sorry excuse for a Christian because i couldn’t pull my emotions together. i lost the battle in my mind time and time again. i couldn’t focus on school or anything else for that matter. i missed out on a lot of opportunities and damaged a lot of friendships. i felt unlovable in that state and often projected that onto those around me. i was a wreck. but no matter what I was feeling, I kept that mask of a smile on for the world to see.

hiding didn’t do me any good. the medication didn’t help either because i wasn’t taking care of my self in any other way. with the aid of my excessive drinking and other forms of self medication, my condition worsened. i became suicidal and even attempted it once.

today, i am extremely grateful because God provided a so many tokens of His love to keep me going. if i hadn’t been blessed with friends who stuck close enough to see past my facade, i would not have come out of that. if i hadn’t accepted the fact that i was folding under the pressures of life (and realized it was perfectly okay),  i would have stopped seeking help and tried to handle it on my own. if i would have remained in isolation–i would have given in and stopped fighting…you only lose when you stop fighting. so please don’t stop.

you don’t have to force a smile. you don’t owe anyone a made up version of who you are. no one has the right to judge you for your struggles. if you need help, please seek help. if you have to lessen your load and step out of the spotlight, do it. TAKE CARE OF YOU. TAKE CARE OF YOUR LOVED ONES, pay attention to them. if someone crosses your mind, call them. if you’re concerned about someone, take time to catch up or just let them know you care. you never know the difference it could make. don’t let a well rehearsed smile confuse you.

 

RESOURCES:

Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24 hours a day)

Dial 211- Services Include:

  • Physical and Mental Health Resources – including health insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare, maternal health resources, health insurance programs for children, medical information lines, crisis intervention services, support groups, counseling, and drug and alcohol intervention and rehabilitation.
  • Basic Human Needs Resources – including food and clothing banks, shelters, rent assistance, and utility assistance.
  • Work Support – including financial assistance, job training, transportation assistance and education programs.
  • Support for Older Americans and Persons with Disabilities – including adult day care, community meals, respite care, home health care, transportation and homemaker services.
  • Children, Youth and Family Support – including child care, after school programs, educational programs for low-income families, family resource centers, summer camps and recreation programs, mentoring, tutoring and protective services.