When Mental Illness Feels Like You're Hiding Behind a Mask

Her mask shields her face as she watches the world go by. Laughter erupts. Couples dance as music plays. She watches from the balcony, scared someone will notice her.

She feels conspicuous, yet ironically invisible.

She wonders what it is like to feel like she belongs.

Sometimes, she wants to remove her mask and unveil her true self, but she has worn the mask for so long that she would not recognize her own face.

She yearns for the moment she can take off the mask, and join the world, but she knows the mask is what protects her. No one can hurt her if no one knows her. No one talks to the girl too afraid to show her own face.

That is how it feels to live with a mental illness: conflicted.

While depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are painful, they protect those who struggle with it from the outside world.

Rejection does not exist for a person who cannot even accept herself. There is nowhere else to fall, or at least that is how it feels.

But merely surviving is not living.

At some point, if she wants to live a full life of friendships, happiness, a relationship, and a career, she will need to unmask herself. This does not mean that she is cured, but that she lets the world in because living a life hidden never made her happy. She needs to be vulnerable and unapologetic in order to let go of the illness that has suffocated her for so long.

At first it will be painful. She no longer has a mask to shield her from the glaring sunlight. She may face rejection and ridicule. She will be afraid and overwhelmed by the loud, and at times judgmental world she lives in.  She may look in the mirror somedays and see not an ounce of beauty, but one day, she will see it was all worth it.

The mask prevented her from reaching her potential. And without it, she is a force to be reckoned with.

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