themighty logo

Embracing the Dark Side of Lupus That Hides Behind My Smile


There’s a smile that rarely leaves my face and a glimmer that resides in my eyes. There’s a happiness that comes from my character, and a certain optimism that frequents my every day. But behind it all is a side of me few people see.

Behind my smile are anguish and struggle, hallmarks of the difficulties lupus causes. Behind my smile is also the darkness I run from.

It’s not that I put on a brave face. It’s more that I hide parts of myself away for a “better” time. The smile I wear is not a ruse, though — it’s genuine. But behind it is a mix of emotions that lie in wait, lingering for the perfect opportunity to show themselves.

Unless you’re someone I hold close, you’ll never see the cracks in the wall I’ve built for myself. I’m not like most people: I don’t deal with feelings and situations as they come up.

Instead I take them on with a smile, letting them pile up until they reach the breaking point. Until I simply can’t take it anymore and have no choice but to fold.

There are places inside me I hate to visit, but know I can’t avoid indefinitely. A grim vortex filled with pain and a hollowness that sucks me in, only to spit me out again, tear-stained and broken. In a dark hour I’m not who I would choose to be. I’m overwhelmed by the side of myself I hide from the world at all costs.

In these moments it’s like all the color leaches out of me, until I’m left exactly as I feel on the inside: exhibiting a deep and dark shade of gray. It’s as if I’m split in two, the optimism and happiness relinquishing control to the darker side, a black wolf leading the way.

I remember lying on a couch the morning before I was admitted to the emergency room, numb and empty. As I lay there, I began to understand what it felt like to have a black haze overtake my mind.

Before lupus I never knew what it was like to feel darkness, to have it there with me, whispering in my ear and trying to coax me down an unlit path toward depression.

Lupus taught me how important it is to split myself – to separate the dark from the light. I learned to have a strong side: one that’s happy, fearless, and determined beyond belief. But I also learned how imperative it is to own the inevitable times of eclipse.

There is no weakness in giving in to my dark side, and there is no shame in allowing myself to be human. A tear-streaked face reminds me how much happiness infuses my being and my life.

Hours of feeling empty make me aware of how much meaning the next day and every day after that hold. And a sleepless night of overanalyzing reminds me that although I may be taking this one day at a time, I’ve made it this far, and I need to keep on keeping on.

No matter how often it comes or how long it stays, the darkness does not define me. The times when I’m strong enough to withstand the gloom are times when I realize the light lies inside me – and in fact, it’s I who defines the darkness.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” ― Anne Frank

This post originally appeared in Kristiana Page’s column “The Girl Who Cried Wolf” on Lupus News Today.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via lekcej.