Masks

Written on: Wednesday, 28th June 2017 – 11:43

I have a doctor’s appointment today. When I remembered at 10:20 and checked my phone I immediately threw myself in the shower getting ready to try to make it to Stirling for 11:00am.

I arrived in a panic, sweating and out of breath having run to the surgery from my car, left abandoned on the street I used to live, hoping against hope that I would not miss it.

After arriving in the doctor’s surgery I sat waiting for ten minutes before the receptionist told me my appointment was not until 12:35, not 11:00.

I moved the car and walked into town, passing a coffee shop my brother worked in many years before. The gentleman who stepped in to cover my post while I have been off work was working with a client. I think they saw me, but rather than engage I kept my eyes front and centre and walked faster. My only intent was to ‘get away’.

The prospect of talking to an employee I could handle. All they or a colleague want to hear is, 

“Yeah, I’m doing better. Thanks for asking.”  

(Better? Better than what? Better than contemplating ways to die? Most things are better than that.)

It wasn’t coming face to face with a colleague that scared me. It was the idea of having to talk to or even acknowledge a client. I am in a type of pain that often seems indescribable and selfish. I can’t face the idea of being around clients when it would mean putting the mask back in place.

The longer the mask is left on, the harder it is to take off.

But wearing all of the masks at the same time. The masks of definition by action…

Every role and every person I have worked with over the years which have required me to be something for them have necessitated the creation of a new mask. Sometimes they are worn for short periods. Sometimes longer. While they are on, you can be anything. But wearing them drains you. The masks drain whatever lies underneath them to give them power.

Now, all of the masks are off.

When they were created, they fit like death masks. Designed to fit my face and my face alone.

While being worn, a mask never changes. But the person underneath does. Without realising it, the mask changes things about you that you may not have even known about yourself until eventually, you pull the mask away only to realise that the face underneath is no longer one you recognise.

Once the mask is off though you know. You know that you are no longer the same. When it comes time to wear that mask again you have to put it back in place ready for those that need to see it. But the mask was made for your face, and your face only. The face you used to know. The face that changed under the mask into a face you don’t recognise. The mask no longer fits, making it harder to wear and harder still to convince people that you are the same version of yourself that once wore it.

*****

Response: Thursday, 27th September 2018 – 12:15

During the Summer of 2017, I had to take a sabbatical from work. My mental health had been in a place of decline for some time, and the stress eventually led me to a place where the only thing I could do to get better was to step away from all of my commitments for a while to address my problems head-on and work on getting better.

During this time I wrote a lot, and most of that writing will stay private for a bit longer until I have had a chance to review it and decide how I feel about certain things.

This entry into my personal log, in particular, is the first thing I wrote in a brand new notebook and after filling the last page of the notebook yesterday, it is where my transcription of this notebook begins.

I wanted to share this because I feel so very far moved on from this place and time. But still, the underlying message I was trying to put into words seems so insightful and was the beginnings of the ends for some parts of my life and the start of a whole new chapter which I am only just beginning to tell the story of now.

My lesson learned from this was to spend more time being around people, and places where I could be myself without having to rein myself in or have to put the needs of others first. I talked about being selfish but learned that if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t care for others without it being to someone’s detriment.

The masks I’ve worn may have changed me, but after a while I did begin to recognise myself again. I learned to listen to my own voice of need, and by slowly meeting some of those needs, I realised I was the same person as I’d always been, I just had to make more time for me to ensure that I was still being the truest version of myself.

It takes a lifetime to master being yourself because every day you will learn and life lessons will change you. Embrace the changes, and love yourself. You deserve that love the most and have likely worked hard for it.

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