Hidden Behind the Mask

I’m a liar; a fake; a phony. I am a shell of what I used to be. The makeup, the hair, that’s all I have left. That’s my mask. And I wear it so well that I’ve hidden my secret for years. You might pass me on the street and think I am a complete human being but that is where the lies begin. If you were able to look into my soul, you would see a hole, a vacant spot where a girl once laughed, dreamed, danced, and loved.  I’m not sure when the laughter stopped and the fear and anxiety took its place. I cannot pin point a time that chronic fatigue robbed me of my friends and dreams or when the pain began to riddle my body that once loved to dance-to soar! Or when food ripped my stomach to pieces and it became easier not to eat than to deal with the aftermath. I smile. I say I’m “ok”; “I am feeling better.” And with makeup and my hair fixed, you would believe me.  When I did complain of pain or tiredness, you say, “honey, you’re just depressed.” or: “just push through” and “it’s all in your head.”  Too soon people forget that my anguish does not go away as quickly as they can dismiss me. The truth is: I DO NOT want to be in bed anymore. I WANT to be able to go grocery shopping. I would love to go shopping in general-the real kind-where you shop with friends and have lunch and laugh at silly jokes. I would like a friend. But those are hard to come by because when you cannot leave your house days on end, no one wants to be around you. When you are sick again for the 7th time that month, people start to ridicule you and call you a hypochondriac. But the worst? The worst is the GUILT I feel about being sick. I am not that mom who can push her child on the swing because physical exertion wears me down. I am not the mom who laughs and plays with her children on the floor because my body hurts to move at times. I don’t take my kids to Chuck E Cheese because the noise and movement brings about an anxiety attack. My husband comes home to dirty dishes, clothes on the couch, kitty poop in the litter box, dirty pullups stinking in the trashcan. I am a stay at home mom. He deserves better. My kids deserve better. My family deserves better. I deserve better. And I do not share this with anyone because who would want me if they knew the truth?

Behind my mask and the lies I tell, lurks a host of “silent diseases.” The first diagnoses came after the birth of my second son. I have Hashimoto’s-an autoimmune disease in which my body is fighting my thyroid. Add Lyme disease on top of that and the others:  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Epstein Barr Virus, ADD… But the easiest title for doctors to hand out is “anxiety and depression.” Seriously, I ask you, who would not be depressed if they had to spend their life in bed, on the sidelines, stuck in a body that will not allow you to follow your dreams or be who YOU REALLY ARE? I am not stupid; I do not know a single person who would be jumping for joy if they had to walk a day in my shoes. So call me depressed. I dare you. But you are wrong. I am sad because of what these illnesses have taken from me. I am sad because I do not know who I am anymore. I am sad because old dreams are just that… dreams. I am sad because I am 36 and I feel like I am 80. I want fun and excitement. I want friends; I want to laugh. Please, do not call me depressed. I am strong even though I am weak. I fight a battle you cannot see and I fight every day. There is no hope that I will win the battle but I keep on fighting. There is no hope that a doctor will listen to me and help me regain my life I once had. Where does my hope come from? It comes from the good days where I see remnants of my old self. It comes from my family and a handful of friends (yes, friends, Thank, God!) who stand behind me. My hope comes from God and his promise to me. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

My wish for you: Be thankful you have the energy to shop for food for your family. Don’t take for granted “nights out with the girls”. Laugh with your co-workers because you finally got the job you’ve always dreamed about.  Roll on the floor with your babies and push them in the swing set. Dance without pain and never, ever judge someone because of the mask they wear.

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