“You hid behind your intelligence. You never revealed what goes on inside of you, what makes you unique.”
“I just … I didn’t want to look like a fool.”
“Well, that’s the chance you have to take. But until you’re willing to risk it, you’ll never know who you are, you’ll never be able to grow.”
Yes, I’ve been watching 90’s teen drama again – Beverly Hills 90210 – please hold your groans until the next ad break. The quote was part of a conversation between brainy Andrea and her current male teacher crush.
There’s a book on my bedside table, waiting for its turn: “Depression: The Curse of the Strong”. I think its premise is that strong people end up depressed because they tolerate distress and repress emotions beyond the normal range, which leads to maladaptive coping strategies and patterns, ending in a depressive disorder. Don’t quote me – I haven’t read it yet.
I have another, related theory about depression. Perhaps, sometimes, intelligent people find ways to navigate around life’s difficulties which mean they don’t need to address issues, and therefore avoid distress and also repress emotions, etc – I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this: “intelligence”, as normally understood, may sometimes lead to depression because the intelligent person constructs smart yet maladaptive coping strategies.
Anyway, just an idea.
Certainly, many depressed people wear masks. Sometimes we feel ashamed, or we don’t want people to see the “real” (inherently unworthy) us, or we feel we have to protect people – even the ones who love us most – from ourselves. Good old twisted depression thinking, eh?
Masks can protect us, but they can also lock us into ways of behaving which aren’t going to serve us in the long run. Here’s a short list of some of the masks I’ve adopted today:
- I’m able to feel happy (I’m not, even though I feel relatively OK this week)
- I can handle people changing plans on me at the last minute (I can’t – my anxiety goes through the roof)
- I’ve actually been working the last nine months (ahem … let’s just say it was a lie of omission, so not really a lie, right?)
- Everything is just hunky-dory in my home.
Some of these masks have helped me out; some of them are probably not constructive in the long run, and could be ditched.
Do you wear any masks as you live with anxiety and/or depression? Are there any it would be more helpful for you to ditch?
Drawing of the human brain, from the National Institute for Aging, National Institutes of Heath, United States Depsrtment of Health and Human Services. This drawing shows several of the most important brain structures (Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons)