The Darkness Masked​

The darkness of depression comes in waves, but there’s always a shade of grey present. When life is light gray I am able to move through different spaces with less stress to find a way to put a smile on my face. It is the easiest of the hard days. It’s the days when medication works, when I see my therapist. I live for the light gray days. But even though those days occur in large chunks which allows me to stay alive, to maintain employment, and to function, the darkness lurks.

I can only feel everything turn to black as I quickly move from hopeful to depressed. I sit numb to the world around me as I lay in bed willing myself to utilize hygiene products or drink enough water to stay hydrated. I lay catatonic in the heaviness of sadness, grief, loneliness. My mind occasionally rumbles through thoughts but there is no hopefulness. They are thoughts of pain, sadness, doom. I cannot convince myself my past accomplishments will lead to success again. I failed at everything and there is no chance for success. Every now and then I have the fleeting thought to reach for help, but it only pops up following the thought of dying. I cannot see the light, it doesn’t exist. I continue my stillness in bed until I hear the voices of others nearing.

As my partner approaches, his soft voice offers to get me active, to help make me better. While the attempt is nice in theory, obligation to movement and feeling better is as heavy as my thoughts. How am I supposed to be active in the dark? And then the second voice enters. Her little stature and large smile remind me I’m needed. Not just from her, but I am needed because I am a helper in profession and in character. I empathize and absorb the darkness from others to keep them from hurting the way I do only to feel more darkness that I cannot manage. As I remember, she requests to go outside. The darkness is still so halting, but it’s time. I put on my mask to hide my pain and head out the door.

With my mask, I can move through the day just as if it’s light gray. I function, I help, and I meet the needs of others without missing a beat. I am “on” because others expect me to be. On the darkest of days, I use my mask to forget and ignore, which is my best friend and worst enemy. She asks me once again to go play. She is so little and cannot do for herself what those older than her can. My role is to sustain her life and health and make her feel safe. I put on my mask, go outside, and play for her to be none the wiser. She needs me, so I meet her needs. I keep my mask on to network, to work, and to fulfill my various roles. They hurt too and they depend on me to help alleviate their pain and turmoil and stress. Life is hectic and heavy for them and I exist to lighten the load. I work hard so they don’t hurt as much. They need me, so I meet their needs.

At the end of the day, I try to persuade myself that I was around enough people not to feel alone. I lie to myself and say I did enough to feel satisfied. The darkness creeps as I lie, knowing I can’t maintain my false sense of self. The moment I arrive home, the quiet comes. The mask falls even though I wish I could keep it on until I fall asleep. The darkness is still there as if it was taunting me all along to keep its promise to appear again.

I am once again consumed with self-loathing hopelessness that reminds me of the lies I told today to mask all my pain to those around me. I overanalyze what I did wrong, the stupid things I said, the feigned confidence that took every ounce of my energy. There is so much hate in the darkness. I will myself to sleep to keep my thoughts at bay for a few hours so I can rest my mind, my hate, my fears. My dreams don’t soothe me but they don’t haunt me. I just need a few hours in literal darkness as a break from my darkness.

What seems like minutes is apparently hours. I wake up consciously reminded of the hurts and emotional pain that plagues me. I turn to my phone to texts and messages. They need me. A few minutes later, her bright and smiling face enters my room. She needs me. I take a deep breath, throw off the covers, and put on my mask to face a new day. Someone needs me, and me and my mask will meet those needs.

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Researcher, therapist, and mom writing to challenge humans to do and be better.

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Dr. Tiffany Wicks, Ed.D.

Dr. Tiffany Wicks, Ed.D.

Researcher, therapist, and mom writing to challenge humans to do and be better.

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