If there’s one thing I’ve learned while dealing with my mental wellness is how to pretend that I’m doing great. Am I having the time of my life or am I going through a panic attack in my head, no one will ever know. I have been leading this double life since almost a decade now and I think I am very much eligible to be nominated for the Best Actress, Academy Award.
Well, I can tell why most people pretend that they don’t care- it’s either they don’t want to deal with their emotions or maybe they never learned how to process them, it makes everyone uncomfortable. I think it also involves some power dynamic because showing people how you really feel is often labelled as being weak. It’s a-no-brainier that our society puts certain people on a pedestal who feel less than the ones who feel a lot. And if that wasn’t the case then currently our world won’t mostly run by narcissists and psychopaths. Something like- ‘The less you feel the more successful you’ll be!’ Everyone aims to be that person. We all just want to be super-humans, running after what we want mindlessly so that nothing can ever hurt us and we never have to deal with any kind of negative emotions ever in our lives. This is the reason ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK’ is one of the bestseller self-help books and AI is taking over the world. It is like we are living in constant denial, and in the process, we also deny ourselves of all the positive emotions, we deprive ourselves to be human.
Okay, I know what you must be thinking if I’m so wise and all why do I pretend to be all cool and not care? The answer isn’t that easy. It’s somewhat my defence mechanism. It is something that has kept me safe from people who don’t understand or don’t care enough about me. When you have a history of mental illness or any kind of traumas you wouldn’t go on pouring your heart out to every person you meet because you’ll be judged, ridiculed, rejected, and worse- abandoned. And when no one believes what you feel is real you start questioning your sanity. Having no control over your emotions is sure shot way to get you labelled crazy, weak, weird, freak, etc. I bet you don’t want to see that in your annual assessment at work every year. Dealing with anxiety (or anything really) is already hard enough that you also have to constantly deal with people who can’t stop reminding you that you’re not normal or there’s something really wrong with you.
I find it extremely funny when people post on social media, “If you need someone to talk to I’m always there” and shit. There’s a reason people like me are not open or seek help quickly because we’ve been shamed constantly for all our lives. And for what? for having emotions? And then the guilt comes along as no one told us it’s okay or it’s normal. So how do we trust the person in front us, how do we know he won’t ridicule us, abandon us, or make us feel like less of a person we already think we are? It’s our survival mode, to pretend everything is cool, everything is safe. But is it really?
I was constantly told and expected to be quiet all my childhood and that somehow became my personality as an adult. If anything bad happens with me my instant reaction is to completely shut off, to be quiet, not say a word, and not to react at all. I was applauded for that, I was called a good girl who is so matured that she can keep her shit together even being so young. And for a very long time, I thought that’s the way to be, to be a perfect adult. Little did I know that if you keep bottling up every feeling it has a fatal effect on your mind, body and soul. I’d rather be healthy and sane than be a good girl people around me expects to be. I’ve kept this facade for such a long time that now I can’t even label my feelings properly. I’m constantly confused, I don’t know how to ask for help, even thinking of opening up to someone gives me a panic attack because I’m so sure that person is going to hurt me, its as if my well-being is in danger. That further builds up into loneliness, despair and isolation.
It took me some time to figure out that pretending not to care is not the answer and even though I’ve mastered being vulnerable on the internet I also need to be honest how I feel with myself and others around me. I’m extremely tired of living this double life, being so secretive, as if I’m some sort of a superhero living in my superhero universe.
Hence, I came up with a list of things that can help me, or anyone else, who want to stop pretending that they don’t care, process their emotions, let people exactly know what you need and what you don’t.
- Identifying how you feel: Labeling how you’re feeling is half work done. If you know whether you’re sad, or angry, or disappointed, or just uncomfortable, you know how to manage that feeling better.
- Expressing yourself: As someone who finds this as a deadly task, its also the most important. Letting someone you trust know how you feel is crucial. And if you want to confront someone, form simple passive sentences like- your this _action_ made me _feeling_. No explanation, nothing.
- Writing down how you feel: writing down your feeling on a paper mindlessly without caring about your handwriting, grammar, or if anyone will read it, is the best feeling in the world. And later tearing that paper into shreds, the cherry on top!
- Practice self love: You need to treat yourself the way you treat your best friend (how many times you’ve heard this by now). Feed them, be there for them, make them laugh, love unconditionally, don’t stay mad at them for too long and trust them that they can take care of you.
And the most important thing to remember is you’re an adult, you are completely capable of taking care of yourself, you’re safe, you can survive even if people don’t understand you or decide to leave you because they don’t like you, or cannot handle you. Why do you want to be with people like that in the first place? If you cannot get rid of them completely, maybe keep things to yourself from them and them only. There are so many people around us that I believe we can find at least one who can connect and accept us with all our mess.
In the end, I’ve realised the reason I’ve been doing this for such a long time was that I was afraid (and I still am) that people will reject me if I tell them how exactly I feel, but now I’ve recognised that I’m more afraid of regret- Regret that nobody would know who I really am, regret that I’ve hidden my true self from everyone I have loved. Rejection is temporary, but regrets live longer. And seriously who would want to be friends with someone who can’t be themselves around you?!
So cheers to breaking that bubble and seeing the world and people around you with a new open, kind and vulnerable filter!