If I can be honest, I’ve worked on this blog post for days. I have written and re-written this blog to make it perfect. I wanted to come across as the man who has it ‘all-together’ the man who has the answers, the answers that will make him the next Kay Redfield Jamison or the next Elyn Saks. But am I? Probably not. I can strive to be that person, but for now, I am me and me is OK.
For years, as both a therapist and patient, I have worn an elaborate mask. My mask would change based on the crowd I was in, but I tell you, I could hide with the best of them. I, like the chameleon, can blend in to any environment. If you put me in a room full of talkative and vivacious people, I can be the life of the party with witty banter and lots of laughs. If you ask me to be quiet in a room full of introverts, as I’m currently am being with a friend who is quite introverted, I can be silent for hours on end. I am able to adapt to the world around me, but I must say, sometimes it is quite exhausting to change from mask to mask.
I came across a quote today from one of my favorite authors that spurred me to start typing. She basically said ‘tell the truth’ in regards to writing. I like that thought. So much that it got me to open my computer and write.
My truth is not an easy truth to swallow. A famous spiritual leader once said that ‘the truth will set you free’ and I’ve never believed that to be more true than today. For several years, as a therapist I wore the mask. I smiled, said all the right things (both socially and clinically), and acted as if problems never existed in me or my life. I buried my recovery deep inside of me and deflected my own work by helping others work through their stuff. Sounds noble right? It does on paper, but the reality is that I was putting a band-aid on a festering wound. The wound itself would not kill me, but the infection from blatant disregard, would.
After some time of trying to keep it all together, all it took was a small spark to ignite the fire that brought my safe house crashing down around me. Bloody, bruised, humiliated, and beat up, I crawled out from the wreckage for the first time, mask-less. My journey would finally end in shackles, but it started with a voluntary commitment for a suicide attempt. We all have our story and, over time, you will hear mine.
For me, my journey took me from behind the desk and to the couch. The practitioner became the patient. I was medication compliant for my bipolar disorder, but as I learned in grad school, the greatest success rate for a patient’s overall prognosis is both medication therapy and work (meaning personal growth, therapy, etc). I, like millions of Americans, was willing to swallow the hope of big pharma, but not trust in the power of the human spirit, relationships, and a little bit of honesty.
Am I where I “want” to be? Of course not. Life is all about continual evolution, adaptation, and personal growth; in my honest opinion, but I am well on my way. This blog is part of my ever changing recovery and growth. This blog is my attempt to unravel the mysteries of my mind, bring light to the dark, and maybe, just maybe, help someone else have the courage to take the mask off.
Over the next 6 months, it is my sincere hope that we will walk together, laugh together, shed a tear together, and even share a thought—together. For anyone who’s ever been in therapy, consider this an all access pass into your therapist’s mind, and for anyone who’s ever done therapy, consider this an all access pass into your patient’s heart.
There’s an old saying in addiction that I encourage you to think about ‘To thine own self be true’. The greatest lies we will ever hear will probably come from our own minds. This blog is a way for me to fight back against the lies of my mind because when my mind said this morning ‘You can’t, you won’t”, sorry mind, I did!
Recovery is a process, and not just for addicts, but we all take it one step and one day at a time. Today, I will take off my mask, if only for this day, to remember and remind myself that life is much easier and more fulfilling when lived authentically with others and myself. Will you take a chance and remove your mask, today? If you can’t commit to more than one day that’s OK! I’m not asking for the rest of your life, just for today. Think about it and remember “to thine own self be true.”
Man with a mask photo available from Shutterstock