So many people don’t realize just how much a smile can hide.
Kurt Cobain smiled and had a beautiful baby girl he loved. Chester Bennington had a family and spent his life performing, playing music he loved with people who were like his family. Kate Spade was on the phone with her father just one hour before she killed herself, happily talking about a trip she was planning. Robin Williams was a freaking comedian with a long line of funny movies, and we lost him to the darkness of his mind. Pete Davidson (regardless of your current opinion of him) has borderline personality disorder – a form of depression – and does comedy almost every weekend with a smile on his face.
I smile every day.
But I’m not always happy.
I’ve lived with anxiety and depression most of my life. I’ve perfected the art of smiling through racing anxious thoughts, through depression. Of going into work and acting perfectly “normal,” like nothing is wrong or bothering me. Of putting on a happy face and shoving down the dark feelings to be forgotten for just a little a few hours, only for it to creep back in over time.
That time may be a few hours later, it may be right after I leave my friends. Sometimes it doesn’t even stay shoved down; rather, it lingers in the back of my mind.
Most of the time, I’m just moving through life.
Another day, another class. Another shift to get through. Another assignment to read or do. Another weekend with my boyfriend gone too fast and back into the long week by myself.
I technically have friends. However, I’m not particularly close with most of them. Years of negative experiences with failed friendships has heavily shaken my confidence when it comes to making friends. I get scared about coming on too strong or reaching out only to realize I care more than the other person does. It’s happened, both long ago and quite recently. Anxiety makes it hard for me to be bold (or at least, bold for me) and just casually reach out to someone saying “Hey, let’s do something!”
But yet, I smile through.
I have to, as my way of getting through. There definitely is some truth to the saying “fake it till you make it.”
I come off as one of the “strong” people. Someone who you know deals with mental health, but they seem okay most of the time – or at least, they don’t give off any indication things could be going negatively. That they need someone to check in on them, be there for them.
We “strong” people often don’t reach out because we don’t want to feel like a burden. We don’t want to constantly be turning to our friends for help and support, because it may be viewed as just dumping all our feelings on our friends and then we’re “the downer.”
Please check in on your “strong” friends.
We may seem like we are okay, or like we have things under control, but we are often the ones who need your love, support, and help the most. Even just coming over with ice cream or a distracting movie, no words spoken, can help. It’s physically being there and lending emotional support with your presence that can sometimes help the most.
Be there for people. And more importantly, take a look past the smiles.