If you’ve been following me for a while, you may have read the series on my first marriage. In that, I talked about how I shoved memories of that experience into a place in my mind and boarded it up. Over the years, some of those memories have slipped out from under the barricaded door and have seemed to pull me back into that place in time. This scenario has gone on for years, even decades. Then BOOM!! Feelings and emotions from those memories came out crashing, all at once. This experience led me to get out words of what happened during that spousal relationship, called marriage.
Earlier this year this played out again with me hitting a proverbial brick wall. I found that this wall was retaining things I have repressed for 58 years. Using the coping mechanisms that life has given me, I quietly (and in some ways not so quietly) had a mental breakdown. A flood of primal emotions washed over me and I had no way to contain or control them. I could no longer keep up the barricade. The flood created a wave that I was compelled to ride or lose my sanity.
I ended up in a counselor’s office with the sound of artificial rainsong and the calming mist of essential oils from a diffuser. Across from me sat what I didn’t expect. A guy young enough to be my child. My first impression was “How is this kid going to relate to a 57-year-old woman?” I decided to give him a shot and see what happens. He had a degree and training after all. Maybe he could at least supply me with some tools that would enable me to cobble myself back together.
It’s a funny thing when you’re suddenly sitting across from a licensed counselor. You wonder how you ended up in this place that you had no idea you were going. After the preliminary introductions and getting comfortable, he asked me “Why are you here Anna?” Without hesitation and without any thought, I said “I’m a fake. I want to be the real me.”
He asked me what I meant by “fake and real me.” In an avalanche, it tumbled out of me. “I feel like I’m wearing masks with just about everyone I know. I say what people want to hear. I want to truly and authentically be me. I want to be me without worrying about what someone else thinks.”
I added, “I have a tendency to agree with whoever I’m with to simply avoid conflict.” I’ve been truer to myself as I’ve gotten older; nevertheless, there is a lot of resentment and anger pushed down inside of me from wearing the the mask that I present to the world.
The reality is, there are lots of rooms in my mind that have experiences stashed away with the doors locked tightly. Some of them have been there so long that I really have no idea what is behind the door. Sometimes the feelings associated with those boarded up rooms make themselves known in the form of anger, sadness, or feelings of inferiority. This isn’t unique to me. Everyone I know has issues that relate to trauma or issues from their past. Most likely, multiple things in their past. Things from birth right up until this very moment in time.
I think we all wear masks from time to time. I’m not saying that I need to speak my mind in all situations. Sometimes silence truly is golden. The reality is that there are times that I am not true to myself. Frankly, I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt safe enough to be my true self. But at this point, I’ve promised myself that I will be the real me. And it is hard.
No one is completely free of baggage. We’ve all experienced trauma and disappointments. How have you coped? Do you struggle with being the authentic you? Do you act or react? I’d like to hear from you. Comment below or email me.