Last Monday, I wrote a post about taking off our masks, and opening up to the Safe Places in our lives. Today, I want to reveal the day my mask came off…
As I walked into Merry’s office three year ago, it was like walking into a whole new world. Her office was warm and inviting. Inside was a long white comfy couch with soft throws and pillows. A candle was lit on her side table. Her chair was facing the couch but close enough where the atmosphere was intimate. Her book shelf had a plethora of books and CD’s on relationships, spirituality and health. She has a filing cabinet where my little file was slipped inside at the end of every meeting… tucked away into the heart of God.
After taking a scan of the room, I nervously sat on the couch with perfect posture, legs crossed, and with pen and notepad in hand.
Merry asked in her soft, kind voice, “So what brings you here, Deidre?” I fumbled as I found my two page typed document that I had prepared for her (yes, I’m Type A). It had a list of everything I could think of that brought me to that moment on Merry’s comfy white couch.
I am sure that in that moment, God was both crying and laughing as I handed Merry that paper. He and Merry knew something that I did not. I was not there to be corrected or given a grade… I was there to have a Safe Place for my true feelings. A place where I could expose my tangled, bleeding heart…
To my surprise, Merry tucked the paper away in my little manila file and looked back up at me and said in the most genuine way possible, “Tell me what you have going on in your heart.”
I slowly began to open up to her about the constant back/neck/shoulder pain, the persistent nausea, fatigue, dizziness, migraines, short-term memory loss, and weight loss that I had been hiding from my family and friends for the past 11 months. I explained to her that my doctor thought I might have a brain tumor but, thankfully, the MRI came back normal, and that the numerous blood tests came back as normal. I told her that when the testing was all said and done, the doctors had to gently tell me that I had made myself sick enough to feel like I had cancer. They informed me that I was in fact suffering from depression and anxiety.
It was almost comical when my doctor asked if I was under any stress. I quickly and confidently shot back, “No, not at all.” To my complete surprise, my husband announced to the doctor that, “Actually yes, she’s been under a lot of stress for a long time.”
I wish I had more than 1,000 words to relay every moment that had fostered and nurtured the deeply hidden depression and anxiety that I had three years ago. To sum it up too simply, throughout my life several key events and relationships reinforced this silly notion that I had to be perfect, and that there was no room for error in my life.
For most of my life, I was so dedicated to simply “pushing forward” and neglecting my true feelings, that the mask I wore bore the heavy burden of total self deception. I thought I was fine.
I was not, fine.
I had tried to deny the diagnosis of depression and anxiety. I knew there just HAD to be a clinical, biological answer for the constant physical pain I was in. My doctor explained to me that stress and anxiety put people in hospital beds, can cause miscarriages, and that it can make us susceptible to cancer.
I remember shaking so hard as I shared this information with Merry because at the time, I was so embarrassed to admit my imperfections and to face the truth about the State of My Heart.
Of course, I didn’t need to be embarrassed. I had found my Safe Place. The first one I’d ever had in my life where there were no strings attached. No need to impress. No fear that Merry would walk away from me. She embraced me right where I was at. It was breath to my soul.
More things were said in those sweet 50 minutes… but what I want to leave you with today is this: If we know not to “judge a book by its cover” then we should not judge a person by their appearance or their social/political/spiritual standing. No one knew the secrets locked in my heart about my health and my emotions. It didn’t mean that the good things I did in my life were “fake”, but what it meant was I thought it was more important to appear “all together” than to be vulnerable and open with the people around me. The result of wearing that ugly old mask? I almost put myself in a hospital bed.
Don’t make the same mistakes that I made. Love yourself enough to be YOU. I am so thankful that God provided a Safe Place in Merry where I could be open and honest. My year with her helped me to reconnect with my true self and be a more authentic Deidre. I owe you so much, sweet Merry.
Superheros in the comic books wear masks. As real Superwomen, we face the world head on. Wherever you find yourself today, find your Safe Place, and let that mask come crashing to the ground.
The truth will set you free, my friend.
If you liked this post you’ll LOVE A Safe Place: Removing The Mask of The Modern Woman & Self-Care: How to Love Yourself in a Busy World.
Photo courtesy of Csaba Peterdi via Fotolia