After a while, you come to recognise all too easily the signs of slipping back into depression. You’d rather be asleep than awake because that way you can escape the pain of constant negative thoughts. That said, you may find yourself lying awake ruminating on every single perceived failure made. Also, every bad attribute you feel you possess (or once asleep you might be haunted by hideous, recurring dreams). You may also feel like someone’s pulled the plug-you’re so physically and mentally exhausted you sleep to excess.
Off the Scale People Pleaser
As a (normally) positive and gregarious type, I go from being a social butterfly to complete withdrawal. The weight of my self hatred prevents me from, well, being me. I have no energy to engage and I can’t cope with the idea of people seeing me at my most vulnerable-I only want them to see the happy version of me.
Also, as an “off the scale” people pleaser, I like to make people laugh and feel good. When I can’t be entertaining, I feel I have nothing to offer. The same goes for work-I have a reputation for being positive, enthusiastic and highly engaged.
I Don’t Want to Be “Weak”
When I’m running on empty I’m scared to let anyone see me differently as those characteristics are my USP. I lose interest in everything too. I just want to hide away indoors. The most simple and basic of tasks suddenly feel impossible somehow too.
Yet, despite knowing the signs, I do my utmost to disregard them-I bury my head in that proverbial sand. I don’t want to slip and I want to be “normal”but I can’t go through this yet again. Also, I want to be in control and I don’t want to be “weak”.
The Lie Doesn’t Stop There
So, rather than acknowledge what’s happening and rather than practice mindfulness curiosity, I lie to myself. Then a tension gradually builds between the lie and what I really need (to acknowledge, to be curious, to reach out). Logical me knows what to do but illogical me is stubborn and nonsensical…
The lie doesn’t stop there.
The Lying Then Extends to Friends, Family and Work
- Plans are cancelled under the pretence of another illness or working late because I choose illnesses that can render people squeamish (that way I’m less likely to be challenged).
- I lie about my attendance at social events (when asked) because I don’t want to tell that person that I “flaked” because then I’d be bound to tell them the truth about why.
- If I physically can’t make work, I’ll give them any illness other than the actual illness, because although they’ve been amazingly supportive, I don’t want them to worry that I’m relapsing and then I ultimately lose my job.
- My closest friends and my sister have apparently started to identify certain indicators of my depression but when they ask me outright-I’ll still lie.
Those Damned Lies Can Be a Form of Self-Preservation
The thing is, the lying is meant to be a form of self preservation but rather than it protecting me. I end up feeling extraordinarily guilty and berate myself even more. Thus, it becomes counter intuitive and eventually the burden of my guilt will exacerbate my depression to the point where I can no longer lie to myself or anyone else.
With the truth revealed I’m then told or re-told by friends, family and work that:
- I’m not expected to entertain everyone but I’m not a circus monkey. It’s also ok to have days at work where I’m not always totally “on”. I always deliver and that’s the key, they just want me to be well and be there.
- My needs are important and I shouldn’t spend my time constantly pleasing everyone else.
- No-one judges me. Everyone just wants me to be well and they’ll do whatever that takes (and they do) but they can’t help me if they don’t know the truth.
- That I shouldn’t be ashamed or consider myself a burden.
Living in the Shadow of Fear Can Make Things Worse
Telling the truth is such a relief when I do it but the apprehension of truth telling is very real. Despite knowing logically, that truth has helped me survive this long, each time I slip, I still fall into this cycle of shame and fear. Fear of rejection, abandonment and judgement
If you find yourself lying, please be compassionate to yourself. Your instinct is to protect yourself and maybe your loved ones too. You are not being malicious, you’re not making a judgment on them, you’re just trying to survive. However, do know that the truth, might set you on a speedier path to recovery and living in the shadow of fear may also be exacerbating your illness.
I Am Loved and I Am Lucky
If you have a loved one who has lied to you about their mental health, please don’t be upset. Please don’t think it’s a reflection on you. Your loved one needs you, your understanding and to know that’ll you stand by them despite the lies.
I hope that one day I won’t feel the need to lie anymore. Because each time I do tell the truth, I increasingly see that despite how I feel about myself-I am loved, supported and so incredibly lucky.