Carnival mask on wooden board

I wear a mask to hide the pain of my wounds, which have yet to heal.  To cover my scars. To cover the burden of my heartache.

I have been wearing this mask for quite some time now. I put it on each morning to face the world – day after day. I only take it off when I am alone.  And only I can see all the pain that still lies beneath. This mask protects my heart. It protects me – and it protects those around me. Spares them from having to be constantly reminded of my truth. Of who I have become. Of the trauma that I endured. It is what provides some sense of normalcy even though my life is far from that.

I slap this perfectly sculpted mask onto my face every single day. It is one that has a perfectly carved smile and warm brown eyes. One that is well kept and put together. One that gives the impression that I have skillfully figured out my life. One that tells the world – this woman is happy. This woman is whole. Her life is complete and her heart content. She is courageous, resilient, and strong.  My mask speaks out, “I’m Okay!” All while muffling the screams from inside, “I AM BROKEN! I AM BROKEN! I. AM. BROKEN!”

My mask smiles when everyday words cut deep. My mask hides the sorrow of my heart when innocent questions are asked. I don’t know exactly why I wear it. Or where it came from. I seem to have stumbled upon it along my long journey. I saw it’s perfection and wanted that part of myself back. This mask is old and worn, but so much more attractive than who I am now. It’s easier for people to look at. It’s the face of who I used to be before I lost my child. Before I was completely changed. It is the face of someone unmarked by loss.

In the solace of my home – I remove it. Tears that have been contained for days and weeks are released and pour out in uncontainable amounts. The scars and trauma are again visible, if only to myself. My truth is revealed. Only I know the depths of that truth. For it has settled in a dark abyss and the world is too afraid to climb down with me. My mask hides how truly deep my pain runs. It hides it to protect me from the judgment that I should be better. This mask is my most useful tool – yet I despise it most.

I hate what it has done – the false impressions. The exhaustion it causes in every single cell of my body. The lies it tells. It becomes so hard to breathe underneath it. I could be gasping for air, suffocating, and not a single soul would ever notice.

I want to take this mask and throw it away. Eradicate it. Only to never see it again. I want the world to love me for my scars not shy away because of them. I want those around me to look down into that dark abyss and climb down with me. I don’t want to be alone here. I don’t want to have to hide behind this mask like a monster anymore. I want people to see me in all my brokenness. And accept who I have become. Because though I may be broken – I am kinder, my heart softer. I see the world so differently from them – but I have so much to offer. Only if I didn’t have to hide. The longer I wear this mask, the deeper my wounds become. They cannot heal behind a mask.

The more I have to hide, the worse it becomes. The more lies it leads, the harder it gets. It has slowly become a part of me – transplanting itself onto my very being. Fighting against my rejection of it. I want so badly to remove this mask, but I don’t know how anymore. How can I live without it? Without that fake adoring smile and confident laugh? Without it’s unscathed skin? I don’t know if I can survive without it. As much as I hate it, I still need it desperately. I need it to face holidays, anniversaries, simple social encounters, and everything single thing in between. Maybe I am supposed to grow into this mask – instead of it growing onto me. Maybe this is how it should be. I don’t really know anymore.

Maybe one day, someone will hear the screams from beneath. Someone will see right through my beautifully decorated mask. They will allow me to remove it and help to mend my infected wounds. They will not fear me because of the gaping hole in my soul and they will embrace the scars that have begun to form. Then this facade will all be over. And maybe. Just maybe – I won’t have to pretend anymore.