I read a post on Facebook the other day that really stopped me. In the middle of the lounge room, surrounded by the pandemonium otherwise known as my three young children, a lump swelled up in my throat and my eyes instantly prickled with tears.
It was my 2 year old that noticed my face first.
“Are orr-right, Mummy?”
The post was made on a business blogging page established by a new friend of mine. To her 4400 followers, she opened up for the first time about enduring a late miscarriage last year. It was heavy on her mind that day, the day that would have been her baby’s due date.
But she almost didn’t say a thing. Most of her wanted to remain quiet. Sadly, she agonised over that important post for just one reason.
We are far too adept at deciding what everyone around us must already be thinking of us. We don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. We convince ourselves that we best not open ourselves up if we’re hurting, because even just one ignorant or flippant comment could be enough to break us.
And crumbling in public, well that just wouldn’t do at all.
No. Much better to keep it all inside. Keep it all well hidden. Then let it out, just a little at a time. Maybe while you’re in the shower. Or when you’ve got the range hood blaring in the kitchen. Or, at the very least, after the kids are tucked up in bed.
More often than not, my husband and I put on our happy masks each day. Our automated replies are, well, they’re simply automatic.
“Hi, how are you?” “Fine thanks, and you?”
“How’s [your husband] going?” “He’s alright, thanks, he’s good at keeping busy.”
“I saw him the other day, he looked well! Is he back at work yet?” “No, not quite…”
These standard enquiries are delivered so lightly and nonchalantly, that I feel I’d be doing my companion a disservice if I didn’t reply in an equally light and nonchalant manner. And I know they’re really hoping for some good news, why let them down? I sometimes wonder if they’re secretly relieved to have avoided a possibly awkward conversation about the messy truths of PTSD.
I wouldn’t blame them. In truth, I enable these vanilla conversations. I don’t want to make people feel awkward. I don’t want to upset my family. And I don’t want to expose the shame that society still smears mental illness with.
But I feel like a fraud. I should be open about the adversity that has greatly shaped me into the person I am today, and how being married to PTSD continues to change me every day.
Was I always this patient? This determined? This resilient? No. I’ve been moulded by the PTSD that barged into our family five years and stole my husband.
So after reading that post on Facebook, I put my phone down and gave each of my kids a big hug. I really admire the strength my friend found to reach out to all those woman who were feeling just as alone as she was. And I need to do the same.
No more vanilla conversations. No more hiding under the happy mask. PTSD is here to stay, and I’m going to tell the world how we live with it.
The mask needs to come off. And the vanilla needs to stop.
(original post published 21st April 2016)