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tumblr_m94as31J9Y1r04xyvo1_500When I sat at my computer determining whether or not I really did want to write this post – I can’t speak for other ‘bloggers’ but for me personally sometimes there is some deliberation that takes place between the idea and the execution when it comes to blogging.  And to be truthful today I really wasn’t sure I was up to writing this posts.

You see thoughts are mainly private and thus there is an apparent safety in them.  I say ‘apparent’ because not all thoughts – certainly not mine at least – are safe or healthy. But in the main, they remain fairly harmless unless you either a) act upon them or b) in some cases, share them.

And smiles, when it comes to the latter of those two – the sharing of them – can be the same, can’t they?

In truth I could smile all day long in the solitude of my home and it would effect or (as the above image suggests) confuse no-one.  (Other than my dog TJ perhaps. LOL)

But the minute I share that smile with someone else, it has all the potential – does it not – of having an impact on them.  Unless of course they are so pre-occupied with other things (or other thoughts) that they really don’t notice.  But then arguably the process of sharing of the smile is incomplete.

Smiles are all around us, aren’t they?  I live in Ireland and you only have to walk down any street and pass folk and you are still sure to be greeted in one friendly fashion or another. (Something which I have noticed does sadly appear to be in the decline)  And usually with a smile.  But are those smiles real or are they often masks that people wear as a  result of social etiquette or as a result of other people’s expectations?

Some smiles are – let’s say – simply natural, an involuntary or subconscious bi-product of how a person is feeling.  Maybe long-term in existence or momentary and fleeting as a result of some thought or event which has just happened.

But other smiles, well they are more deliberate, more connived, more manufactured. Placed on the face of the wearer by the wearer as a result of deliberate thought and with a deliberate purpose in mind.  To offer you the viewer what you want or (as is often the case) to dissuade you the viewer from seeking deeper knowledge or further information.

smile maskAnd there is very little wrong with offering others a smile when they expect it or want it. Is there?  Or when you simply can’t face or bring yourself to explain or share the hurting or the depression that you are really feeling?

After all, not everyone cares or wants or even needs to know about the depression you are going through. Or the hurting you have inside.  And indeed not everyone should know about it. Trust me on this, there are those out there who would do so much damage if they did know.

But what about your desperate need for some to know? Someone to understand? Someone to still accept you, even love you, despite that depression, those thoughts, that hurting?

And what about those who should know?  Those who should be told, who should be there for you at such times.  Those for whom the truth and your ‘freedom to be real’ should be more important than social norms or everything ‘appearing rosy in the garden of life’.

I cannot even begin the explain  or describe the importance of having someone in your life with whom you can be real – especially if you do suffer from depression (in any of it’s forms).  Some person, a friend or a loved one, a family member, who will not only offer you the freedom to be real but who also accepts you and yes who still loves you when you are real.

The problem is that sadly, unless you suffer from depression, in one of it’s various forms, it is so very hard to understand (and thus to fully relate to) what it is like.  Which is why I believe that online communities such as the Mental Health Writers Guild and blogs such as this one are so important.

Because all too often even those who really do care and who do still try to understand and love you through the difficult times.  Those times when despite your best efforts you cannot escape the impact of the (often altered) realities depression forces upon you.  Can’t understand and feel so helpless.  They stand – if you like – at the edge of a world in which they see you suffering and which they know they cannot truly enter in order to try to ease your suffering.  No matter how much they may want or need to.  Or at the edge of a world which you seem to have suddenly forced upon them and which they do not understand.  Of course for the person – like me – who suffers the depression and who is involuntarily going through that latest episode it is not a case of forcing our world on others but of desperately trying to reach out from within it and be held, be accepted, be understood, be loved.

And so all too often we try to hide that world in which you cannot belong, should not belong.  We try to protect you from the world we know we cannot protect ourselves from. And often we do so by hiding that world behind a smile.  Behind a mask. After all, is not a smile far more acceptable than a sign which reads (as my mind [Mini Mental Me] often tells me I am) “Danger! – walking Minefield – Keep Clear!”.

For me personally – as a Christian who suffers from mental illness – I see the smile (and yes even the laughter) that I try to offer others, not as a lie or a mask to hide the pain or the depression within.  But more as a way of my offering my Christ and the joy that He offers me despite my mental health issues.

But I do need and want to be very real and very honest here.  Sometime my depression and my mental health smothers and impacts me so much that even my finding my Christ and my faith  – which has brought me through this far – is so very hard.  And so yes, sometimes my smile, my laughter and joking, is indeed a mask to hide that which I don’t think you either need or want to see.  And I am certainly not alone in this and certainly not the only one who struggles and yet paints on ‘the smiling face of depression.’

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