My Mask, my veil of perfectionism.

“Every thought we think is creating our future”.

-Louise Hay

This is absolutely ridiculous, what the hell is wrong with you. Get it together. There is nothing to cry about. Why are you shaking? Fuck. Wipe it all off and start again, and now because of this you are going to be late for work. You’ve already let them down being off for so long, and the board meeting round is coming up again… lets go…. pull yourself together… figure it out already!!!

I burst into tears for the 4th time as the still wet foundation streams down my face and smears as I succumb to ugly crying in the mirror and realize that something is really not okay.

I’m not sure what it is, but I do not feel okay. This crying business is way too far out of character for me to not notice. I do not cry- not unless it is on my terms, so this was odd it was odd for me to feel like I was out of control. I felt what was like a panic attack, but in my head, AND in my body at the same time.

I mean, I had suffered from reasonable bouts of overwhelm, that caused panic attacks that I thought were reasonable given the situations, so the feelings were not foreign, but that didn’t make them any less terrifying in those moments.

I had been recently forced away into the desperate isolation of illness and pain. Isolated from everything that I loved, and in that isolation as I was searching for ways to get better, I had lost some of myself to the illness along the way, and as I healed I had to let go and grieve my loss of “normal” that I had created for myself, and in the process created a more healthy normal for myself, from which growth and health is inevitable, rather than a gamble.

I could not put on the mask. Neither the made up one that portrays my illusion of perfection, or what was not-so-lovingly deemed my “Resting Breanna Face”, it was just another mask that I was wearing to hide what I felt were my inadequacies.

I needed to ask for help, urgent help! I felt another layer of panic vibrations enter my body, I knew that this was the moment where I needed to make a choice, but I had so many unknowns in my life and no answers on the horizon.

I felt helpless. The person that I used to be, she was gone and I couldn’t pretend to be her anymore. I couldn’t put on her mask, it didn’t serve me anymore; but of course I didn’t know that at the time all I knew in those moments was the physical weight of my inadequacies on my chest, while my heart raced the way that it does when you are a scared kid, hiding, tightly clenched jaw, with tingling sensations in your arms from clenching the blanket so hard, shaking all over, terrified of the picture in your mind of whatever creature your mind created in the darkness of your closet door you left open a crack.

That frozen scared feeling except on the inside everything was racing and all of my senses were on high alert. Hyper vigilance, hyper sensitivity and accelerated negative hormone response pathways triggered a spiraling sensation that felt alarmingly irrational to me at the time.

From the moment I identified for MYSELF that I needed help rationalizing or processing my thoughts, I immediately asked for help. I know enough about myself to know that in those moments my thoughts were racing, I am normally a fast thinker and a fast talker but this was beyond my scope, in those moments. I was in a panic attack , overwhelmed with the complicated circumstances I was facing in my life in all aspects, personal , professional and physical health. I identified that I was not coping well with my circumstances, I was scared. Terrified.

I lost my brother to suicide many years ago, and feeling irrational in my mind was the trail head to that path, the path in which is not negotiable for me. The path I will not choose,ever, but the irrationality of it all also infused some fear.

The truth is- while I was stuck in my bed and I was subconsciously fueling my feelings of self loathing and inadequacy that often come with chronic illness. What was also happening was that I was falling into mental responses formed and fused in my childhood, and in my life systematically until I recognized the pattern in myself. You repeat the mistakes you are unaware of until you learn the lesson you ought to learn.

I asked for help. I was turned away from everywhere I went- I was not taken seriously enough because I was not suicidal, and the fact that I was cohesively “rationalizing” while I was in crisis. I did not want the medication offered. I wanted help processing and rationalizing- but they don’t offer that in emergency medicine, or in emergency mental health assessment. I was involuntarily admitted, and released on the verbal agreement that I wasn’t going to “go home and kill myself tonight” are the exact words he used as he signed off with the nurse his consent for me to go home.

I was released into my own care, knowing that I would be home alone and of course I was of no physical harm to myself… but that didn’t mean that my mind stopped racing- now I was even more confused, because I wasn’t sick enough, but still needed the help I left there without.

I spent the next day and every single day for a whole year asking and learning more new and creative ways to ask for what I need from the medical system and the insurance system that are in charge of my “healing” but have no knowledge around how to heal without the use of chemical drugs that harm the systems I am trying to restore.

During the next few months and in the process of healing I spiraled down into the emotional, neurological and thereby physical equivalent of an addict. Self acceptance was my goal, but self loathing was the drug I chose; all under my conscious mind’s nose and quite frankly, under my level of self-awareness.

The same way that someone who is addicted to drugs is coping, so is someone addicted to the feelings of perfectionism. The same process happens, and actually the same method mentally. Anyone choosing to cope rather than deal with has an addiction for whatever they choose to cope or suppress their emotions or desires with. You will not be happy in your life, authentically happy- if you are coping as a daily strategy for mental health.

What about perhaps an actual plan for YOU to make real changes in your lifestyle? Or are we just looking at medications to “solve” problems for us that we have deemed out of our control.

Even if it is prescription medication… if you are simply taking the drugs to have the problem solved FOR you, you are doing the same thing as an addict does chasing the high to have it take away the pain and finding every excuse for yourself to not see it from THAT perspective… but the fact is:

You are coping with drugs.

You are coping. Coping is avoiding. Avoiding is denying.

You are emotionally the equivalent of a high functioning addict at this point, just more dangerous because you are being elusive about it and in denial about its existence, so in your mind you are above the “mental health” being a “you” kind of thing. Trust me, I know the feeling.

Because you are fine, you are fine everything is FINE!!!!

If you are taking medications to ease your discomfort, but are not ALSO using mindfulness and the information available on emotional intelligence today to aide in your own recovery, you are doing a half- assed job of helping yourself- in my opinion. (*** don’t alter your medications without talking to a medical professional, please!!!)

I accepted the things that were contributing to my illness without judging myself to harshly, and found that I was repeating the last abuse cycle that I have left to face.

It was my mask.

It was my mask, and all of the other masks I found out I was hiding under or coping with.

All of the masks I wore needed to come off. I wanted help… and I didn’t want to cope anymore. I was ready to not wear the mask anymore, which seemed fitting as I watched my makeup streak and smear with each teardrop rolling from my eyes all the way down my cheeks, around my jaw and trickle down the sides of my neck… no more masks!

-B.

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