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Who’s that girl? You know the annoying one who is always smiling and her ponytail is always bopping along so annoying right? Yeah that’s what my good friend said she thought of me before she really knew me and got to know my layers. I am always hiding, hiding behind a fake smile, a mask if you will. It’s so easy too, no one wants to know the depressed anxious girl and deal with all her issues. No one wants to hear anything other than the standard “I’m great!” when they ask how you are doing today. If you said “Actually I really need a friend today” or “I couldn’t sleep all night because I have crippling anxiety,” can you imagine the uncomfortable silence and awkward situation afterwards as the person tries to slowly back up and get away from you? Yeah, no thanks. Fake smile and standard response it is.
I am not always miserable, but I feel like I have to present this person to the world who is happy, perky, has it all together, wears the “right” outfit, has the cute cat photos, talks about the latest episode of whatever is popular to watch that week so I will fit in. I am really good at it too. Meanwhile, I am a total dork who would rather have a deeper conversation about our shared experiences in life that have shaped us into who we are today. I love to take a deep dive into a problem whether it’s personal or at work and analyze it to death. I over think everything, which is good and bad depending on the situation. That’s how my anxiety makes an appearance sometimes too.
Anxiety and depression run rampant in my family, and I thought I was the one who avoided them up until a few years ago. I was actually the asshole in my family who thought I was better than everyone else too because I escaped it. The joke was on me there! About 6 years ago, I was in a bad place and I kept making excuses for my behaviors and was a classic avoider until my world fell apart. I didn’t know how to get out. Enter counseling twice a week and medication. That time I was in a relationship and I put on the “face” to please this person and even though I was still not feeling my best, I went back to reality so to speak. I tried, I tried so very hard to do what was pleasant to everyone else. I tried to be what was expected. I wanted to smile and actually feel genuine and sometimes I did. A lot if the time it was a front. I made myself sick, stated getting migraines and could not figure out why. Somehow I existed though.
I was exhausted and drained all the time. I avoided my friends that I tried so hard to make during the day at work and when social activities came up because I was too spent to deal with it. I started alienating friends and didn’t understand how important my showing up was to them. My relationship was falling apart. We were together for 12 years though, so I thought it was just one of those bumps in the road and I would get better. Well apparently my partner did not agree and a couple years ago we split up. At the time I was devastated, not really because I was so in love anymore but because it was a huge loss to me. My life was turned upside down. I moved into my own place and told myself it was great and redecorated. I got a new job, which I loved. All the while I was dealing with this loss by burying it deep down like I always did. At the same time, my partner’s dad, my dad since mine died when I was two, had pancreatic cancer and was dying. I visited him and watched as he wasted away, it was awful to watch. He was such a vibrant man, he had a huge mouth even to the end and we loved him for it. I was there when he passed at home surrounded by his family, I was there when they took his body away, and guess what I did? I buried my feelings. Shocking. Then my 15 year old cat died of cancer too. It was just one more thing to bury and keep going because I had to, I have no one else to take care of me so I have to work and be “happy”. Fake smile was plastered on my face and I avoided my old friends that knew my old history so that I could move on. Silly, stupid me.
I held it together pretty well until about six months ago when I got tired of the migraines and the heaviness of it all. I could not get out of bed, I stayed there for a week, I called into work not caring what would happen. I just gave up. Then one day, I woke up and I was less tired and I knew that my depression and anxiety were lying to me and I needed help. I had been here before and since I only had myself to depend on I knew it was either this or kill myself and I was not giving up like that. I had to remind myself that was a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It was hard though. I wanted nothing more than to silence everything. I finally called FMLA and got that going. I went to my PCP, found a counselor through my EAP program at work and got a referral to a psychiatrist.
The last six months has been rough, I am not going to lie. I have been going to counseling weekly. I have been doing things out of my comfort zone. I have tried meds that have made me crazy, well crazier. Ha ha. I was acting out. I quit my job. I started dating and having sex again. I think too much on that front honestly. The important part is that I am learning though. I am learning what works for me. I am still smiling and sometimes it’s fake, but now more times than not its real. I am learning to reconnect with my friends and call my sister and my best friend. Most importantly I am reconnecting with myself. I am growing. I am certainly not ever going to get rid of my depression or anxiety, they are part of me. What I can do though is live for myself and do what makes me happier. I still listen to that chick inside my head that is a people pleaser but less often now. I’m just happy to be here and be a work in progress. I have worked hard to even get this far even if things are chaotic right now. People do not realize how hard it is to go on this journey because I hide behind the mask. Everyone thought I was “fine.” Well, now I can say I am getting there.