Living a Double Life
I am an actress. I don’t get paid and I don’t get to soak up the limelight on the big screen, but I am dang good at my job. For most of my life, I have been able to convince the people around me that I am one of the happiest women alive. I can be loud, I almost always have a smile on my face, I can cry on cue and I can make people feel like they are the most special person in the world if I want them to. I’m also really good at telling people exactly what they want to hear.
Yes, I have spent some time in theater classes and on stage, and even had about 5 seconds on the big screen as an extra in a movie when I was 18. I used to love the stage. There was nothing more exciting than to get up there under the bright lights and become someone else for an hour and a half. Pretending to be someone else felt very familiar.
I learned early that I could do all of this at the exact same time that I feel like I was coming apart at the seams. I was living a double life.
I dealt with a lot of bullying and harassment during high school (will be in another post) and learned quickly to put up a front. If I pretended everything was okay and smiled, then I could avoid people asking me how I was really feeling. I got really good at it. Very few people knew what was really going on.
After high school, I thought independence would be good for me. I moved in and out of my parent’s house over the next few years and tried to find the things that made me happy. I was always looking on the outside to fix what was broken on the inside and it never worked. I bounced through jobs; I had 19 jobs between the ages of 17 and 21 to be exact. I rarely dated anyone more than once or twice and never allowed anyone to get too close. If someone tried, that was usually my cue to run for the hills.
By the time I was 19, I found myself suicidal again. I had been living in an apartment with some girls and we fought a lot. I was trying to keep a hectic schedule of work and school and was getting easily overwhelmed. I didn’t want to be at my family’s home, but didn’t want to fight with my roommates anymore either. I felt stuck with nowhere to turn.
I once again (to read about the first time, click here) found myself on the floor with a half written note in my hands. This time I thought pills would be an easier way out. I held that bottle for hours and finally got up off the floor because of the same guilt I had had the previous time. The guilt was exhausting.
I had been on several different pills for depression and anxiety and felt like a guinea pig trying to figure out which one would work. None of them seemed to help, yet I continued to keep everyone in my life oblivious to what was really going on.
The first time I felt like an actual fraud was when I married James, the love of my life, at 22 years old. We had a whirlwind romance. We dated for 17 days before he proposed and we were married two and a half months later. I felt like we were both in a great spiritual place when we got married and it all fell into place very quickly.
A couple months into the marriage, my anxiety was at an all time high. I was having panic attacks when he would leave the apartment, thinking I would never see him again. I was angry for no apparent reason and we fought more than I thought a newlywed couple should. We didn’t date long enough for him to see this dark side of me and I hated myself more every day that it showed. It became harder and harder to keep up the facade with someone I was living and sharing every moment of my life with.
I felt completely inadequate, I thought that he would be better off with a wife that could be completely present and loving all the time. I didn’t feel like I deserved his love and I felt that he deserved way more than me. I faked being the perfect wife for as long as I could. Luckily for me, he wasn’t willing to let go and has been the biggest supporter in my life.
With each child that I have had, my anxiety only grew worse. I was no longer just worrying about my safety or my husband’s safety, but these three beautiful human beings that my Father in Heaven entrusted to me. I had severe postpartum depression with my first two and then it was a bit more manageable with my last.
I have lived with depression and anxiety most of my life now. I still feel that I’m living a double life at times. The anxiety can be so completely crippling some days that I just want to crawl in bed and never come out. Anxiety can feel a bit like your body is imploding from the inside when everything on the outside looks totally normal. It’s so frustrating because those around you can’t fully understand what is going on on the inside when everything else seems to be so “normal” on the outside.
I have lost relationships over all of this and have been called many things including lazy, selfish and flaky. Many friends don’t last through the mood swings. Some days I’m a “social butterfly” and the next I’m locked in my house not answering my phone.
As the years have gone on, keeping up a happy facade has become exhausting. I have learned to let go of some of that. I’ve learned that it’s okay to have some bad days, or weeks or even months. Heck, some years have been pretty darn miserable.
I struggle every day with my anxiety and with my own feelings of self-worth. I struggle with days that the depression creeps in and takes hold. I struggle with always having a positive outlook when all I can see at times is darkness. I struggle.
What I have learned the most however, is that every day that I’m able to get both my feet firmly planted on the ground is a good day! My life is incredibly blessed and I do truly love every single ounce of it. I love my life and the people in it with everything that I am and everything that I have.
Through all of this I am happy; deeply, blissfully happy. I wouldn’t change any of it for anything in the world, because all of my struggles have only made me fight that much harder for this amazing thing we call life. I am a fighter and I will teach my children how to fight.
Some days all we can do is try, and that is OKAY!
The following is one of my favorite quotes from one of my spiritual heroes.