The Masks We Wear: Being Honest About Our Feelings

By: Conor Bezane

I feel a lot of pressure. Pressure to take my meds and stay on them. Pressure to be a good son, brother, and uncle. Pressure to be a man. Pressure to conform and lead a healthy, happy life. It’s tough, but I’ve learned to maintain composure and grace among the people in my life, i.e. the normies, people who are not bipolar or mentally ill.

“Look, he’s bipolar and he’s not a nervous wreck,” I think, as if observing myself from the headspace of those around me.  “Check it out, he’s bipolar and he doesn’t drink or do drugs.” “See, he doesn’t cry.”

Yes, I don’t cry. Not anymore. At least, not an unusual cry. I’m talking about crying uncontrollably. Hysterically. Crying like it’s 2008, the most depressed year of my life, when I cried buckets of tears every day. Ever since I’ve been on the right regimen of medication, I almost never cry. And thank God. I wouldn’t wish that kind of misery on the most evil of souls.

I don’t cry all that much anymore, possibly because my meds numb my emotions. I think the last time I cried was at the end of Coco, a film about a Mexican boy who, against his family’s wishes, follows his dream to play guitar. But those were tears of joy.

As a bipolar author, I sometimes feel presssure to be an “ambassador” for bipolar. A role model. A sober example. An upstanding citizen with a balanced mood. I strive to be these things, but as we all know, nobody’s perfect.

But the ambassador role is just a mask I wear. I’m plagued by the depressive side of my illness. Despite my meds, I still have throwaway days where I am just frozen. Debilitated. Days when I can’t write. Days when I don’t feel like eating, watching TV, reading, working, or anything at all. I only feel like sleeping. Sleep, glorious sleep — an escape hatch from the horror of my depression.

You would barely notice my melancholia if you read my blog. I report the news of the day, weigh in on the goings-on in the world of bipolar and mental health, write personal essays. I see a psychiatrist once a week.

And I have a dynamic duo of close bipolar friends. They know me in real life, and I can talk to them if I’m feeling off. They, too, can turn to me when in crisis or just need to vent or pass the time. We have a sense of camaraderie. There’s Ellen, a childhood friend who is a fellow writer and now an expert musician. I admire her. She is in charge of her bipolar and extremely empathetic.

If something as pedestrian as a rainy day clouds my spirits, I have Erin to turn to. She calms me down by listening and even brings me treats — she is a confectioner whose specialty is chocolate fudge. She’s also an accomplished and talented poet, whose work has been recognized by the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards.

I also open up to my parents fairly often. Just talking to them and hearing what’s going on in their lives helps heal me on depressed days. I don’t know what I’m going to do when they’re gone. Their eventual passing has been on my mind ever since my mom had a stroke (not severe, luckily) and my dad turned 80. Plus, when you’re experiencing a depressive episode, you tend to ruminate on such morose thoughts.

Meanwhile, I try not to broadcast my negative feelings to the world. No one needs more negativity in their lives. When all else fails, I drown these feelings in pop culture — music, movies, and good TV. We can wear our ambassador masks and, as they say in AA, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Because the music never stops and the dance party that is life soldiers on.

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