Mental Illness: The Mask That Is Hardly Ever Notice

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 4/15/2014, 9:42 p.m. | Updated on 4/15/2014, 9:42 p.m.
People wear masks in life for different things. One might put on a mask for a whimsical masquerade ball. One ...

People wear masks in life for different things. One might put on a mask for a whimsical masquerade ball. One might wear a mask as a protective shield when playing sports. One could put on a mask to shield themselves for germs in the environment. All of these situations for masks would catch the wondering eye. However, it is the invisible mask that people put on that is the most dangerous. The one people wear to hide what is really going on inside of them.

This week many were sadden by the death of ‘For Brown Girls’ Creator Karyn Washington. Although this beautiful brown girl herself was a picture of inspiration for others with her personal quest for all to simply love their brown skin, she wore an invisible mask. She wore a mask of mental illness and depression. Not knowing how to coupe anymore Washington took her own life.

Her death is just another example of someone who puts on a mask daily to hide the tears that flowed on the inside when tragedy struck their core. Washington’s breaking point was the death of her mother. Sadly I know Washington’s pain all too well. My own mother died 17 months ago and it still feels like it was yesterday. During the really low times, it makes me feel a wave of emotions. I imagine these are similar feeling that Washington also felt.

It was in the months following my mother’s death, when I begin to live my “new normal” that I truly understood why some choose to commit suicide. Now let me pause to insert a really big disclaimer. Even though I empathize with Washington’s choice to end her life I in no way have thought about or attempted suicide. (Just wanted to put that out there for those that know me) But I understand what Washington’s may have gone though when trying to function as a “strong person.”

When living the “strong life,” the only thing you are really doing is wearing an invisible mask of strength. But what if strong is not what you want to be? What if weak is what you need to be? I think among a number of things allowing myself to be weak is what has saved me. I cry, scream, question and do whatever I need to at the time to let it out. Don’t hold on to your emotions. It damages you more in the end. The other fact is my faith. I have a strong faith in God and know He does not put more on me than I can bear.

Sometimes it is hard to rely on your faith, especially if you are mad at God for taking away your loved one or you are too weak. During these times you need the human factor. Family and friends that check on you in the weeks, months, and years to follow after tragedy strike to see how you are really doing. This is the missing piece for many since it takes time on both parties’ parts, something that no one has a lot of.