There’s nothing quite like a fancy dress party. Lots of people getting dressed up in all sorts of weird and wonderful costumes, pretending to be someone/something else.
The process of making ourselves up in this way is actually not too dissimilar to how some of us deal with our mental health difficulties. Sometimes it’s easier to put on a metaphorical mask and pretend that everything’s okay.
Do we all wear masks?
If we’re honest with ourselves, we all wear masks at some point in our lives.
Perhaps we wear different ones each day depending on the role we’re in. Work may require us to wear a different mask to the one we might wear around friends or family.
Do we ever really take our masks off, though? And should we?
The positives of wearing masks
Masks are a useful way of protecting us when we’re going through difficult times. We might not be able to take time off work, or we may not want to, so wearing a mask can be a way of us maintaining our role.
One would hope that we could talk to our superiors about any problems we’re having, but as many of us know the fear of stigmatisation due to mental health difficulties is very real.
Even if we get support from our supervisors, some roles may be emotionally demanding (e.g., counselling). Therefore, it’s important that we don’t bring our personal difficulties into these roles as we’re there to support others and not the other way round.
The negatives of wearing a mask
Whilst wearing a mask can help us through tough periods, it can also prevent us from addressing our problems. Wearing a mask may become quite addictive and something we’re not able to stop doing for fear of the consequences of removing it.
However, in order that we can begin to address our problems we need to be brave enough to remove the mask and be vulnerable.
Finding some balance
Allowing regular time to remove the mask can help you process your emotions and think of ways of tackling whatever difficulties you’re having. By continuing to pretend that everything is okay, the problem doesn’t get addressed and the emotions build up.
It’s also a good opportunity to release any pent-up emotions. Whilst some people might see this as a sign of weakness, it’s actually really healthy to do this. We’re not robots, we’re human beings, and it’s perfectly normal to feel.
You may well want to put the mask back on when you’re in work or with friends/family, and that’s okay. If you’ve allowed yourself some time away from the mask to be yourself, then this will help during the times when it’s more appropriate to wear the mask.
How helpful/unhelpful have masks been for you? Let us know in the comments.