What’s in a Smile?

Someone may look happy, but that doesn’t mean they are. A lot of us wear a mask as that is the only way to survive in a world that shuns authenticity and feelings. We cannot handle depth because we cannot handle our own depth. We cannot handle other’s feelings because we cannot handle our own. So, we go out of our way to control other people’s emotions to keep us from feeling our own. It really all comes down to that. People outside of us sometimes mirror what we have within; they reflect back to us those parts of ourselves we are not ready to face yet.

When I was working in Japan as an English teacher, I had often been asked if I ever had a bad day since I was always “happy”. I used to call myself “iron woman”; the implication was that I could handle anything. I didn’t tell anyone this, but the truth was I wasn’t happy. I was faking it, but buried inside were all my suppressed feelings. I suffered physically from bottling it all inside. I was starting to break down in Japan. Toward the end of my stay there, I had been taking 8 xanax a day just to get by. I was having panic attacks so badly that I couldn’t give my usual monthly lectures to a group of students. My boss understood and made me exempt from them. Sometimes while I was teaching at my desk, my hands would shake and they shook even more violently as I tried to stop myself from shaking.

This had nothing to do with my living in Japan. My defenses that I had used for so long were starting to give out on me….

For some of us, our facades only last so long before they crumble and we’re forced to be real. Real with ourselves and real with others.

Your REALNESS does NOT like being suppressed and that suppression can later manifest physically or in the form of depression, anxiety, neurosis, panic, addictions, suicide ideation ….and this is not uncommon.

My Japanese friend’s friend who was always on business trips had to fly every single week and once he was in his 40’s, suddenly he became so fearful of planes, he could no longer fly due to panic. His defenses/mask had broken down and suppressed parts of himself were surfacing. He had to face them before he could move forward.

Long after I had been back in the states, I had a complete breakdown in the later part of Spring in 2013. My mask was falling off. I could no longer pretend anymore. I had become a cantankerous curmudgeon, had constant violent rage attacks, was crying and screaming all the time, smoking and eating myself to death, and I had become so depressed that by that summer, I had made plans to commit suicide. Right before I was planning to do it, I got a message from my Higher Self to at least go downstairs where where my husband was working to let him know about it to see if he can help. I was told to at least die knowing that I tried to do something about it. So, I dropped everything, went to see my husband at work and told him that I wanted to kill myself. He called in sick for the rest of the day to take care of me.

He is why I am still alive today.

Can we find love like that today?

While most husbands would have used that to distance themselves from their partners, minimize what they were going through, laugh it off, or just leave all together “because their strong woman was no longer strong”, my husband stood by me the whole time. Not because he thought he had to, but because he WANTED to. That’s what real friendship is about.

A perfect example of a facade breaking down would be former Miss America and motivational speaker, Mrs. Marilyn Van Derbur. When we saw her on TV in the 50’s and 60’s , did she look like someone who had been incested for 13 years by her father? Absolutely not. She had quite the convincing mask. She was bubbly, charismatic, strong, and always had a smile. But then when she was in her 40’s, she broke down completely. She was down for 11 years. Like my case, her husband’s unconditional love and support got her where she is now. As a result of the healing elements of love that allowed her to move through her pain, now she continues to be a motivational speaker but this time for those who had been subjected to incest as children. She has helped thousands and spends 4-5 hours a day via email listening to and helping incest survivors so they don’t have to feel so alone.

My husband had been there for me, as marriage vows would dictate, through not just thin but the thickest of thick. It was his support, his effortless understanding of me, his empathy and his unconditional love that helped me get back on my feet again. My dear husband taught me what love was through his own example. And now I want to pay it forward and be there for people, like Marilyn Van Derbur, who have nobody else who understands them.

All I ask of you? Please do not judge people who are having breakdowns. They may or may not come out of it, but either way, what’s the point of judging when we don’t even know the storms their soul has been through. Before you judge, ask yourself this one question: Could you do their path better than them if you went through what they did?

And someday, you may very well face similar storms.

At some point on our Human Journey in this physical realm, we’re all going to begin to drop our addictions, our fears, our programs, and our facades and become real. We tend to associate feelings, tears and breakdowns with weakness, but in reality, the bravest drop the act and show their real face. The strongest aren’t afraid to be naked, vulnerable and brutally honest about who they are and what they are feeling. And those who can empathize and understand, all the stronger for it. We, however, only understand what we have been through ourselves. We only judge what we don’t understand because we either lack the experience, the courage to emote or we have the experience and don’t want to remember it.

When you see a smile, it’s not always that simple. People might cry and scream behind a smile. When you see a tear, it’s not always that simple. People might find healing, strength, and empowerment from a single tear. When someone becomes depressed and can barely get out of bed, this means they may have shut down all together. Condemnation does not get people out of their funk, only love, patience, and friendship do.


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