Masks


In everyday life we all wear masks. Sometimes we put one on so we can work our retail job with a smile, sometimes it’s so we can visit our mother in law and keep things civil, other times it’s simply so others don’t ask us how we really are. That’s the mask I have been wearing, and it’s starting to get heavy.

greyscale photo of masks on a stick

As regular readers are aware I am a Nurse. I work predominately on the Surgical ward but float to others as required. I work ten, eight hour shifts a week, of all varying start times. I arrive everyday in an ironed uniform, washed and clean, presented well, with a smile on my face and a pleasant demeanour. This is my work mask. I don’t like to show my despair, dread, anxiety, or flippant attitude at work as it is unprofessional, unbecoming, and won’t keep food on my table. It takes a large amount of effort to keep this mask on. I can take moments of rest, and put the mask down for a period by escaping into the treatment room, or ducking to the bathroom, or even making a bed. It allows me a small window of time to release all that is pent up so that I can continue with my shift. I have managed to get through most shifts unscathed, except for this week. I began the shift on a real low, I had been barraged for days with suicidal imagery and thoughts, I had zero motivation, and even less interest in anything that was going to cause me to expel energy. I walked onto the ward, people were saying hello and I made some kind of grunting noise for the most part, someone asked me a question about a patient and I said something on the line of Kick the guy out he has the drugs he wants and moved on. One of my colleagues notices the dramatic difference in my behaviour and calls me on it, they say Aren’t you in a mood today, I take the opportunity to use it to my advantage and pass off my mood as a lack of sleep and move on. The shift continues, I put my mask back on, and nobody asks anymore questions.

man wearing mask sitting near window panel

Our friends and our family are normally the hardest to successfully wear Masks in front of. These people know us the best, they can tell when there is a subtle change in behaviour, dress, or appearance. It is therefore harder to build a Mask to suit, it often requires the wearer to build from a previous successful mood or appearance and replicate. This can make the Masks heavier and harder to carry, and thus take a large amount of energy to maintain. I love my friends and family, and I’m not just saying that because they are probably reading this post, I genuinely mean that. To that end, I hate worrying them. I don’t like to burden them with my issues or my struggles. My friends and family, like everyone, has their own stuff to worry about. So I generally try and down play how much I am struggling. To make the Mask work sometimes you have to show a little of what’s going on. I will share a little of what I am going through, show how I am overcoming that, and hope that its enough to satiate them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t like to wear any Masks with my friends and family, but sometimes it is necessary to save them from everything that is going on.

I write this post with tired arms and sore hands. I don’t know how much longer I am going to be able to hold these Masks in place. I don’t know what is going to happen when they drop. I don’t want to jeopardise my job because of my Mental Health. I don’t want to unnecessarily burden those I love. I have to just trust that God has it all in hand, and that I will be OK, regardless of what I believe is going to happen, or what my anxiety tells me is going to happen. Time will tell.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

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