Remove The Masks!

Pretence, oh how we pretend!

We pretend to be okay, happy, fine and engaged. There is an unsaid rule that I believe makes the situation worse- the fake smiles we wear when meeting people. I hate these fake smiles and vague responses we give each time someone asks “How are you?”. Most times I wish people wouldn’t ask, because if you dare say you aren’t okay; things get awkward VERY quickly! Too many of us are too proud to admit that we aren’t okay. It’s easier to smile, walk away and avoid talking about the pain you are dealing with. It’s become a norm to pretend like we are okay when in fact many are depressed, sad and broken. How do I know this?

I know this, because I am part of the “us”.

The last few months have been very difficult for me (contrary to popular belief). Life has been challenging, hard and stressful. This led to me being disengaged at work and in some areas of my life; which has not been a good look. Communication deteriorated with family and friends which under normal circumstances should have been of great concern; but for a long while, I wasn’t concerned and didn’t care much. It was easier to lie and say that things were fine. It was easier to lie and blame whatever I was going through on burnout. Not being okay was not a good look for the “bubbly” ” hardworking” and “overachiever” Tokiso. Because of this, I pretended and convinced myself that I was fine, but was I?

As time went by, I experienced bad mood swings, extreme exhaustion, and a lot of anger and sadness all at the same time. I’ve cried more times these last few months than I have all my life (yes I do cry). I’ve questioned so many aspects of my life- my career, my happiness or lack thereof … my reason for being. I felt guilty most times, what about exactly I still do not know. I felt lonely, although surrounded by people and most times I was not interested in a lot of things, except coming home to a quiet house where I could hide from the noise. I haven’t been myself in a long while and I’ve struggled to find the reasons why. Somehow I think I’ve gone through the seven stages of grief (I thought they are only applicable when you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one) or some disorder that ate away at me.


Shock and disbelief: It’s scary when you suddenly leave work, get into the car to drive home and start crying uncontrollably. When it happens the first time, it shocks you but you blame it on having a bad day or the annoying meeting with a colleague. Chances are you (like me) will brush it off and move on- ” it will get better” we tell ourselves. In my case, I blamed it on having a bad day, too many bad days it seemed; but when it happened on the second and third day… then a week later; I knew something was wrong. The problem, however, I still didn’t know what was the source of this unhappiness.

Denial– The hardest part of this episode was accepting to myself that I am not fine. I am that guy who is always in good spirit, posing and jumping really high in pictures. It did not make sense to be feeling this way. It was almost unacceptable for ” an overachiever” not to be okay and I was not going to try convince anyone, least myself that I wasn’t my happy self. So I smiled, laughed and pretended everything was okay. Even when things got worse, I still pretend all was well. Big mistake!

Guilt: I felt guilty for not being 100 per cent. This was (and still is) by far my biggest challenge. Having to pull myself out of bed to show up (though I didn’t want to) took a toll on me. Just showing up was also not enough, I had to bring a LOT of energy, the positive energy that people have come to expect from me. I couldn’t allow myself to be vulnerable, because people expected solutions to problems at work or positive energy at events. I felt like any sign of weakness or cracks that were happening from within would discredit me and ruin all I’ve worked so hard to build. So again, I smiled through the guilt hoping that things would be fine, but this pushed me further into the darkness.

Anger: I was angry for being a Mosotho. I was angry about BEING in Lesotho. Being an employee made me angry. Being a student made me angry. Starting a business made me angry- breathing made me angry. Yes, I was very ANGRY! Angry at life, humanity, me! I hated myself for all that I committed to because it meant showing up. Not just showing up, but bringing a lot of energy too. I was angry for having to show up, chirpy and positive. I was angry for being angry.

Loneliness: My trips home became messier. I cried more, sometimes uncontrollably; but I looked forward to being home where I could hide. I would quickly open the door, get in and lock myself in. I would turn off my phone to avoid any calls or messages and jump into bed. Minutes later, I realized how empty the house was, how alone I was and this left a big void. Calling anyone was not what I wanted, but what I yearned for, confusing I know. When I managed to pull myself together and join friends for drinks, I still felt very alone which was frustrating. So I’d sit with them for a bit, then pretend like I had to go study, attend a meeting or something. I’d leave, go home and hide.

Acceptance: This is a very long blogpost and you are probably asking if I’ve come to terms with what I’ve been dealing with and what my next steps are. Well, I still do not know if I am 100 percent okay. What I know with certainty is that my smiles are a bit more genuine and that I’m more engaged at work. Waking up and showing up to my commitments is a lot easier than before. Taking off my mask has helped- I’ve stopped pretending to be fine. I’ve accepted that I am no super hero , that my cup too becomes empty and must be filled with love, sleep and support.

I’ve learnt that I need to talk more about my situation and my feelings (even though some people won’t listen). I also made peace with being vulnerable, allowing myself to feel the pain, hurt and disappointment. I’ve always been able to work through my issues so I decided to do that. Talking or writing about what I was going through helped give me some perspective and clarity.

I learnt to acknowledge that all my emotions- good or bad are valid. I needed to experience them, but also work through them instead of wallowing in them. I’ve learnt to ask for help, to ask to vent and scream. I’ve accepted that it’s okay not to be okay. We are human and humans cannot be okay all the time. 2019 has been very eventful for me and I’ve changed a lot. I needed a reminder that not being 100 percent okay is fine.

So it like you, you’ve felt lonely, angry or guilty; allow yourself to remove your mask. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, talk about what you are dealing with. Allow yourself to experience the emotions because they are valid and then commit to working through them. Talk to people you trust and face the pain. Remember” It’s okay not to be okay” but never suffer in silence. Speak up, ask for help and LIVE!

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