Behind the Mask – the comfort of the Masquerade Ball

Tonight I was flipping channels between love story after love story on this “most romantic night of the year” and I came across Romeo and Juliet… more specifically the ‘Masquerade Ball’ scene from Romeo and Juliet. Romeo sneaks his way into the ball to be able to see Juliet under the false coverage of a mask. Behind this mask he was undetected to all in the ballroom. Behind this mask his identity was unknown. This mask, which Romeo put on, drew attention completely away from who he actually was. It made me think… what masks do we put on? What is it that we feel the need to hide when we don those masks? And why are people so reluctant to get to know the [wo]man behind the mask? Is life just one extensive masquerade ball? Are we so used to hiding behind masks that we actually search out others who are the same? I know for myself, I’ve made a life, in many ways, of hiding behind masks. When I wear my mask I am confident. I am strong. I don’t have fears and insecurities. My mask is who I want to be rather than who I am… isn’t it? IMG_0870 What is it I’m trying to hide? What is it I’m afraid of letting others see? Why is it I’m so scared to make myself even the least bit vulnerable? Over the last few months I’ve been really making an effort to not just remove the masks, but try and figure out why I felt the need to put them on in the first place. For me, the mask hides a past that I’ve allowed very few to really, actually be a part of. For as long as I can remember I’ve tried to protect myself. Guard myself. Not allow myself to be even the least bit vulnerable. To me, in my mind, no one could possibly like who I really was… so no one was going to see who I really was. The thing with masks, if people don’t like you, you can always tell yourself that it’s not you they don’t like, but the man in the mask. You see, it really does all make sense. It’s a complete false sense of self, and sense of confidence that I had, but the masks served their purpose. I was protected. I was safe. But was I happy?

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I think the best way you could describe me was emotionally numb. Like a freezing needle, my masks numbed me from feeling true emotion. I felt emotion, don’t let me mislead you. But it was false emotion. It was harnessed emotion. And it was regulated. If things got too intense, I could pull that mask down a little bit further and let things just brush off. The mask, without question, serves it’s purpose. And that’s why they are so widely worn in this masquerade ball we call life. They are heavily relied on. There’s nothing that makes you rely on your mask more than being hurt by someone you’ve allowed behind the mask. When you’ve opened up. Shown trust. Left yourself vulnerable. I can likely count on one hand the people I’ve allowed behind my mask. And by likely I mean I can absolutely tell you, without question. There’s four. There have been four people in my 34 years that I have allowed to see me. To see the real me. No walls… no masks… just me. If there’s anything that makes the mask a more permanent fixture on your face, it’s the hurt you have experienced without it. Being honest and getting hurt. Making yourself vulnerable and getting burnt. False hope, False trust, real hurt. Three of the four have hurt me, and the fourth holds my heart literally in the palms of her hands. My wife is my everything, she’s my emotional barometer, and my strong soul. And she’s the one person, more than anyone, that I’m most terrified of losing. But… I’m working on that. Mainly with her, but across the board. I’ve decided I’m tired of hiding. It scares me, but I want people to get to know me. Who I am. What makes me tick. That’s the main objective behind this blog. I know some of you reading this, but most I don’t. But I feel that it’s an opportunity for me to help give understanding into the world of mental illness. Because I know that I’m not alone. I know there are many, many more like me. That have masks. That wear them tightly. That are very literally terrified of what others will think of the [wo]man behind the mask. That I can be a voice, that I can help you all understand a little bit what it’s like to feel the need to keep your life completely masked. IMG_0401 Please, I’d love to hear feedback. Whether it’s Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram or here on WordPress. Whatever it is, please let me know what you think. Add me, follow me, talk about me with your friends. And if you know anyone you think could benefit from my blog, please share.

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5 thoughts on “Behind the Mask – the comfort of the Masquerade Ball

  1. I think you speak for all who have mental health issues. No matter what the diagnosis (my loved one does not have a diagnosis yet). In terms of the masks – well I think it something that each person can relate to if they are completely honest with themselves, no matter what state their mental health is in. Again I can only say thank you for being so brave to share your story and stay strong 🙂

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  2. In Romeo and Juliette Romeo declares that he is “fortune’s fool”. The implication is that he is subject to external forces and has little/no control over the things which determine his fate. As mental health survivors I believe it is necessary to understand the triggers and detrimental things in order to prevent catastrophe. Prevention is better and more effective than cure so if Romeo had actually identified that he had a tendency to be hot headed and tend to flit from one girl to the next (Roselyn one minute, Juliette the next) then he’s possibly avoid looking foolish and paying the ultimate price for his stupidity and bad decisions…which not only killed him but Juliette and Mercutio. As the Prince of Verona says at the end “some shall be punished, some shall be pardoned.”

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  3. Beautifully written. I couldn’t agree more that these masks are a problem, eloquently put I thoroughly enjoyed hearing someone speak candidly about this. Please this isn’t a plug, but please go and read my comic I produced as a way of me taking off my mask. Like you a suffered for years and years, emotionally detached from everything. It was only with the help of someone that I now hold extremely dear, that I was able to slowly Learn to feel again. It’s able gain constant battle able gained I do fall back into the comfort of the mask from time to time (okay a lot), but the fight is worth it. We have to be true. I congratulate you on embarking on this journey of self discovery. It isn’t easy. And again please read my comic Small Things, here’s the link.http://www.mediafire.com/?1pj5hr5lgczf7l8

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  4. Beautifully written. Like you, I too have embarked on an attempt to lead a life without a mask, the comfort of hiding is tempting, and the fear of more pain is scary but you can do it. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for my partner, without her support I’d still be void of emotion, unable to feel, much like you described yourself to feel. This isn’t a plug, well I guess it is, just not a shameless one. Please read my latest comic Small Things. It was my outlet, something I had to do using the only medium I felt comfortable in. My way of removing my mask. It’s a tough life, it’s scary but with the support of your wife it’s not impossible. Good luck!

    Here’s the download link for my comic if you’d like to give it a read: http://www.mediafire.com/?1pj5hr5lgczf7l8

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