They say it’s an act, as if opening up is purely an action and nothing else. They say ‘just’ open up, as if it’s easy in the first place, like ‘just’ starting the car, or ‘just’ cleaning the kitchen.
It’s not an act.
It’s an art.
Acting would be the way I lie to everyone around me. Are you okay, they ask. How’s the eating going, they request. You’re looking better, they say. I smile, I nod. I’m fine. I’m okay. I’ve been exhausted but I’m fine.
I’m not fine. Exhausted is my euphemism for depressed. It means getting out of bed has gotten hard again. It means I’m eating, but probably twice a day, probably binging because my body is freaking out that I’ve started starving it again and has to store as many calories as possible just in case, just to be safe, just to be sure I don’t kill myself. C’mon body, really? Killing myself is the goal here? Exhausted means that the suicidal thoughts are back. It means staying up late to avoid sleep, but sleeping in because I don’t want to face another day. It means my washing has piled up, the dishes have piled up, the assignments are piling up. It means my perfectionism and obsessions have kicked up a notch, and the act of actively resisting these is enough to exhaust me by itself, never mind all this other bullshit that I have to deal with at the same time.
Opening up is an art, but so is lying. I’ve gotten good at one, and I’m still awful at the other – no prizes for guessing which is which.
I used to do shut down immediately when people asked about my mental health. And when I say used, what I mean is that from when my mental health started crumbling when I was 11, until I was 16, I didn’t share a single word of what was happening inside my fucked up mind – with anybody. So realistically, I’ve come a long way. I can say the words “anorexic”, “depressed”, “anxious”, “bulimic”, “bullied”, “abused”, “traumatised” and “struggling” without panic immediately bubbling to the surface. I still suck at it, and I still have to write down word for word what I’m going to say to my therapist(s), I still lie to my friends and I definitely still lie to my family, but I think it’s gotten better.
Like any art, opening up involves progress, and I think I’ve made a fair bit.