For weeks, my son begged for a Halloween costume. I’m talking early September. Somewhere about mid-October, his dad finally made the pilgrimage to the land of milk and honey (aka our local Walmart), and much like an anthropologist on some sort of archaeological dig, under all the plastic and polyurethane of the seasonal aisles, my 8-year-old unearthed what he considered the Holy Grail of Halloween disguises: Captain America.
Upon returning home, my youngest child, getup in hand, entered the house beaming. His daddy, on the other hand, trailed behind looking as if he had found himself on the losing end of a bar fight.
Before we could protest, Ebben emerged from his room as Captain America, complete with mask and shield. After a few minutes of pomp and circumstance, Danny said something that has stuck with me ever since: “Take off the mask! It’s always the first to go!”
I knew exactly to what he was referring. Danny knew the Halloween mask was less than well-made, so saving the mask for trick-or-treating would be the best route to go.
Now, I understand his reasoning. We’ve all been there. Buying things for our kids, only to find the new items damaged beyond repair far too soon. It’s beyond frustrating. But metaphorically, I disagree with my significant other on this one.
My “mask” is the very last thing to go for me. It always has been, as long as I can remember.
Bear with me as I try to explain: There is not a disingenuous bone in my body. My heart is good. I am sincere. Unapologetically myself. I am goofy … silly even. I find humor in the darkest of situations and joy in the small things. I am passionate almost to a fault.
And yet, there are days I struggle to get out of bed, days the only emotion I manage to feel is numb. During these times, I could swear I don’t feel a single thing. Danny says that I feel everything at once so deeply that I eventually I become overwhelmed and systematically shut down and resort to autopilot. My positivity drains from me like cooling bathwater. I think to myself, “What’s the point?” Everything seems so heavy. Time seems to both drag on endlessly and race at a breakneck pace.
When the black wave of depression hits, I feel guilty because I can see it coming. I can feel it in my bones. But I’m helpless to stop it. I feel guilt for my lack of gratitude because, most days, I know my life is good. On the melancholic days, I wonder if I’ve done enough with this life.
There are only about three people on the planet who know I ever feel this way, and often they don’t realize it simultaneously. I thank God all I need is the faith of a mustard seed because sometimes I feel fortunate to scrape that together. I feel guilty because who I truly am is hidden behind this suffocating mask of “okayness” I’ve carried with me since I was old enough to drive a car. I get frustrated because the depression still seems to sneak up on me.
You might think I’d understand how to combat those black waves, but how do you hold back an ocean? You don’t.
I don’t know if I’ll ever fully grasp it. Just like last week’s rains, my dark mood has lifted – along with my mask, for now. But it seems to always be the last to go.