There’s a face I wear outside like a mask. It protects me from pain, anger, and fear. It’s like a suit of armor, but only for my face. I can’t figure out why it’s solidified on me. It’s like melted wax on the oval of my visage. I wanted to peel it off but it sticks. It reminds me of the wrapping of the Baby Bell cheese. They are red wax circles that encompass pale yellow cheese. The red wax covers my face but you can’t see it. It makes it so my emotions are invisible to most people. It makes it so that my family says “you don’t seem depressed. I can never tell with you.” The mask is solid. I want to rip it off, I want to feel like the “real me” again. I wonder if there’s a way to get to her. Hypnotize me, put me under a spell and ask me who I actually am. I want to be in touch with the truest version of myself.

The pain, the grief, and the trauma created a trifecta that was impenetrable by people asking me “are you okay?” I simply responded “yeah, I’m hanging in,” which doesn’t mean anything. We’re all hanging in. We’re all trying to get through life the best we can. But those three components made it nearly impossible for me to breathe, to smell anything, to internalize the message that I was alive. Everything in me said, “you’re faking it.” The voice inside my head told me I didn’t have a right to be angry or sad. It said that “I did this to myself,” and I “put myself in this position by being careless.” Self-judgment is a powerful thing.

I’m not interested in listening to this critical voice, but it makes itself known.

The mask, as much as I want to remove it, I can’t. My truest face, the real me is buried somewhere so deep. I would need to excavate it and I don’t have a shovel. I’m not sure I want to own that tool. I’m not certain I’m ready to look in the mirror and face my real face. If I saw myself, truly looked at who I am, could I handle it? My first inclination is to say “no.” But that’s because right now, I can’t feel. At this moment I’ve forgotten who I am in favor of not feeling at all. I’m sitting here, wanting to cry but unable to. I know that feeling all too well. I know eventually the face inside of me will come to the surface and the tears will well up. They will come up when they’re ready to appear. But feeling like I can’t feel, that’s painful.

It’s weird, you would think that getting a break from having feelings would be pleasant, but to me, it isn’t. I’m an emotionally charged person. I thrive on feelings and when there aren’t any, I don’t know what to do with myself. If I could access any feelings it would be fear, disappointment and profound sadness. I’ll wait for those to make themselves known while I wear this melted wax mask so no one can see me.