Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The many masks of Lyme

Being a Lymie I have noticed that there are many masks that I wear, around different people at different times. Some of these masks are probably not the best to wear, but I've learned that to separate Lyme from myself (by saying, "I'm not Lyme and Lyme is not me."), I have to put on a different face. It's not necessarily being fake... Because I hate being fate almost as much as I hate fake people. I like to think of it more like I'm practicing being real. And I think it is amazing what a smile can hide... It's almost scary sometimes, the things I hide behind a smile. But I feel like it helps me to be real, to not give into my Lyme and go completely crazy. So here are a few of the masks I've worn, and still wear, to help me feel like I'm more normal than I am actually feeling.

The "Pain-less" Mask:
Convincing 8.5/10

Chronic Pain is something that always comes with most Chronic Illness. It's like a package deal. And I'm not sure if it's just that I am used to the pain--because it is so constant--or if I am actually getting better, but it has been easier to just forget that I am in pain. I wear the "Pain-less" mask when I can't ignore the pain. When the pain is very loud and acute, but I need to do something and be around people, and don't want people asking if I'm ok. This mask usually is worn when I am playing sports or being active. Because the pain is super amplified then. And also, the day after I have played a lot of sports.

Lyme Disease causes me to have zero energy, where I am physically spent, even though I haven't done anything. So not only is it a mental pain to have to fight through to get myself out to go play volleyball with some friends. I also have to push past the pain. The pain is usually just extra stiff joints, and that frustration that comes with the realization that I can't move as fast as I used to. Which usually causes me to talk down on myself, which is not a very nice thing of me to do to myself, but when I'm in that competitive spot the frustration and blame seems to amplify with the competition.

I also wear this mask the day after I have had a strenuous workout or a good hard game of basketball. I don't have too many flare up's or Herxhimer Reactions anymore, but I do notice them the day after I have played too hard. A Herxhimer Reaction happens when there has been a sudden die off of Lyme Bacteria that is happening so fast that my body can't get rid of the bacteria fast enough, so my blood becomes toxic with dead floating Lyme bacteria corpses. It usually means that I feel extra stiff, extra sore, and I even feel like I have the flu the next day sometimes, because my body just aches. It is good to have the die off of the bacteria... but the mask that I have to wear isn't always as convincing if I'm suffering through a "Herx" the next day (Click here to read more about Herxhimer Reactions).

This pain mask is something I wear more frequently. As it gets warmer outside I am out playing more and running around. It is good for people with Lyme to exercise, but it comes at a heavy price. I have found I either pay for it during the times I'm playing hard, or after. This mask is not always the most convincing mask that I wear, during the day when it's just the normal constant pain it's easy to hide behind the mask. But when I am playing, or the day after, when the pain is very acute, my pain mask isn't as convincing. One thing that is for sure, amidst all the uncertainty of when and where I will feel pain. I feel like we have come to a pretty good understanding of each other. Just because pain demands to be felt, doesn't mean it has to make me suffer. That is my choice. And sometimes I make the wrong choice, other times, I feel like pain is just a part of me. And that is when the mask is most convincing.     

The "Emotionally Balanced" Mask:
Convincing 7/10

This mask is the "I'm happy" mask. I wear this mask when I'm dealing with depression. When I feel I've sunken into the deep dark pit again, this mask comes on. This mask isn't worn all the time. I don't wear it as much as I used to, but it is for any day I am just feeling depressed, wether I have a reason or not. I sometimes feel like this mask has a super power. That it makes it so that my depression is invisible. I always feel really accomplished when I talk to someone and I mention I deal with depression, and they almost don't believe me, or are surprised. It makes me feel successful, because my mask is working. 

Something about this mask is that it is very heavy. The longer I wear it the more it weighs me down. So I can't wear it excessively. However, there are some days when I'm really just feeling depressed, and I have to wear the mask all day. And by the end of the day I'm so weighed down with everything, that my depression has amplified. This mask makes depression worse if I wear it for too long. Just like if I keep my emotions inside for too long, I explode... Same with the "Emotionally Balanced" Mask, the longer I wear it, the worse my depression gets, because I'm suppressing it, I can't ignore my depression, but I can fake like I don't have it. I fake it and make it through a day, but that is about it, then I'm a mess by night time, but I won't let myself fall apart and take off that mask until I'm alone, so I'm not noticed by others usually.

The "Mentally Social" Mask:
Convincing 9/10

This mask I put on when I have anxiety. This one, like the "Emotionally Balanced" mask, is also, very draining. This one I put on when I have to be in big groups of people and I'm not feeling it. When I'm not feeling the energy, or the atmosphere of big groups where I can feel my heart pounding, my breath shortening and the flood gates about to open any second, I wear this mask. This mask is mentally and emotionally draining to wear. Just as it is nearly impossible to stop crying once you have started, same with trying to fight off anxiety in a room full of people. The only way to get rid of it is to usually get out. So this mask is used in short bursts. And is usually followed by some sort of excuse of why I have to leave. 

This mask I don't have to wear as much, because I have a lot more control over my anxiety now. I don't feel like I'm going to have a full on panic attack in big groups anymore. I might feel uncomfortable, but it doesn't blow out of proportion like it used to as often.

The "I'm Fine" Mask:
Convincing 4/10

When I'm definitely NOT fine, but I want people off my back, to stop asking what is wrong, I put on the "I'm Fine" mask. This mask is also worn when I'm depressed and I don't really know the exact reason why I'm feeling the way I am. Because a lot of the times, I honestly don't know "What's wrong." So I just say "I'm fine." This mask is worn more for myself than for others I think. I have worn this mask often lately. And I think telling myself "I'm Fine" is a way to let myself try and figure out what is actually wrong. Usually I find it is a personal problem. So when people ask, I don't really want to tell them, because I'm trying to get over myself.

There are times however, like I said before, when I just want people to stop asking. And I know that it is very hard to see someone in a grumpy and/or sad mood and not ask. But sometimes I just need that space. And when that space is needed, I put on this mask.

The thing about wearing masks, and having to switch out is that it takes a lot out of a person. And I am the absolute LAST person to be fake. I don't think of these masks as me being fake. I just think of them as a crutch. A solution to help me be stronger than I may feel at the time or situation I am in. These masks help me make it through the really hard times that are just torture, but that I have to get through because I'm human and I have to do hard things. And I don't want to pretend that I'm a "master of disguise", or that I'm deceptive. Because I'm not. I'm not fake, and I am not constantly wearing these masks. I just put them on to help myself feel ok. And to not have people worry about me. I wear the smile to hide pain. And by doing that it numbs the pain.

-The Lyme Warrior