Hiding In Plain Sight

Hiding is something I am familiar with. I have written about being a phony, and this is similar, but in many ways different. I think many people have several facets to their personality. They’ll have a side of them that they reveal more to family and people they grew up with; a more childlike side. Then there is a side you have at work; professional and strong, with no weakness or too much emotion. There is also the side you will reveal to a new friend or love interest you want to impress. This person may see new aspects to you that you haven’t shown anyone before; maybe you make some things up as you go along. Discover that you have a new interest to travel, or that you like long walks on the beach…

The thing I have been hiding from everyone is the darker side of me. In my favorite television show, ‘Dexter’, the main character calls this his “dark passenger”. This is my illness. Unlike Dexter, I am not a serial killer, thank goodness. My illness does not drive me to harm anyone else, at least not physically. My darkness only compels me to have a complete disregard for myself. Maybe that is an inaccurate way to describe it, because we all do have an inborn instinct to protect ourselves and seek out activities and such that pleases us. Maybe I can describe this in a different way.

My new therapist told me last week that there was a bit of “arrogance” about me. I hadn’t had anyone use this word to describe me before and I was a little surprised, but I was more than interested to understand why he felt this was true. If this was yet another thing I could dislike about myself, I was ready to get on the ‘Christine is arrogant’ train. He also told me he didn’t know that I was depressed or needed medication 10 minutes into our first session, so I am somewhat hesitant to buy into some of what he has to say yet. He has asked me to tell him a little bit about myself in these first couple of sessions so I immediately dive into my family history, my schooling, college, career, almost as if I am in a job interview. Already ‘hiding’ from him what he most needs to know in order to treat me. But this is habit for me. He asks me is there is a finish line for me. If there is a goal I have set in which I can sit back and feel a true sense of accomplishment. I explain that I have a five year and ten year plan, typically, and I renew these as things in my life happen. They evolve so there is no finish line. He asks if I plan to retire. I tell him I don’t think I will be able to retire. My kids have to go to college and their Dads are not capable of putting them through school. I plan to work until I die. And, honestly, although I do not say this to him, reaching the age of retirement has never been something I have considered. He said that this makes me arrogant. That I feel like my taking time to relax and enjoy time to myself is detrimental to the world as a whole. Well, I hadn’t exactly felt like that, it was more that I was afraid to stop and become complacent. If I sit still too long I get lazy. If I am in my house for more than a couple days without leaving I get anxious about leaving. My whole sense of well-being lies in my routine. I have to keep moving.

His bringing this up not only helped me see that he may not be the best therapist for me because he doesn’t “get” me. But it also made me realize how pathological I am in my lack of being able to let people see these weak parts of me. I hide the aspects of myself I am ashamed of. I have always told myself that if someone figures out and calls me out on just how lazy and horrible I am, I can just die and forget about the whole thing. That has always been my ultimate way to solve how I feel about others seeing me as I see myself; my anxiety and self hatred, the low moods and darkness I just can’t shake or snap myself out of no matter how many inspirational quotes I post on Facebook. Except at my lowest low, the day or so preceding my attempt when I just avoided everyone completely, I was perfectly capable of pasting on a smile and being cheerful, or smart, or outgoing, or anything else that anyone needed me to be. I can perform, people. Performing is what I have done my entire life. I love being on a stage whether it is to sing, or present, or speak, or just to BE and show everyone that I am one of you; one of the ‘shiny-happy people’. But as soon as I am off of the stage and alone again I know who I really am; and I am so tired of hiding.


About Christine O.

I had been a young, single Mom to two girls for ten years; until March 9, 2014 when I married my soul-mate Jason. I’m a former 20 year+ full time executive in a demanding field turned business owner (this year); marathon runner, daughter to the perfect parents, oldest sister of a highly successful ‘normal’ younger brother and ‘functional’ single-mother (of 3) sister, coach, boss, best friend, member of the church choir, volunteer for the local NAMI, AFSP, and CASA organizations, and have over time become well acclimated to the world of mental illness after a life changing event or two. I have also become known in my community as the one who takes on the High School year after year in attempts to have a Suicide Prevention Program in place (as in Texas statute). My goal in writing, blogging and learning as much as I can about such subjects is to defeat stigma associated with brain disease, preventing suicide in the future, and saving my family.
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11 Responses to Hiding In Plain Sight

  1. Matt Fried says:

    First of all, this is a great post Christine. I spent a long time hiding myself too. It caught up to me though, as it does for us all, I suppose, at one point or another. Family, friends, therapists; I don’t have to tell you that you could ‘fool’ them all if you want to. You know how to. The only problem is, and I really hate corny cliches, we end up fooling ourselves.

    • Christine O. says:

      Thank you for the compliment! And you are absolutely right. It caught up with me once as well and when I dropped all of my walls and the facade I had built throughout the years I promised myself that I would be transparent with those that could help me get better. There is always the professional facet I show during the day and with clients; at events and fundraisers and it begins to be difficult to know the difference myself at times. I almost convince even me that all is fine; that I am healthy and happy and content when I know better. The next wave will hit me when the last guest leaves and I am left with myself again to fight that undertow that always manages to pull me under when I stop being the hostess.

      I have been fighting to remain real lately as I have been working on a friend’s political campaign. It is so easy to be in control and seem the epitome of stability when I have so much on my shoulders. Then it is over and we are successful and it’s on to the next project. It’s these in between times that can be so dangerous for me. Just when I think I am ok, I am not. I don’t even know what happiness is. I could fool them all but then I would be left in my own hands and I don’t think I would survive that. It’s time to stop hiding, purposeful or not.

      • Matt Fried says:

        I would say that you possess the strength to handle the in between times. All of that which you muster (for/to please/to hide from) others, that strength is as much a part of you as the part you (used to) keep to yourself.

        It’s just a question of learning how to. For me, I needed help, which was a long process, and it didn’t work until I gave myself up to the process. I mean, I had to go all the way back to zero, almost like a baby in some ways, and be taught how to think, cope, & feel.

        Much more detail that I could cover in this comment but the point is, I do believe there is a path for each of us to get through.

        Happiness; I am happy now. I don’t remember exactly when I got that back from the time of my attempt. It was not right away. It took several years before I really started living. But it did happen.

        It will be there for you when you’re ready.

      • Christine O. says:

        I would love to know more about your story. I’ll have to read more of your blog I suppose. 🙂

        Some of what has helped me since my attempt last November has been reading about other people’s experiences. Learning that other typically successful, intelligent, capable people have had crisis as well. Even more importantly; they have been able to heal. I am so thankful for those of you that can talk about this, the worst moments in your life no doubt, because it does save lives. I know I am not a pariah. Or crazy. Or too damaged to get better.

        I appreciate your reaching out more than you know.

  2. Matthew Chiglinsky says:

    I decided to merge all the facets of my personality a few years ago. It takes less energy to just be real with everyone. (Although, it can lead to unemployment.)

    How can you trust the subjective opinion of one therapist? He’s just trying to do his “job”. If he doesn’t do his “job”, then he will feel inadequate. He’s got an ulterior motive already, and you are paying him. That’s two ulterior motives. Analyze the analyst.

    Notice my own bias? I immediately reject the opinion of the authority figure and try to protect the female who I think is being bullied and manipulated.

    I think working until you die (with frequent, relaxing breaks) is a good plan. That was always my plan, and it has nothing to do with money or arrogance. I just want a sense of purpose. I think everyone needs a sense of purpose. It’s an existential thing. Retirement is vanity.

      • Matt Fried says:

        I’m sorry Matthew Chiglinsky, but that’s a little irresponsible to suggest that one can never trust a therapist. Yes, therapists are flawed humans. But they are also supposed to try to remain objective, and to keep the patient’s best interests as the focus. Should we blindly trust them? Not blindly, but we do have to trust someone.

        Particularly when we go to see a therapist, we probably need some help. It takes a little bit of trust sometimes to get started. The goal should be to get out of therapy eventually, when the patient is ready.

        Look, I’m all in favor of questioning authority. But if you never trust anyone, you’ll be very limited in business & in life.

  3. Matthew Chiglinsky says:

    There’s one thing, though. When I read in your profile “full time executive in a demanding field, marathon runner” it came off like you were bragging. It makes you sound like some sort of superhero. Maybe that’s a sign of arrogance?

    • Christine O. says:

      Hmmm… That is a very good point. That definitely wasn’t my intention. I was attempting to show the different ways I cover up my depression. I gogogo all the time and seek out activities to hide the fact that I would really just prefer to disappear altogether. Keeping busy also serves to keep me breathing. I feel that if I stop I will give in to the depression once and for all. My work and my running are the two things (aside from my children/family) that keep me going.

      I can see how pointing that out is boastful, though. Thank you for your candor.

  4. Ned says:

    often its the fact that we have to fake and pretend everything is OK to fit in that encourages the control of the darkness inside. Not accepting and facing that illness within only perpetuates that falseness we present to the world and the feeling that we can’t be real because who would accept us for who we really are? this just furthers shame and guilt as we feel we have to constantly act to fit in. Being true with the world and living in who we really are comes only when we accept ourselves for our best and worst and admit to ourselves and others exactly what is defeating us. If they are worthy people they will help and fight alongside you. I really enjoyed this thank you

    • Christine O. says:

      Absolutely. I used to feel like it was more “every man for themselves” and that we were all in control of and responsible for our feelings, reactions, and behaviors. This was what I grew up around. I saw love but ridged intolerance. I thought I could handle my issues and I didn’t know there was help that could make life easier and even enjoyable. I had no idea I was sick. Finally when I almost lost everything I found hope and healing (and medication and therapy…along with names for what I had). All of this also made it easier to fight. And I was able to teach my family about mental illness and they accept me; even with the illness.

      Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

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