“Smiling is the best way to face every problem, to crush every fear and to hide every pain.” –Will Smith
Is it healthy to smile when it suppresses inner turmoil? Is it natural to smile while all of the creatures within me are weeping bitterly? Questions like these promptly pop into my mind when I hear such pep talks.
In a society that regards weakness as a sort of sin, the message is to bury your feelings inside—to cover depression or pain with bravado. But I have learned that It’s a destructive delusion to tell yourself you’re OK when you are not—that living a lie corrodes from within.
When I was young, like most children, I slept without any struggle, not because my life was carefree, but due to the uninhibited reaction that youth enables. I laughed out aloud from the bottom of my heart as if no one were jubilant but me. And when I was sad or scared, I cried in big sobs until the pain subsided.
However, I was in a hurry to grow up. A pride-driven inner voice told me I was old enough to prove to people (especially those who hurt me) that I was impervious to their actions and so strong I could withstand anything. I ignored pain in my soul. I was so proud of my achievement, for being so mature.
Sadly, that accomplishment turned to be a curse in my life. I paid a price for failing to truly be aware of and explore all of the feelings submerged beneath the currents of daily life. And over time, something strange happened: In moments that should have brought me real pleasure, a vague bitterness haunted the obscure crevices of my heart. These pent up feelings were telling me: Let us out.
But it took a while for me to listen.
In the last war, during the summer of 2014, I continued to act as if I was above feeling afraid or depressed. I stopped watching the news and if I accidentally did, I allowed myself to only cry briefly before I went hunting for something to eat. Although I love to write and it usually provides such a rich creative outlet, I refused to write about the war or the injured. The number of jokes I told or laughed at increased. And when I heard that my best friend’s husband had been killed in an Israeli attack, I cried bitterly but not for long.
After that, I went to my grandfather’s house, played cards and chatted about unrelated topics. I persuaded myself that everything would be OK.
Nonetheless, my dulled senses alarmed even me. I was a miserable liar. My suppressed feelings were nagging at me from their deepest reaches ever more violently. Increasingly, I was no longer able to feel happy or glad; melancholic feelings bubbled up randomly for no reason. I could no longer will away my acknowledgement that I was human.
A time comes when the heart expels all of the suppressed, ignored pains. The result can be mental illness that can no longer be denied. Today, I try to live my life to its fullest, whether happy or sad or angry. When I feel pain or sadness, I look deeply for the reasons lurking behind those emotions instead of ignoring them.
I allow my inner child freedom. If you acknowledge and celebrate yours, hopefully you will be OK too.
“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.” – J.K.Rowling
Editor’s note: A recent anonymous survey found that more than half of the writers in We Are Not Numbers or on the waiting list qualify as clinically depressed. Yet most do not seek help or support from others due to a widespread social perception that it is weak to do so–and “weak” is one of the worst things you can be.
This article was originally published at We Are Not Numbers