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Masking the Pain

Posted Oct 23 2008 6:05pm
    E wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes–
    This debt we pay to human guile;
    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
    And mouth with myriad subtleties.
    Why should the world be over-wise,
    In counting all our tears and sighs?
    Nay, let them only see us while
    We wear the mask.
    We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries
    To Thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile
    Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
    But let the world dream otherwise,
    We wear the mask! ~Paul Laurence Dunbar

 I had to go to a dinner the other night.  I placed the “fake face” on and went.  I felt lousy, but I could not bail out of this obligation.  I had already excused myself before several times.  I knew I was wearing a mask to hide my pain, but I did not feel fake.  I think it was because I was choosing to “put on an act” to protect myself.  Not every place is the perfect time to indulge that you are having a recurrence of your bipolar episode.  In fact, it is the rare moment that one is able to discuss it at all.  If I had a headache, arthritis, or a common cold it would be acceptable to talk about how I feel.  Emotional illnesses are tricky.  The main thing to remember is they ARE illnesses. 

So I wear the mask.

“We Wear the Mask” is reprinted from The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Paul Laurence Dunbar. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1913.
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