Actors fake it for a living. Momentarily living lives that aren't lived, they pretend to be people they are not. It is an art-form and a complex creative process. When done well, it can be an inspiring and transcendent experience to behold.
However, people in general, including those who will never be on a stage or appear on a screen, pretend all the time. They do it as a way to be polite or kind. Or, they act one way to hide the way they actually feel. Or, they affect feelings or thoughts to protect another or themselves from different feelings or thoughts. People fake all kinds of things to avoid revealing the truth.
Survivors become shocking good at this.
True trauma, illness, and crisis are complex emotional and physical realities. Navigating through the intricacies of those realities is like dancing barefoot on a double-edged sword.
We pretend we are doing better then we are, because we don't want to worry others; or, worse, because we feel our realities have been a burden too long.
We smile, because we don't want anyone to see the depth of our suffering. We make light of things, because the darkness is just too heavy. We feign being okay, because the stress and anxiety are too overwhelming to explain. We disguise pain with a laugh, because we don't want our pain to affect or lessen the joy of others.
We act unbroken, because admitting we are broken reveals too much of our damaged selves.
Our realities become far too hidden and private, because they are too much to easily share. It is traumatic to continue to give voice to our trauma, especially when it goes on longer for us then for those we have leaned on for support and understanding. The bigger and harsher the reality the more we tend to fake it.
Pretending can become very isolating.
The more we try to convince people we are okay, the less support we have when we need it. The less supported we feel, the harder it becomes to reach out for help. Convincing others we are well on the road to recovery and pretending to be better then we are leads to priority shifts and creates changes in circumstances which can leave us exposed and alone when we still have a real need for continued support.
We can become paralyzed with hesitation and wrought with trust issues allowing us to slip farther away from those who might be willing to help. Help may not come fast enough, because when it is alluded to or delayed, we are too traumatized to remind those offering help we are still desperately waiting.
Pretending can make our struggles invisible and erode our ability to heal. It is a momentary band-aid on a festering wound.
Pretend is fine for fairy tales and matinees, but honesty is genuinely needed for real healing and understanding, even if that honesty. by default, is brutal and ugly.
We have to move beyond the fear and the polite. We have to find a way to be who we are, while we are. We can't allow ourselves to drift away unseen and unnoticed.