The mask is what society wants, though. They don't want to deal with someone who might require more of their time or energy. People want "cheerful" and "positive" no matter how close the friendship or nature of the relationship.
I understand to a point--I mean, who wants to be with a grumpy asshole all the time? I don't. In the past, I used to be guilty of avoiding people who were sad, too. It bothered me for reasons I couldn't identify--perhaps it was too raw and real while I was too young and shallow to relate. However, I also want the people around me to be authentic, even if that authenticity isn't always perfect. Therein lies the contradiction. How can we expect people to be authentic with us if we don't accept their imperfect humanity?
I've dealt with depression as well as an illness that isn't overt but causes me to slur my words, fall off balance for apparently no reason, and to forget people's names that I've known for years. The depression has been on and off again since my husband's death. It started as grief, but after having that dismissed due to his suicide and the burdens of dealing with the ordeal alone with no willing support system, the bottom fell out and swallowed me up with a deep sadness. Neither of things are in my control and both have led me to a life of near isolation.
Hence I've started resenting the mask. I started wearing it almost immediately after my husband died. People would ask me how I was doing--even though my world had completely imploded--but I learned that they didn't want the truth, they wanted to hear "fine" and have me smile so they would feel better.
The first man I dated after my husband's death turned out to be a fraud who lied about his entire life to get close to the widow who was also a best selling author--and I fell for his lies at first, luckily not for long and before things got serious---but when I cried about the experience with a friend of mine, her response was far from sympathetic. She said, "you have so much drama in your life." Well, yes, I guess I do. Here I was, my husband killed himself leaving me a solo parent with two young kids and I admit I liked the flattery of a handsome man again. It briefly ignited a hope inside my heart that perhaps I wouldn't be alone forever. When it turned out it was all a fabrication, I felt like I'd been stabbed in the soul and felt the loss of my marriage all over again. But her response to my tears reinforced the notion that people only want to see the smile and hear the word 'fine.'
Do you have any idea how lonely that makes an already lonely person feel?
I have a writer friend who suffers from a disease that makes her gain weight and grow unwanted hair. She deals with it as best as she can, but as a once naturally thin person, it's very upsetting to her. Imagine her outrage when a fellow writer sent her a message about how fat people are lazy and deserving of contempt.
What is wrong with a society that feels it's okay to dismiss another's struggles or feelings?
I think back to my husband's depression and feel sad that he hid it even from me. I honestly didn't know the depth of his despair because he hid it behind the mask of a strong man providing for his family. Perhaps men wear the mask even more than women do...which is tragic.
Many people claim to want authentic friends, but I'm not sure they do. I think most people don't want to openly share feelings or hear another person's opinion, especially if it is contrary to theirs. In the age of "liking" posts and "unfriending" with just a click of a finger, we've grown increasingly shallow. We can claim to be deep and compassionate, but few truly walk the talk.
Life behind the mask is a dark struggle, but for those who've already lost so much, it's difficult to remove it for fear of losing even more. So we smile, answer with a "fine", and hide our souls out of a sense of self-preservation that often feels like a prison.
Ask yourself what kind of friend or family member you are--are you afraid of what dwells behind the masks of those around you or are you strong enough to face unfiltered reality with compassion?