Pretending

I’m tense today. Tired, edgy, quick to anger. My eyes are sore and heavy, my chest tight with repressed sobs. I woke up this way, a ball of resistance buried in bed sheets. This week has been good – great, even – but anxiety doesn’t care. It arrives when it wants, barging in like a spoiled child demanding attention.

For me, it starts with a tightening in the back – a tender knot below my left shoulder blade that slowly travels to my neck. The omen’s been around so long that Geoff can now pinpoint “the spot” with impeccable accuracy. It’d be comical, really, if it wasn’t so sad.

“My head isn’t right today.”

It’s the only way I can think to describe it when he asks what’s wrong (a sympathy question on his part – he already knows the answer). I’ve woken up with someone else’s brain – one with which I am simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar – and it frightens me. This one is spineless and sensitive, cowering at the long unbearable day ahead of it.

I drive to work in a fit of nerves and sit in the parking lot tearfully contemplating my options. I can go home and spend the rest of the day on the couch or I can take a deep breath and walk inside. Although I will eventually choose the latter, both feel monumentally impossible.

On days like today, I don’t cry because I’m angry or afraid. I don’t even cry because I’m upset about missing my own brain.

I cry because I have to pretend. There’s something profoundly painful about feigning happiness, about projecting an emotion so starkly opposed to the one I’m feeling. When I’m a tangled web of exposed nerves, the last thing I want to wear is a porcelain mask, and yet, that is the expectation.

Not here though. Not on this virtual holy ground. Here, perception and reality align; here, I bear my broken faces, poor in appearance but rich in honesty; here, free from the friction of who I am and who I’m supposed to be, I can erase the painted smile.

People tell me I’m brave for creating this space but the truth is that I didn’t have a choice – it was the only way to escape the torture of a half-true existence.

Tomorrow, or whenever my real brain decides to return, I’ll probably laugh at the absurdity of it all, at how something so small – a knotted back, a sleepless night – could seem so ridiculously big, but today none of that matters.

Today I am raw and fragile, and I won’t pretend to be anything else.

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Pretending

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