Being in a Hall of Mirrors

by Sharon Carter-Wray
Just like the one’s you find at the funfair, having started the journey into deep depression, you begin to see the many different images of how you are perceived in other peoples eyes.

Looking into each mirror we can see many a different reflection of ourselves, which changes depending on which mirror we choose.  Sometimes those images can make us laugh out loud, and sometime they make us recoil in absolute horror, but we can be sure that what we see is only temporary and is a complete facade.

The hall of mirrors is just an analogy, because to me I think of those mirrors as people that are/were in my life at the time.  This included my friends, family and husband etc, they were all individual mirrors that had stared back at me, and each one had shown me something different. Some were very supportive and understanding, having perhaps experienced a similar thing, and others had the “Pull yourself together” attitude.

For me, it was probably the first of many ‘cleansing processes’ I went through as I began to unravel.  It wasn’t a deliberate exercise, but what I found or realized for the first time, is how little people in my life actually saw me, listened to me, or even heard what I had to say. Suddenly everyone’s voices became that much bigger and louder around me, so much so that I struggled to speak and I desperately did not want to waste my words.  I was so small, I was in the background, quietly listening and absorbing all the different vibes I was feeling, sadly not all of them were good.

This ‘cleansing  process’, enabled me to remove people from my life that were thoughtless, toxic, and lacked compassion.

I know people around were shocked at my sudden demise, but no more shocked than me. They couldn’t understand what had happened to this once strong assertive woman stand who once stood before them. But it soon became clear, that even without asking me, they knew the root of all my problems, they had the answers, suggestions, medical advice, theories and so, and so on.  More than once I was asked, “What have you got to be depressed about? … ‘you got a nice house, car, job, husband’…” and etc. I never knew whether I should have laughed, cried or hit someone, every time I was asked that. I often wish I had chosen the latter, I used to get so angry with people for saying things like that, because we were supposed to be friends, but obviously they didn’t know me very well.  What was worse was that none of them had suffered with deep depression, and they had no idea of what they were trying to give advice for. These people damaged me further, through their careless words and actions. I know people on the whole, always want the best for someone close, and it is usually with the best intentions that things are said, but to me I would rather they stop and think about what they’re going to say, before they uttered it, as it would have saved me so much pain.

It undoubtedly made me realise who my real friends were, it wasn’t difficult to pinpoint the negative one’s, or those that perhaps took a secret delight in my downfall. But the more I encountered their insincere words, the more I knew I had to let them go. It wasn’t easy having to do that, and it definitely wasn’t very nice, but it WAS necessary. I still come across people like that now, but I make sure I keep them at arms length, until they show me that they are genuinely interested.

It also felt at times as though those close to me were embarrassed that I should be struck down like that, they hadn’t seen it coming, and couldn’t possibly fathom what had triggered it off. But what failed to happen which pained me more, was that no one was able to recognize the part they played in it or took any responsibility in finally crushing me. They only saw me coping and hadn’t even noticed the weight I was under, or that I’d been struggling.

So the hall of mirrors is a reflection of what I feel other people see in me, and not how I see myself. I know mirrors do lie, but I have an honesty and belief in myself that essentially I don’t change that much. So no matter how I may view myself, I know it is just a reflection of how I feel, in that particular moment be that good or bad.

Most people that I meet now, are not aware that I suffer from depression or my other illnesses unless I tell them. I suppose wearing a smile covers up a multitude of sins and many other things, but it does help to protect me. I am not trying to hide anything, and I frequently refer to this whole episode as a wonderful opportunity or a gift to truly get to know myself, and I have had plenty of time to do just that. Not something many people have a chance to do.

But for the sake of my self-esteem, I took on board a few difficult but valuable lessons, and I try to adhere to them as much as possible, and these are:

 I will never look at, or see myself in a negative light.

 I have stopped chastising and disrespecting myself, because that only leaves the door open to other people to do exactly the same.

 It is important to avoid negative people, as generally they do not listen to understand or to really hear you; but instead want to jump in with their own theories or problems, thereby dismissing yours.

 I try to be a person that can still lift others up, in spite of how I might feel, and in turn I also try to be with people who lift me up.

I remind myself that I am ill, and that it’s okay to feel down at times.

 I also believe there is an end to this.

So even though this horrible illness called depression, has had such a negative impact on my life, it has at least made me realize that the last person I should ever be negative about, is me.

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