Two people I care about told me today that I am cynical and angry. Something has changed. I used to be happy and positive, but not anymore.
One thing I’ve been good at my entire life is keeping my true feelings to myself. I always tried to project a positive and happy image, partly because I wanted my parents to think I was doing OK and also because I knew people would judge my religion by my example. So, I was pretty good.
I went through a phase in seventh grade or so when I was being picked on continuously at school, so I just shut everyone out and refused to show any emotions at all. (I suspect, by the way, that my struggles with depression began then.) My parents were understandably alarmed that their normally cheerful and happy son was suddenly withdrawn and unemotional. My dad was worried enough that he took me on a week-long trip to Washington, DC, where he was doing business. It helped me at least feel that not everyone was down on me.
So, that phase passed, and I went back to trying to be positive. But when I left the LDS church three years ago a lot of emotions came flooding out that I had never allowed myself to express. I felt hurt, betrayed, and angry at my church for a lot of reasons.
But really, I still had trouble expressing my feelings to my family, and I talked about what I was thinking mostly on Internet boards, which isn’t entirely healthy but at least provided some outlet. Just over a year ago I came to Utah for a job interview, and I knew I was just barely holding myself together. I was depressed and feeling terribly alone. A family member said I seemed cynical and angry, whereas I think I was just depressed. A few days later I tried to kill myself.
Since that rather dark time, I’ve been working on telling people what I’m thinking, and it’s been really hard. One good thing to come out of all this has been the book I wrote about my mission, but it has really caused some conflict in my family. I read my mission journals, and I see someone constantly wracked with shame, guilt, and self-loathing. But I’m told by people who were there that they know I was “happy.” I guess I was really good at putting on a happy face.
So, where does that leave me? It’s scary to think that people who love me think that the “real me” is that fake happy person that was making me miserable. I think I’m generally a happy person, but I can be angry and cynical. And that’s OK. What isn’t OK is trying to make myself put that mask on.
I think I’m going to be all right. For the first time in my life I am trying to live my life for myself without being so afraid of people not liking me. I think I can do it.