I just arrived home after going to the store. My nerves were shot and it was all I could do to leave the house. Yet, as I stood at the checkout counter, I smiled at the cashier and she said, “Oh! You look really happy!”. I kind of shrugged taken aback by this and said something like, “Well, I guess it’s cuz I know I’m almost headed home.” and smiled again.
I am known by my smile. People have said that when I walk into a room, my smile brightens up the place (in so many words). I’ve also heard that my smile makes people’s day, etc.
There is so much to say about the smile. Sometimes it is genuine and I am truly happy and having a good time. I am thankful for those days. Other times, it is not so genuine and is more of a barrier of protection: If I smile, then no one will know what a mess I am on the inside. I am quite a master at this.
I remember just last year when I was inpatient at Timberlawn’s Trauma Unit, that there was one counselor there who would comment on my “pretty smile” and then she would usually ask in a caring way if it was genuine or not. I was impressed by her understanding that we have set up this mask a long time ago and it is not always genuine, tho I can sure make it look like it is so.
My closest friends have been known to say that I am an “open book” and that they just have to see my face to know if something is wrong. That is only because they are my closest friends and when I choose it, I will let them in to see what is really happening for me.
Growing up in a chaotic family structure where abuse ran rampant and life felt like being in a war zone, I learned early on to hide my true feelings and true experiences. It wasn’t safe to allow ANYone on the outside to know anything or else “bad things” would happen. I just knew this without a doubt perhaps from a gut feeling or perhaps due to being threatened by certain perpetrators. So, for my own survival, I kept things hidden deep inside and kept up the facade of a huge smile and a look that everything in my life was just “perfect”.
Still, I am thankful for the genuine smile moments and thanks to our work in recovery, being blessed with a wonderful spouse with a great sense of humor, and a small number of close friends who know and understand me and the DID, my genuine smiles are becoming much more frequent than they have ever been before.