A few months into my first year of college my roommate stopped me as I was walking out and said “you know, you’re a different person when you leave this room. If I had just met you wandering around campus I don’t think we would have become friends.” I hesitated at the door. Someone had finally noticed the shields and chain link armor that I put on before I left my room every morning. Metaphorical armor of course, not everyone at my school is oblivious.
I was fully aware that I put all of these shields up; it was my battle armor against the world finding out who I really was. I was still scared that if people found out that I had mental illnesses they would judge me, tell me it was all in my head, or not believe me and think I was faking it for attention. Now, I obviously don’t care what people think because I got tired of being inauthentic. I got tired of pretending to be someone else every time I left the comforts of my room. It is exhausting to dress and act like someone you aren’t.
This doesn’t mean that my friends from before this moment didn’t get the real me. Once I warmed up to people I would let them in little by little. Or tell them everything all at once just to see if they would run away scared so I wouldn’t get hurt. That is the method I usually took when entering into a new romantic relationship. Get them to leave before I got attached.
I still use my battle armor now and then. I use it a lot in important meetings with people I am desperate to like me, like when I met my boyfriends parents and with professors. I’m finding now that the armor isn’t able to take a blow like it used to. I’m finding a lot more cracks in the shield. The person I am today, the person I am extremely proud of being today doesn’t want to hide anymore. It doesn’t help to hide the struggles I suffer with everyday because eventually, people will find out the truth. What does help is not caring what people think. If they don’t understand the mental struggles I deal with, I will either educate them or cut them out of my life. What helps so much when struggling with mental illness is to be authentically myself, and the people who are going to stick around are the people who really matter.