Behind the Mask

For most of my life, I wore a mask. A mask that allowed me to smile, laugh, love, and occasionally make a witty comeback or two. A mask that allowed me to interact with people, make friends, and just enjoy life. This mask allowed me to hide the broken strings inside of me.

I lived a very privileged childhood, and I am still very blessed to this day. I did not have to live with abuse. I did not have to live a life of poverty and hunger. I always had a roof over my head, food on the table, and a family that loves me. This made my actions seem all the more selfish.

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My grandpa visited us at least once a week, refereed our soccer games, volunteered for the Red Cross (at age 67), and spoiled us frequently; however, I treated him like he was a pesky fly, endlessly harassing me.

A flamboyantly outgoing man, he would always insist on getting involved with everything I did. I regret my actions – I always will because his death broke me. Staring into his empty eyes, all of the life and vitality gone, it was like staring into death itself. I remember staring into those eyes in the ICU after his heart attack, mentally begging, pleading for someone to save him. I looked into those eyes and told him he would live. He didn’t. I remember holding my father as he sobbed in my arms, and watching my entire family weep and instantly knowing it was my duty to keep everyone going since my parents couldn’t. This was the beginning of my quest to try and repent for my past actions, for ignoring his calls and being unappreciative, but this resulted in me bottling up my demons and led to my depression.

With my mask erected and my apocryphal persona actualized, I was able to act like a “normal” person. However, at night, I would lock myself in my room and cry and plead for someone to save me from the ever omnipresent darkness and solitude that haunted me. I found some escape in reading, reinforcing my love of literature, still it was not enough. Nobody knew I made sure of it. I contemplated suicide, but the consequences, the harm it would due to my family, always stopped me. My salvation came in the form of Annette Craig, founder of the With Hope Foundation. She had lost her daughter to suicide and decided to create a foundation to educate teenagers about suicide prevention. This foundation saved me, so I decided to help foster and spread its message, starting with forming a club on my campus. Furthermore, in my school newspaper, I wrote a series of columns called “A Day in the Life,” which showcased how students overcame struggles and celebrated how unique they were. This was the start of my healing process.

I have mainly come to terms with my grandpa’s death now, but those eyes will never cease to haunt me. By volunteering and abetting those who are also plagued by depression, I am following in his footsteps, hoping to become half as amazing as the human being he was. For the first time in a long time, I feel completely and utterly alive– no mask necessary.

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