Eric Robillard never wanted his family and friends to know any emotions other than happiness existed within him, as if sharing his darkness was admitting that he was flawed and frail.
It was during a car ride around a small Ontario town that was foreign to me, sitting among strangers, that my friend cried because she was told not to tell her family that she was sad. Sad because we had a fight while we dressed and readied for the day, and crying because I implored her to keep our fight to ourselves. We would never agree on The Cranberries, but that morning, we couldn’t agree to disagree. Words turned into knives, wounds turned into tears. We were about to leave for Thanksgiving dinner when I laid out my request, and even though she granted me a promise of her silence, her inflamed eyelids would betray the pain she was trying to hide.
Fifteen years later, I would ask my future wife to keep our fights from her friends and family. When emotions were tearing up holes in the house*, we would muzzle the beast so the howling wouldn’t reach our loved ones. Leftovers from our quarrels would be disguised on Facebook, a picture of our couple masking the sorrow under a spurious smile, with the caption “love, quite simply.” Veiling the injuries to give the illusion of a perfect union.
On a morning that wasn’t cold nor grey nor memorable, I took my route to work, which wasn’t scenic, but the preferred one out of habit, and I walked with my eyes fixated on the sidewalk, not particularly interested by the cracks nor anything I caught a glimpse of: I was sad and I was doing my best to avoid pedestrians’ eyes. That morning, I was casually and randomly awakened by the blue devils, and they would follow me to work. When my shift started, I hid the blues under a smile, and a slew of jokes, and loud bouts of laughter. I was ashamed of my sorrow, and I shut it out.
Happiness always led the pack of my emotions. I was referred to as jovial, funny, kind, approachable, and understanding. I do happiness well. All other feelings—sadness, anger, even being flat—would be labelled as inner demons, the weaker pack members, the ones I least cared for, the wolves I failed nonetheless to dominate. I never wanted my family and friends to know these emotions existed within me, as if sharing my darkness was admitting that I was flawed and frail, less than perfect.
When my wife created her Facebook page, I was distressed: her art revealed her somber inclinations, and the world might realize that she had dark thoughts.
I didn’t ask why she posted these images; I didn’t want to know where she found the courage to publish and who could/would see them. I loved and dug her art, and I knew where it stemmed from—I lived with her. But would others/strangers get it? Likes and positive comments followed. A week later, there was no backlash. Her darkness was understood, and shared. I started understanding that all emotions were normal.
I wasn’t going to be ashamed anymore, for being sad or angry, but more so, for being sad or angry in the presence of others. It began with a Facebook status, a text to a friend, a phone conversation with a colleague. Being angry didn’t mean I was violent. Being sad didn’t mean I was depressed. Feeling these emotions, in the privacy of my living room or in the company of my family, didn’t make me the tortured soul that was my father; it made me normal.
I recently developed an on-line friendship with blogger Anne from The Belle Jar. I read her blog regularly, and follow her tribulations as a human being/woman/mother on Facebook. Anne helped me, like my wife, unknowingly, to be more comfortable with opening up with the darker palette of emotions.
Before writing this post, I asked Anne if I could write about how transparent she can be on any social platform she uses. She quickly responded with a yes, and added that she would share the post, which made me feel anxious for her, because of how many people might read about her inner demons, and how they might perceive my friend. I still gasp for air when Anne shares her bad day on Facebook. Old habits die hard.
It didn’t matter what others might think of her, Anne lives her emotions, fully, and I went ahead with the post because we should all be so fortunate as to be as authentic, to be who we are at home at the end of day, who we really face at night: ourselves, with the full spectrum of our emotions.
* Excerpt is from the song Wolves, by Phosphorescent.
This post originally appeared at A Clown On Fire
All original art provided by Sara Lomas