There once was a place called Open Diary, there i was known as pain_behind_the_mask. When i wrote there i was trapped in a prison of my own making. I splattered my heart across the entries. I rattled the bars of my cage and cried out for anyone to see the truth that lived deep inside of me, that I was too afraid to show to those who thought they knew me. I let all of the skeletons out of the closet and pinned them up for someone to see, to know. I was so naive. My mask that I thought was so indestructible had cracks in it that I refused to see. Turns out I didn’t need to cover up the truth, it was too big to be covered. While I poured out my heart to strangers all over the world , the people closest to me watched as I crumbled and broke. I wasn’t fooling anyone. While I thought I had it all figured out, tell the strangers , hide from everyone else, I was only fooling myself . They saw , they guessed , and assumed. They just didn’t know how to help, how to reach out. Because I had spent so long shoving my mask of happiness , love, acceptance, and strength in their faces they didn’t know how to tell me that they saw the truth, that I was broken. Perhaps they sensed that if I knew that they could see everything that I had tried so hard to hide it would only make me feel more broken. Again I was so naive. Because now I see, I know that opening up, showing them my pain doesn’t diminish me. It strengthens me. It strengthens them. It strengthens us. By explaining that I have anxiety, depression, ptsd they now understand why I can’t always show up to a gathering, or why I sometimes disappear into my house for days on end, why I sometimes show up after weeks looking worn and empty. Instead of guessing, assuming, or worrying that I just don’t want to be around them, they now see that sometimes I just can’t be around them, that it is no reflection of them but a reflection of the turmoil inside of me. It helps them to understand me, and even better , sometimes it helps them to see that I understand them too. That they are not alone in their fears, phobias, neurosis, and quirks. By opening up to the people I love, I give them the opportunity to open up to me. Suddenly we are all a little less alone. I realized that I spent years giving the gift of truth to total strangers while denying that gift to the people I love the most. Denying them the opportunity to show me their truth. Because we are all a little broken and we are all afraid that our brokenness will frighten off those we love. But love cannot be dismissed because of a few cracks in a mask. If the love is real, then those cracks only make you more beautiful, more real, more true, more you. I am eternally grateful to pain_behind_the mask and to all of the strangers who walked beside me and cheered me on in my darkest hours. And I am going to continue to be learning_to_be_lonely, I am going to continue to share my story with strangers but I will also share my story with my loved ones. I don’t want to hide anymore . My mask has slipped and I’m okay with that.