Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Public Face

We all know that face. The one we put on when we're not at home. The smiling happy face that portrays someone who is doing great.
  • She has it all together. 
  • She's coping well with her loss and grief and disappointment. 
  • She's handling things with such dignity. 
  • She's going to be ok. 
Some days that face fits comfortably. Other days it just feels like one big lie.
On those days I wish I could just rip it off and scream at the top of my lungs.
  • "I'm not ok today!" 
  • "I feel like crying and I know that when I start I won't be able to stop." 
  • "I wish you would ask me how I'm doing and not be shocked and horrified if I start to cry." 
  • "I wish I didn't have to keep pretending to you all that I'm doing ok." 
  • "I'm tired of hurting all the time, I just wish it would stop."
But I don't say any of these things out loud. Because for reasons I can't explain I need my public face.

I am compelled to show strength. It's the only way I feel comfortable when I'm out in public. As much as I'd love to go around town a crying mess all the time (and I have, examples here and here), it's not an experience I'm comfortable with.

I've never been comfortable being that person who cries and everyone in the room hugs her until she feels better. I've never been one of those people who needed lots of advice and help getting through her day. I'm just not that person.

I need my public face. I wear it like armor. Not just to convince others that I'm ok, but to convince me that I'm ok. If I can manage even a few hours of "normal" each day then maybe I can actually get there someday??

Fake it until you make it??

Who knows? Perhaps it's something I can explore if I ever decide to go back to therapy.

How about you? Do you have a public face? Does it work for you or leave you feeling exhausted?


  1. I definitely have a public face. Sometimes, it is painful to pretend I'm ok when I am not. Other times it is for the best. The few times I have not put on a brave public face it has not ended up good for me. People just don't understand. Some people seem to think that real emotion is a cardinal sin. That's sad. We should be able to be honest about how we are doing, but often times it just causes more pain.

  2. I absolutely have a public face. And I hate to cry, even in private, for fear of putting an irreparable kink in my amour. IF has made crying a little easier though, I will admit. I think a public face is important to make it through sometimes, though it can be exhausting. But it's definitely important to deal with the issues behind the mask at some point so they don't get permanently trapped. (says the girl who actually just broke up with her therapist because she got sick of saying the same thing over and over again...I decided blogging was good enough for now)

  3. While i don't want people to comfort me etc, i have no issues letting people know im a mess. I dont have the courage to say it in person often so i communicate it on my blog (obvi its not anonymous) bc i want people to talk about my son and know its ok if i lose it occasionally. Funny part is that i dont anymore. People (there are exceptions, of course) have become so accustomed to the topic that i feel very comfortable with my grief, for which i am grateful. I think being so open about him has helped me a lot. Im still a mess but we have the right to be!! Our babies are dead! Just my thought :)

  4. this is a great post. I put my public face away on line which I think is why my blog feels as sad as it does. IRL, I hate to let people see me cry. It is so hard to not feel like you are lying all the time. I hope you find a place to let it out, we all need to do that from time to time. Sending much love to you

  5. I do this, too--put on my public face in part to convince MYSELF I can make it through the day. Sometimes I think that faking that I'm ok is the only thing I'm good at. Maybe I'm too proud--one of the biggest challenges for me aside from my grief is dealing with the fact that so many people feel sorry for me. I hate being an object of pity. I loathe the very idea of it. But I've also found that sometimes when people ask how I am, whether they are sincere or not, I have to answer them honestly: "Hanging in there, I guess." Or, "Having a bit of a rough time lately." If they try to comfort me, I usually shrug it off, "It is what it is." Or "There are good days and bad ones." But I feel better having put it out there. This sucks. It's hard. There's no pretending otherwise. At least, not forever.

  6. I'm exhausted. There is a chance we may be able to get Alexander's seizure dog earlier than expected. And... with all that happened last week - we are pushing for it. I went to talk to HR about taking a little time off for the training, and she was so sincere. She asked me how I was. Just because she cared. And ... I was so focused on getting the days, I wasn't ready for the question. My public face faltered. And ... then I lied - and we all knew it was a lie. And then it was awkward. And I hate that.

  7. You are right about the public face, I had posted about that awhile ago in my blog There were alot of comments that I should express what I feel, when I'm feeling it as people said "its okay to cry in public or with your family at home" they just didnt get it. It annoys me even more when people are uncomfortable.I went to a grief meeting where a display of emotion is more expected and not unforcomfortable for the people around you and yet I still sat there like a stone and didnt say anything. I just could not get that face off. In real life I am also not the cry and hug person. In fact I cant stand it when people hug me ( except my hubby).

  8. I don't think I have much of a public face. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and I open up about grief/stillbirth/life after pretty frequently. I don't fancy myself being an object of pity but I also don't want people to think think I am 'all better' even though I know many of them do. I think I am a lot like Molly.. I want people to remember my son more than anything.

  9. Oh yeah, where would I be without that public face? I also agree out is as much about my discomfort being real with anyone other than my closest of friends, as it is about the fake it til I make it. I an especially struggling as I am hitting the one year anniversaries. Thanks for posting this and providing reassurance that I am not alone.

  10. I do that too... I have a public face that I hide behind and worry sometimes that if someone finds a crack in it, the whole facade of my smile might shatter. I smile probably more to reassure others... and find it easier to hide behind my smile than deal with others awkwardness sometimes. I even find it hard to be real with my closest friends b/c I think they believe I "should have gotten over it by now". Love to you always xoxo

  11. Yep! I have a public face. And I truly think it's so I don't have to admit to myself that I am not coping. Defence. Ignorance. Arrogance. Who knows? Have been thinking of ways to deal with it. Talking is the way. I have tried to talk to my partner, but he is part of the problem so that didn't work out so well. Think a therapist will be the next step.

  12. I think your face comes from Christ giving you the strength even when you don't feel it yourself....I just kinda wrote about this in my blog...It will always be there to follow us around, but Christ will also always be there to guide us through!

  13. I have been using my public face a lot :( But I feel like sometimes you have to in order not to loose it every day. I am trying not to looseit all the time lately it s**ks but eh its life it will get better :) Everything always gets better no matter what is thrown out there it gets better :)

    Following from the blog hop :) hope you can follow back :)

  14. Hi,

    I am a new follower from the blog hop. Please come follow me back

    Have a WONDERFUL day!

  15. I absolutely have a public face. and "fake it till you make it" is my mantra on SO many levels. but sometimes this has backfired. Badly. I'm still regretting not taking as much time off from work as I could have, because I didn't understand that people take their cues from you. Especially when it comes to grieving. I put on my brave face and so many colleagues (and alas, family members) saw that as "oh she must not want to talk about it so we won't talk about it." Luckily, we had more than one friend that saw through the bullshit. And when THOSE people called us out - that's when real and cathartic tears started to flow. And sometimes it happened in public.

    I don't think showing emotion or pain publicly is a weakness. Like you, its something I try to avoid, but sometimes, well shit. We're only human. And I don't think its a bad thing to let a little human show through and overtake your public face.

    I spent a lot of time obsessing whether or not I was "that girl, you know, the one whose babies died..." And I've decided that sometimes that is not a bad thing. Because it allows you to draw support, ask for help, admit you are not superhuman, and I think being able to do that is a strength, not a weakness.

    much, much love to you as you pass your year without your son. I found the time between years 1 and 2 to be the hardest for me, because the grieving was less defined, and you enter into this period where people thought you should "be over it" by now. It wasn't until we sought counseling, right around this time, that we realized it was OK, more than ok, that we weren't "over it."

  16. You are on my mind. I dont have any advice. I lost my shit when it all went down. I was out of commission for almost a year, losing 2 jobs along the way. Public face? Sure seems like I could have used one.

    The only thing I can say is that one day you will make it. It is slow and creeping, only visible when you look back over large chunks of time.

    I know it is hard and you do whatever you need to do. It is good to see you getting this all out since the common man just doesnt get it.

  17. I do have a public face. You put it very eloquently, I think. There are times where you know if you start to cry you won't know how to stop.

    IRL I don't know any person who is grieving. In the blogosphere I do. I always wonder if it is better to approach someone who is holding it together by a thread and acknowledge their loss, or to skirt the issue. I think, from reading this, that sometimes it may be better to talk about the person's loved one?

    Sometimes I think the Victorians had it right. If a woman lost a child or a spouse, she would wear black for a year, and a veil. It was kind of like wearing armor for your public face, and the veil allowed her to shed tears whenever and still have privacy.

  18. You have no choice it seems when it comes to that public face - when you are surrounded by people who have no understanding of what lays so heavily on your heart. So you put on that face, make small talk, play nice.

    Thanks for hooking up to Time Travel Tuesday this week.
    ps. Wordy Wordless Wednesday link up tonight - so busy ;)

  19. Stopping from Time Travel Tuesday. I have public face. Thankfully I have friends that I can share my wrinkles and warts with.