I found a mask at a very young age that I thought fit well, hiding who I truly am, hiding pain too deep to reveal. The mask would shroud what I felt, that bad things happening around me were my fault, and that I was bad, I was simply worthless.
Recently when the rapes happened I managed to dig the mask back out and found that it still fit just as well. No matter how much my heart was breaking on the inside, the mask would disguise it. If I was careful about how I wore it, no one would know what was behind it.
It is my good fortune that some who loved me could see right through as though it were the glass slipper and not the mask that I was wearing. With their love, in the form of encouraging words and ongoing support, I have been able to lower the mask more and more. Gentle hugs whenever I have beaten myself up, or have been beaten up by the world, which left my spirit bruised and bloodied, also aided in my ability to trust the safety of life without the facade.
A habit so old the start is unidentifiable, takes time and unconditional love to break. My friends and family faithfully keep reaching for my hand and I draw on their strength to reach back and take hold. I love this quote as it catches the truth so many of us live with:
Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. ~ James Baldwin