At some point in my life, I think just before I reached middle school, I found that everything I did and said was completely and utterly embarrassing. I was also starting to gain weight, and so was concerned that no one would like me. I made very few friends, and stayed deeply depressed, using music to lift myself up. Eventually, I found an old friend of mine: writing. Now, for some reason, between 3rd and 5th grade, my manuscripts suffered inactivity to the point that they were just crammed into old folders and stuffed away somewhere. In 6th grade, I started writing again as a class project, and it took off where it was left, only much better. I wrote and rewrote, and rewrote again. The assignment never finished– but that was because it went from being a short-story to being a novel. One that, still to this day, has not been finished.
My feelings of agony and self hatred were alleviated by the world I created around a version of myself that was not pathetic. Her name was Katrina– and she was worse off than me, situation-wise, and yet she was never depressed. She fought back against what put her down, and eventually would triumph, surrounded by friends who loved her and would follow her anywhere.
In other words, I put myself in a world where I could resolve my problems without knowing it. I put on a mask in the real world, pretending to be this perfect person that I’d created. I pretended to be stronger than I was, and the act was thinly veiled. I was picked on a lot, for reasons I have since discovered but at the time I had no clue existed. I had no idea how to interact with people. I said things that didn’t make sense, and when they did I sounded mentally ill or somewhat brain-dead. No, I’m not being overly harsh. I’m being honest. I beat myself up over the stupid things I’ve done and said in the past, wishing futilely that I could go back and erase them all.
But the story took that away. I could become Katrina for a while, and fight alongside my friends. I could escape to a place where I was not awkward, or socially stupid, or pudgy. In the story, I was a sword-master, an archer, and partially feline (I had an obsession with cats at the time). I could disguise myself as anyone I wanted to– I could blend in, unlike in real life. And also, I was loved.
So, then, why was the story never finished? Because I’m afraid of finishing things. I have never admitted that until now. I don’t know how to handle success, and so I don’t finish things so I won’t have to deal with success or failure. That is why I have started over a dozen stories, never to finish one, and it explains the countless projects in my sewing closet. It explains why I haven’t been trying to learn guitar or my keyboard as avidly as I can– because I am afraid to succeed.
So when I entered high school, I changed again. I no longer wanted to be what Katrina was. I didn’t want to be stand-out awesome, or amazingly different. I just wanted to be normal. And that, in itself, is the most depressing thing in the world. I had friends by now (most of whom corresponded to Katrina’s friends in the story), and I was edging towards finding a boyfriend, which I had to keep secret, because my mom wouldn’t let me have one. I just wanted to be someone who fit in, rather than stood out. I was tired of being weird. I was tired of being awkward. I was tired of putting on the same mask every day, only to have it yanked off so easily.
So I tossed aside the mask of Katrina and built a new one. I became Xiao. When I was a child, I received the game Dark Cloud, and the second playable character was a child my age at the time, who was half-cat and named Xiao. She was always my favorite character, and I never stopped playing the game. Up to high school, still playing as Xiao, I decided to take that name, which was interesting and different from my plain, ordinary, boring (much like myself, as I would think) name. This seems strange, though, doesn’t it? I wanted to fit in, so I take a name that no one else understands the context of or (most of whom) had never heard before. Well, even though I wanted to fit in, I suppose I knew I never would. I think it was after my first relationship ended (and during that period, a LOT of really bad crap happened to me and others– but that’s a story for another time, if ever) that I pushed away the desire for normality. I decided that I wanted to be myself, or the best person that I could eventually be. And then I thought, “Why stop there? Why not make Xiao what Katrina was for me in middle school? Make her something big, something to aspire to. Something that will be forever out of my reach, but not impossible entirely.” So I became what I wanted to be at the time. I put on the mask, which was thicker and easier to don than Katrina’s.
I would arrive at school, wearing that mask, and would only take it off in front of friends– and eventually, I didn’t even then. It got to the point that I never took of the mask. I melded it to my face, glued on that smile, but always had to jump-start it. I felt constantly dead inside from faking my own life, my own happiness, and I began to hate myself again. Add to that the stress that I was carrying from aforementioned “bad crap” that had happened between freshman year and sophomore year, and you might understand that I was considering suicide more often than eating. I tried to dig myself out of the pit of depression with the spoon that is infatuation. But every time I would see over the lip of the pit, rejection would run me through and pin me to the bottom of the pit again. I didn’t trust anyone anymore. I didn’t want to find anyone, because what would it bring but pain? But anyone who has read my other posts on depression in my life knows that I came around when I met Vlad.
But let’s not ruminate on that for a third or fourth time (who knows, it might be the fifth). My mask was impenetrable– so much so that it hurt me when I would try to pry it off long enough to wipe the tears off of my face. I was stronger, I was stubborn, and I didn’t need help, or support, or love. I was hollow and empty, and yet I played it off to look like I was Xiao, a strong, confident young woman who could handle any situation, and wasn’t afraid to say what she wanted to say.
When Vlad and I were first dating, I told him about the things that happened that were at the root of most of my depression at the time– thinking that he’d run away. But he stayed, and he supported me. I think that’s when the mask started to crack. But it has been nearly 4 years now, and that mask only came off completely lately. It was when I became Gothic that I affirmed that I wanted to be myself, and not an un-attainable figment of my imagination. I decided that I would be me, whoever that was, and that I was done hiding behind a character, or a mask. I shattered my masks, and with that, I took the first step towards not hating myself.
Because that’s what it meant for me, the masks. It was me running from who I really was out of self-hatred. I didn’t want to see my face in the mirror, because I couldn’t stand to know it was mine. I wanted to see something better– and that was the wrong path to take. That was what it truly meant for me to hate myself.