The Secret Behind My Smile

Humble honey

If you’ve been with me for long, you know that I typically blog about books I’ve read and how I implement them in my role as an educator. However, this one is a bit different. I have a secret to share with you.

Smiles do not always equal happiness.

On a typical day, you can find me surrounded by kids, books, technology, and loving every minute. Most who know me personally would describe me as a very enthusiastic, energetic, fun-loving person. It’s rare to see me without a smile. I give those out freely and often.

The other side of that sometimes obnoxious positivity is a very real and constant struggle with depression and anxiety. A struggle that very few know about (until now, I guess). I’ve always been “on edge” and a bit of a “worry wart,” even as a child. I worry about ridiculous things that statistically would never happen. I don’t relax much; I find that I just can’t. After I was finally able to carry a child to term – our daughter, Bailey – I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. With the exception of short period of time, I have been on antidepressants since then.

She will be 10 years old next month.

There are times that I wonder if I could stop taking the meds. If I stopped, could I tell that the meds were even doing anything? Then, there are times like this weekend. Times that I’m not sure I would make it out if I stopped taking the medication. I’m still clawing my way out from this weekend.

I’ve heard it referred to as a spiraling depression. Something hits me wrong, then something else, and something else, and then it just kind of gets out of control. Before I know it, there’s some form of unintended self-destructive behavior. I’ve lashed out at those who don’t deserve it; I find fault with things I normally would enjoy; I sleep… a lot. I am much more short-tempered. I don’t feel like myself and don’t want to do things I enjoy (even things I enjoyed last week). Things that I’ve worked so hard to accomplish suddenly don’t result in satisfaction. Minor setbacks feel more like epic failures.

It’s like an implosion, collapsing in on myself.

The secret behind the smile is sometimes you won’t find that happiness is what put the smile there. The smile is just a facade, a protectant. It keeps people from asking what’s wrong. How can you answer that when you aren’t even sure? There is no “one thing” that’s wrong and no one can “fix” it. What’s wrong just leads to tears. Tears can be perceived as weakness.

I am not weak; I’m engaged in a battle every day.

The end of a school year can be tough on everyone, learners and educators alike. The bittersweet accomplishment of completing another year. Evidence of the passing of time. High-stakes assessments looming. For those like me, it can be a trigger. It can start a spiral. Instead of asking “what’s wrong,” just be supportive. When you see a smile, just smile back.

Give grace.

The number of people in the United States alone that battle depression and/or anxiety is staggering. So I don’t share this post for pity. I share it because there are others who are struggling right now; there has to be based on the statistics alone. Others who are smiling to keep from answering “what’s wrong”. They are smiling on the outside, but they may be spiraling on the inside. Be kind to others. We never know what the secret behind their smile is.

2 thoughts on “The Secret Behind My Smile

  1. Alicia, let us know when you need a smile or a shoulder or an ear. So many educators and students battle so much in their lives that others don’t know about. My mom told me in 2009 that “people WANT to help,” and that’s stayed with me since, as I believe it’s true. Reach out when you need, and friends near and far will hear the call and come running! 💕 Thank you for sharing this post. Many will benefit from reading your story.

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    • Thank you, Joy! You are such a kind soul! Oddly enough, once I shared my struggles with “the world” through blogging, I felt empowered to share with some of my colleagues. (It was far easier to share with those I don’t see every day, by the way.) I have so much support here and didn’t even know it because I’d never reached out. So thankful for you and your friendship! Thank you for taking the time to read my post & for the sweet comment! I truly hope my story helps someone else!

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