I know what it feels like to believe you are the only one going through this pain or that particular agony. Or, more accurately, that you are the only one who handles it so poorly. We have front-row seats to our own depravity and nosebleed seats to other people’s. We don’t see the same blemishes, wounds, scars, and abnormal gait in others that we see in ourselves, but that is only because it’s easier to see the mask other people wear. We don’t mean to wear masks; we are just afraid that if we take them off, we will be the only one who looks like the Phantom of the Opera.
While these masks might protect us from judgment and criticism, they can also reinforce feelings of loneliness and alienation as they prevent authentic connections. It is in embracing vulnerability and sharing our true selves that we often find we are not alone in our struggles, and that others, too, have their wounds and scars. The realization that others also have their ‘Phantom of the Opera’ moments can be profoundly comforting and can foster deeper, more genuine relationships.
My sister felt this loneliness, and the intensity drove her to her death. If only I had been able to remove my mask back then. I caused her to feel alone in a crowded room.