Are you a good judge of other people’s happiness? Tell us about a time you were spot on despite external hints to the contrary (or, alternatively, about a time you were dead wrong).
I generally tend to be a pretty good judge of character, unless of course that person is a complete pathological liar.
The last time I made a call about somebody else’s emotional state… It turned out that I was completely wrong.
I guess, in hindsight, I probably should have realised that it was too good to be true, and nobody is that happy. Generally I make that assumption about anybody who tends to be overly happy and positive about pretty much everything. It’s called overacting; being overly positive as a mask, to hide what is really going on. So of course, me being me, called her out on it, and it was met with a rather nervous smile, and the subject quickly changed to her upcoming trip.
She was so excited. Going overseas for six months of travel. She rattled off all the different places she was going to, and spoke about it all with such excitement, and in doing so, made the rest of us feel so incredibly jealous. Nobody likes a bragger, but it was good to see her so happy over something like this. It was a daunting yet epic adventure. We said our goodbyes and wished her a safe journey and told her to keep in touch.
About 2 or three weeks later, a couple of us bumped into her sister. Out of curiosity, we asked how her sisters trip was going, because we hadn’t heard anything or seen any photos – assuming she must have been having too much fun and didn’t have time to sit down at a computer etc. Fair enough. If I was travelling overseas, I would probably do the same, wait until I had some spare time up my sleeve and then write a decent email to everybody.
Her sister kind of looked at us rather puzzled. Unsure of what we were talking about, she questioned us and we repeated our query, asking about the holiday. Her expression didn’t change and then she slowly told us that her sister wasn’t on holiday.
Not really sure what was going on, my friend and I looked at each other, confused, and then looked back to the sister. We then found out that she wasn’t on holidays… She had admitted herself to a psychiatric facility.
Turns out that the bright, bubbly, constantly positive person everybody knew was so far from that, everything we knew about her was a lie, and we suddenly began to question everything. Her sister, realising that she had just admitted something rather massive to us by mistake, became quite overwhelmed and guilty. Her face suddenly went red and her eyes became all glassy, and we knew she was about to burst into tears. Wanting to avoid a scene on the footpath, we took to her to a local cafe, sat right down the back where nobody else was, and she started to go into detail of her sisters extreme state of depression, including attempted suicide on a couple of different occasions. Clearly, she was a completely different person at home, because the person she was describing sounded like a complete stranger.
I felt quite guilty afterwards, because for somebody who considered her a friend, I couldn’t believe that I knew her, but didn’t know any of this about her. I even called her mother and invited myself over for an afternoon tea to talk to her about the girl that I knew, compared to the girl that they knew, and offered whatever support I could offer. She was rather welcoming to that, and it was quite awkward and uncomfortable to talk to this woman about the girl I know, and how completely different she was to the daughter she knew. I still couldn’t quite get my head around the fact that that same person was now in rehab for the next 5.5 months.
I remember the day that she got back from her ‘holiday’. She had even gone to the extent of having her hair lightened and getting a spray tan, the results of six months of being at the beach. The others may have all fallen for it, but I didn’t. It was a real struggle to stand there and play along with everybody asking her all about her ‘trip’. It didn’t take long before she discovered that I knew the truth, and overnight she made a decision to no longer be my friend. I’ll never really know what the truth behind it is, but I just assume that she felt so humiliated that I knew – like it was some kind of dirty little secret, but regardless of how much I tried explaining to her that she was my friend and I was there to support her, but she obviously wasn’t having it, which was saddening.
So it just goes to show that it’s quite easy for people to wear masks, and that the person you think you know may be the complete opposite to the person they really are.
Recently we had R U Ok? Day, encouraging people to talk to their friends and family, and talk about thing that might be on their mind, getting them down etc, so they don’t feel like they’re alone in dealing with their issues.
I don’t think that you need one specific day to do that. It’s something that you should do on a regular basis, even if you’re reaching out to somebody you don’t necessarily know – it can sometimes be immensely easier to open up to a stranger and talk about your problems than it is to talk to your partner or friends / family. And if talking to somebody face to face doesn’t appeal to you, then write them an email or a letter, or make a video – whatever makes you feel comfortable in doing to open up. It better to get your feelings out of your head, rather than letting them sit and fester and eat away at you.
So I encourage you, take some time out of your day to ask somebody if they’re okay – it might even help you for you to talk about something that is on your mind as well.
Much love to you all. Xx