Halloween is just around the corner and whether you actually celebrate or not, the holiday is sure to conjure up some type of memories in your head. One memory I have is learning that candy tastes better at Halloween than any other time of the year. Chocolate is much richer, Sweettarts are much sweeter and tarter, and peanut butter is much creamier. Test my theory by sampling your favorite sweets today! The second memory I have is choosing my costume each year. My number one rule was: no mask! I couldn’t stand the smothering feeling that a mask gave me when I put it on. One year, I broke my number one rule and wore a Wonder Woman mask. Sure, I looked like a first class super hero, but I was miserable…absolutely miserable all night long. The heavy plastic mask made my face sweat and I’m pretty sure I was deprived of necessary oxygen flow that night. Plus, I spent more time lifting the mask up so my loved ones would know which precious trick-or-treater I was than actually staying disguised.
Through the years, masks have brought on a different meaning for me. It’s those imaginary masks that we all wear at times that can truly leave a person suffocating. Oh, we wear them for a variety of reasons—self-esteem, social acceptance, mystery, hiding, faking…need I go on? Whatever the reason, the mask cripples us and robs us of our joy. Along the way, we may even hurt other people. In my case, I mostly hurt myself with the mask that I wear. It is called the mask of paranoia.
When I’m dressed as paranoia, it is nowhere near as pretty Wonder Woman. In fact, it is downright unappealing to anyone around me. As I have examined the common causes for my paranoia, I have been enlightened. Carefully, I have narrowed down the top six paranoia influences in my life: stress, worry, fear, negative self-worth, overactive imagination, and doubt.
Simply put, I sabotage many opportunities for happiness and fulfilling experiences. Rather than accepting things as they really are, I go to work trying to analyze things that are not even a part of the picture—things that may or may not ever enter the quotient. I decide that people are acting different or avoiding me. I assume that things are going on that I am not being given information about. Of course, I conclude that things are being hidden from me. Suddenly, I am walking on egg shells and trying to decipher every move and word by the individuals involved. My overactive imagination reigns supreme and I begin to question my value to others. I try to be everything to them and I fail in a monumental way. It is in trying to be everything to them that I lose myself. I get so trapped in a cycle of being what I think they expect that I’m no longer the person they loved to begin with. Thanks to the unattractive mask I hide behind, they sit across from me at dinner and silently wonder, “Who are you and what did you do with the girl I love?” I confronted a friend recently and asked, “What do you expect from me?” In my paranoia, I believed I wasn’t being enough or doing enough. He replied, “Just be you.” How simple…no mask required!
As I face each new day and accept the challenges coming toward me, I am slowly realizing that a life free of paranoia could be quite enjoyable. I haven’t completely destroyed the mask of paranoia, but I have the desire to, and that is a huge step. The people that are closest to me are quite blunt when I need to come back to reality and give up the disguise. So, in their way, they are helping me to heal. Does their method sometimes seem harsh? Yes. However, I can admit that God is using them as an instrument to reach me in my state of need. I know that the healing I truly need comes through God. When I stress or worry, I can go to Him with my needs and live in the confidence of the cross. When I feel worthless and overcome with doubt, He fills me with His richness, glory, and grace. He can swoop in and save my day, if I only make my needs known.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” –Philippians 4:6