Faking It

Today I had a student tell me she was diagnosed as bipolar. She is a wonderful, smart kid. One of the things she told me is that she sometimes has asked her close friends, “Do you ever feel like you are just faking it?” They have generally been puzzled by her question, but she says she now understands that she HAS been faking it. Apparently, she has been struggling with her bipolar disorder for quite sometime. Because she is very bright and incredibly determined, she has been able to “fake it” in many areas of her life so that the symptoms did not reveal themselves very clearly to anyone but herself. I knew she was struggling with something so I convinced her to get counseling, and after multiple sessions, she said she felt surprised, but relieved, with the diagnosis. Now, she and her doctor are working to find the right combination of medications for her.

This has been revelatory to me because I think I have been faking it most of my life. I am painfully shy. I did not really even talk to strangers until high school. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I am a HUGE Introvert, and I think I over-compensate for that by being chatty, and this often fools people into thinking I am a cheerful extrovert. I am really a sad introvert. My students and co-workers think I am a calm, confident, funny smart-ass. In reality, I am an anxious, overly sensitive hot mess.

I read things that tell me that if I practice acting happy, I will be happy. Or if I keep acting calm, I will be calm. Well, I have been practicing for decades, and it hasn’t happened yet, so I am losing faith. Do I have to fake it for the rest of my life?

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