Britt Lawrence

introducing my "eclectic" life

Nice to meet you!

Writer. Dreamer. Doer. Not always in that order.

While covering "reel" life for nearly a decade, it is also time to focus on the "real" one. Welcome to my eclectic life! It is not always glamorous but it is mine. Fun fact: I love my dog Chewy, traveling, adventure, TV, movies, and a good mystery.
Britt and Chewy

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Why (And How) I Realized I Wear A Different Kind Of Mask

Medical Masks Pink Peach Background
inkdrop via Canva

One of the things that you may not think about when you consider someone living with chronic pain is that they may be wearing a mask and not the one all of us have been wearing out for three years. You have probably heard of people “masking” their feelings. It is not a new term. How it is used is something sort of different for me.

While watching a YouTube video by Olivia Hops, a young woman diagnosed with autism explaining what “symptoms” females tend to have with it, Hopps mentioned masking. It seems that many autistic females use this technique to appear neuro-typical to fit in with society making it difficult to diagnose. What does this have in common with chronic pain? Thanks mainly to fibromyalgia, my daily life requires a lot of masking.

If someone asks how I am feeling, I typically respond in a sunny disposition that I am “doing alright.” The truth is that I am usually no better than any other day. Even though I try incredibly hard to be honest, this does not feel like telling a DJ Tanner-style “fiblet.” After watching the YouTube video about female autism, I get why that is and how I have justified it.

The masking of my pain helps to guard the feelings of loved ones, who feel powerless to change the state of my health. Instead, they get to see someone act upbeat and walk the high wire of life, hurting like hell yet trying to keep in heavenly spirits. It is not always successful. More often than not, it works, though, and the mood of loved ones remains untouched.

It is personally important not to be an emotional burden.

One thing worse than having chronic pain is being the loved one of someone with chronic pain. They want to know how you are doing and hope to get a different answer than “terrible.” Sometimes, they stop asking when they do get a brutally honest response, which makes total sense. No worries.

However, the best way I have found to head this off is to downplay how badly I am feeling by being Elle Woods-level upbeat. Like the theory behind making yourself smile and feeling happier, this seems to work with attitudes. Our attitude is the one thing in life we can control (most times).

Getting down in the mouth and beginning to spiral with anxiety over what I want to change and what I can alter can lead to a frustrating climax. It is better to keep expectations low (or within reason) than to get flustered over a lack of progress. There is a lot of merit to breaking down a huge situation piece by piece. 

(As an animal lover, I do not like even theoretically discussing the consumption of a majestic elephant.)

Unlike watching a TV show, life does not often provide room for a lot of rewrites. Have there been plot twists? Seldom a course correction, though. Real life is tough, and it is even tougher when you feel like you have to hide your feelings. Hence, masking. Why? Because I do not feel like my chronic pain is who I am. It is part of the story.

It is a huge piece of the puzzle that I do not want to define me. It feels reasonable to say I am alright because that is true emotionally speaking thanks in enormous part to Chewy. I try always to keep my chin up, and with Chewy’s paws to lean on, that is not hard.

I am not saying that masking it is right or suggesting that you do that with anything in your life. It is just something I recently put together doing in my own life, and now that I feel that mask, I cannot stop sensing its presence. For a person determined to live an honest life, it is hard to grapple with the notion of deceiving others and one’s self.

This mask does not keep me from breathing properly, and it feels like the “right thing” for other people.

In truth, it is one of the few things I can painlessly do. Perhaps, the grittier reality is I prefer who I am when I am wearing the mask. It allows me to pretend I am “normal” -- a woman smiling through the pain while waiting for it to wane. When it comes to other people’s perceptions, I have only myself to blame. 

Having control of that one facet in a sea of unchangeable facts gives me just a little much-needed agency.


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