Fake Smiles Can Kill

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( a collection of short stories ) she was the sun, the moon, the stars. she radiated positivity, warmed up every room, was the light of every party. but inside, so much more was going on. is it worth faking it til we make it? or are we allowed to open up every once in a while?

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01 | Hanna's Guide on How to Smile

01 | Hanna’s Guide on How to Smile

i can’t fake another smile, i can’t fake like i’m alright.

Smiling killed me.

Not literally, of course, because if that were the case then I would not be here, typing out ... whatever this is. A memoir. A story. A letter. Pick a word to describe and you are probably right. At the moment, there is not a correct answer. I am just writing this to get my feelings out, to tell you the true story of what goes on behind my forced smiles and tight ponytails.

It started six years ago.

I was twelve going on thirteen, and I was happy. Truly happy. I had good-enough friends and I was doing okay.

That was when my smiles were genuine, my ponytails were loose and my laughter was carefree.

I was the peacemaker, the mother of my friends, the one who could always be relied on to smooth out arguments and squeeze into a hug whenever they’d need one. I was a good listener, a warm embrace, a shoulder to cry on. To the world, I was perfect. To my friends, I was immaculate. To my teachers, I was the student they could always rely upon.

To my parents, though, I was a disappointment.

To the rest of the world, I might have been perfect, immaculate and reliable. However, to the two humans that created and birthed me, I was nothing but a let-down. A broken being. I was their youngest child and to them, the worst outcome of all three children. My brothers had both been faultless, the ultimate offspring that my parents could have wished for. They left for college last year, leaving me to deal with the anger and dissatisfaction of my mother and father.

“You’re so worthless!” my father screamed at me, his tight-fitting suit bunching up around his shoulders.

I’m still the peacemaker. I’m still the one who can be relied upon to smooth out arguments and offer a shoulder to cry on. I just wish others realised that even the supposedly-perfect friend of the group needs someone else to turn to.

“Why can’t you be more like your brothers?” my mother questioned monotonously as she ended a phone call with Adam, the eldest. Her eyes were filled with disappointment as she stared at her remaining child, the last of the three. I refused to cry in front of my parents but at that moment, I was moments away from the salty tears spilling over the edge.

Sometimes, even the peacemaker needs someone to hug them tightly and rub their back as they cry over seemingly-irrational problems. We need help too.

* * *

Two years later, with my parents constantly away on business trips and my faultless, flawless siblings only coming back in half-term, I was left alone. I didn’t need to worry about whether my mother will see me weep or if my father will threaten to destroy my report card. I was left to my own devices... which often consisted of me staying the night at my best friend’s house as she cried over boys and test results and family issues and everything in life that probably seemed so trivial to the outside world and yet meant so much to her. As it happened, it meant so much to me, because that’s the way my heart works. Others first and then, once I’m sure I’ve helped everyone, only then do I let my heart feel and release its emotions.

“It’s going to be okay,” I would tell my friend, holding her close to me and disposing of her tissues as quickly as I was handing them to her, “you’re going to get better. You know that, right?”

Of course, I would only cry in my bedroom, away from the wandering eyes and careless outsiders. I would slowly break myself by holing everything up inside one major organ, not caring if I overlooked myself so long as everyone else was happy. And that’s how life went on.

“Just breathe,” I would snap at myself in the mirror, my emotions taking over and my breathing restricting itself in my throat, “Get up and smile - it’s not that hard. You know that, right?”

* * *

Another year down the line and I was diagnosed with depression.

After all of my years of enclosing my emotions inside of me as to not to ruin others... it had eventually left me in a state of vulnerability. With no outlet of my sadness, shame or sorrow, my senses subsequently overloaded themselves and the result was a mental health illness that ensued in my inevitable admittance to the hospital.

Adam had found me in the bathroom, passed out cold. No one knows that I was doing there or what happened for me to be found like that, myself included, but my brothers had driven me to the hospital without even calling my parents about the situation. It was treated as an attempted suicide after my siblings found an empty packet of sleeping pills in my bedside drawer, so they sent me to a therapist. And that’s how I spent the next year and a half.

Talking to others; explaining my feelings to a professional; being able to share what I was feeling without having an overwhelming sense of guilt building in my gut, reminding me to ask about their problems and ignore my own.

It felt... odd.

Years of hiding away my heartbreak, remorse, sadness and anger had eventually broken me. I had learnt from my mistakes, understanding that although no one is sure what happened that day to result in my unconscious state in the bathroom, it was a good thing Adam had found me when he did. It made me appreciate my life more and accept that we all have to share our thoughts, no matter how tough we think we are.

“Call me when something’s wrong, okay?” Adam had reminded me as he left for university once again. I had nodded, not saying anything, only holding onto him tight as we embraced for the last time in months.

And for the first time in years, I had genuinely smiled.

* * *

okay so these are kind of short
but they all represent something.
hanna’s fake smile ended up with
her getting so overwhelmed that
she couldn’t cope. the other four
girls will have similar yet different
stories to tell... look out for them

hugs n kisses from a jellyfish

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