Everyone knows something about Marilyn Monroe. She epitomises old Hollywood and the peaks, troughs and hardships that come with it. We all know how she died and who she dated, everyone has an opinion about this beautiful woman; but none of us truly know who she was. And even though I own countless books, cushions with her face on and various photographs of her, I can’t even begin to understand either.
What resonates with me about her is this Marilyn Monroe persona she created, under the blonde hair, Chanel, Yardley’s Lavender and red lips she was Norma Jeane Mortenson. This persona has made me realise how much of myself I see in her, and no I don’t mean that I’m some sort of sex symbol or icon in anyway shape or form, but this mechanism of projecting who she wanted people to see her as. That I can completely get on board with.
I often put a mask on, you’ll see it when you first meet me; I project this confident, quirky, ball of sunshine that gives 0 fucks with crazy hair colours and jazzy clothing. But scratch off the pink lipstick and power brows and I’m an incredibly insecure, people pleaser who wants to be loved and liked in equal measure; who doesn’t want you to see the crippling anxiety that befalls me when the telephone rings or I have to attend a party even when I know everyone there.
You wouldn’t see the hours of preparation, the vomiting and retching at the thought of fucking up. You wouldn’t see me glued to my bed for hours before I gather the courage to shower, paint on the lips and eyebrows and choose the outfit of the ‘April-Rose’ I want people to see that day. No one sees that. You wouldn’t hear my heart pounding or the negative insults thrown around my brain like the pinball wizard that it is, or feel my sweaty palms and dry mouth that besieges any communication with another human being. No one sees it, nor do I really want them too.
But in the midst of depressive episodes or the start of a hypo-manic episode you’ll see the cracks in the make up, the gloomy cloud that lingers near when I speak to you; you’ll sense it in my voice, how I talk about myself or even in how I communicate with others. The mask will slip and you’ll see it… the lipstick won’t be so bright and the brows not quite on point. And in that I see the Marilyn Monroe not on photo or film but in the behind the scenes footage, with her acting coach and countless entourage. In that I see my inner Marilyn.
And that’s okay, everyone wears a bit of a mask at some point. Whether it’s on a first date or in a big client meeting everyone will dust off the version of themselves they want people to see and they’ll put it on and perform. It’s perfectly normal. We’re all dancing monkey’s at the end of the day.
So as I move out of this depressive episode and the cracks get painted up, what I want you to remember is that it is a mask and that there is a person behind it that doesn’t have it together 99% of the time and who still retches at the thought of any social gathering or communication. I still need the reassurance and love you give me when I’m depressed, the extra bit of attention or little text, letter or gentle reminder that I am; despite what might be going on inside the inner turmoil of my mind, that I’m doing okay.
And most importantly I want you to remember that it is the same for most people, everyone needs and deserves that recognition of ‘you’re doing okay’ – it just varies in shape and size.