Hi. I have depression and anxiety. I try to be very open about it, because I’m literally sick about the stigmas which surround mental illness. If you have the flu, and you announce “I have the flu *sad face*,” folks around you commiserate and wish you good health.
If you announce “I have depression,” one of three things happen:
- You are ignored (or, alternatively, told to “cheer up,” which is actually the most awful thing to hear when you’re depressed and anxious);
- Someone thinks you need immediate placement on suicide watch;
- Someone who gets it (probably because they themselves suffer) says “I understand. I’m sorry.”
Personally, I most often get this response: “But you don’t seem/look depressed!”
I actually understand that. Movies, television, and other media show depressed people like this:
If you are depressed, you should be frowning, constantly on the verge of tears or openly weeping, and never, ever, ever smile or laugh. That’s bullshit, right? I smile often, I laugh openly and deeply. I generally have a positive outlook. My depression is more of a quickly striking melancholy that lasts for hours, sometimes days. My depression is a heavy weight on my shoulders and my chest, holding me down. I’m not suicidal, nor have I ever been. Most folks who suffer from depression don’t want to kill themselves. The important thing to remember about depression is that it affects everyone differently. My depression is not the same as yours.
Sometimes, when anxiety strikes me, I look like this:
Lots of things make me anxious: clutter, lights that are too bright, too many tasks to accomplish in a short period of time, tight finances, tight spaces, too much activity around me, too much noise (actually, I could probably write an entire dissertation on the various noises and volumes that send me into a rage). Sometimes, my anxiety causes me to just shut down. When I’m in shut-down mode, it’s really difficult for me to leave my home, or be anywhere that isn’t home. If I have to flake out on plans and friends, I feel awful. Guilty. Horrible. Like a bad friend, a shitty human being. And that almost always triggers a depressive episode. It’s quite the adventure.
I know what helps me: sunshine, being with family and friends, medication, and therapy. Talking about it has been the most beneficial for me, not just with my therapist, but with anyone who will listen. I’m still learning about my triggers and what I can do to avoid them. It’s going to be a lifelong process; I get impatient at times, because I want to be “fixed.” I’m constantly trying to explain my behavior to those who don’t understand, and that gets really, really frustrating. It makes me feel like a physics professor, explaining <whatever> to thirty blank faces.
Most days, this is how I look:
If you want to know about my depression, ask me. I’m an open book. If you need an ear or a shoulder, I’m here (just not too loudly, please).