You Don’t Look Depressed

That statement, “You don’t look depressed” is commonly used by people as if there is some standard face to depression. Like you could look out into a crowd of people and be able to identify every single individual who is depressed.

The truth is that depression has many faces.

For some, depression is smiling, laughing, and making jokes. For some, depression is working hard or maintaining a healthy lifestyle (i.e., working out regularly and eating right). For some, depression is eating too much or being hypersexual. There are some living with depression who are high functioning. And for some, like myself, depression is chronic and debilitating.

Every individual is experiencing depression differently.

The Enemy Within

My depression is a constant enemy that I am in battle with. As a young person I was given tools of how to distract myself (i.e., hard work and running). I was taught to push the reality of my problems off onto an invisible mythical being rather than face it, seek professional help, and learn how to live with this integral part of my human experience.

In my youth, there were countless times where I heard people mention my positive demeanor, my bright smile, and constant laughter. How athletic, fit, determined, and hardworking I was. No one could see how much I was struggling to continue to live each and every day.

It all was a facade.

A facade can only last so long though. So I would have major downfalls and explosions where I just physically and mentally couldn’t take the pain anymore. A lot of destructive tendencies, self-medication, a few suicide attempts, treatment, and medication. But then, the mask would go right back on.

You Don't Look Depressed. Depression is more than just sadness.
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Now, even after I decided to take back control of my life and focus more on my mental health I can’t say that it hasn’t been a daily struggle even still. It has and it probably always will be, but that is my life, my human experience, and that is okay.

Depression Doesn’t Need A Reason

Many possibly look at me now and think, she has a beautiful family, healthy children, the most supportive and loving partner, people who care about her, a college education, what could she possibly be depressed about?

It’s not always triggered and there’s often not a reason.

That is something that I have found to be so difficult in having to explain to someone, that there is no reason. Most often I just am depressed. Sometimes, many times, I just become numb to everything and won’t want to exist.

Even worse, it makes me feel like I need to hide it because people only seem to sympathize and empathize with those who are experiencing depression due to some tragic life event. I get it, if you don’t know the ‘why’ or the reason for their pain then you don’t really know how to address them.

When my depression is triggered by some negative external stressor then my symptoms can go on for an extended period of time. Not for days or weeks, but months. Even then it seems there is a time limit for when humanity and understanding run their course. Compassion is not endless when there’s also a socially accepted timeline for even these kinds of things.

Vulnerability Is Not a Weakness

The hardest part for me has been getting over that fear of showing and talking about my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Social media has helped me to become more open and expressive. Even still I write and delete over and over again before ever publishing or posting.

I am a warrior.

I would say that one of the most important lessons I have learned in living with depression is that vulnerability shows how strong, courageous, and brave I am. The most important thing I can do each and every day is try to love myself more, see my self-worth, and gain more confidence and pride in myself. A valuable tool that helps me with this and easing the suffering that comes with living with depression is the practice of mindfulness.

And if today all you did was hold yourself together, I’m proud of you.

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Symptoms and Types of Depression

Below is a list of the most common symptoms of depression. However, many times there are no outright or telling signs that can help you identify depression in people, even those you love and are closest to.

Common symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of irritability, frustration‚ or restlessness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and that do not ease even with treatment
  • Suicide attempts or thoughts of death or suicide

There are a lot of different types of depression as well. If you believe you have any type of depression, seek help from either your primary care physician or a mental health professional.

Types of depression:

  • Major Depression
  • Persistent Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depressive Psychosis
  • Perinatal Depression
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
  • Seasonal Depression
  • Situational Depression
  • Atypical Depression

Depression is still a mystery, no mental illness is straightforward, and healing and recovery isn’t linear. We are all struggling and surviving in our own ways. And in those moments when you feel alone, please know that you are not.

Talk to Someone Today

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7 support)
Call 1-800-273-8255
TTY users dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255

Veterans Crisis Line (24/7 support)
Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
Text 838255
or Chat online

Crisis Text Line (24/7 support)
Text HOME to 741741

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