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What This Photo Can Tell You About My Depression

A few days ago, I watched the sunrise. I watched the sky turn from dark blue to shades of pinks, reds and yellows. It almost seems unfathomable that in that moment, even though I was surrounded by so much natural beauty, I felt dead inside. This is depression. Well, this is what depression does to me. Everyone struggles differently.

Depression doesn’t prevent me from seeing the beauty of nature. It doesn’t prevent me from seeing beautiful colors, laughing at jokes, or singing my favorite songs. Depression takes away all of the feelings that come with doing those things. So often people take what they can see as truth, so if you’re laughing, you must be happy. The truth is, I can be laughing and still feel completely hopeless and afraid inside.

I’ve been struggling with depression for as long as I can remember. At the age of 15 they wrote “manic depressive” in my chart. I’ve always found it so hard to explain what a depressive episode is like. What it feels like to smile outwardly but to be dying inside — to want to feel happy, but no matter how hard you try to be, you just aren’t.

I’ve heard from many people, “Think happy. Be happy,” “Depression is a choice,” “Take this supplement, or that supplement, change your diet,” and with every suggestion I fell more and more into that dark void. I was trying everything, I was watching sunrises and sunsets, I was taking pictures, I was writing, I was thinking happy thoughts, but I wasn’t feeling any of it because that is what depression is like for me.

I smile, but I feel hopeless.

I post positive quotes, but I don’t believe them.

I hang out with a friend, I laugh and joke, but I feel like a burden and stupid.

The stigma surrounding mental illness taught me to hide the truth. It taught me to smile instead of cry. It taught me to post happy things because no one wants to hear that life can feel so negative sometimes. This is so harmful to those who struggle with mental illness. This tells us our battles are not valid. This tells us if we aren’t happy, we aren’t trying hard enough. This tells us we must fight this battle alone.  

We don’t have to fight alone though, we don’t have to hide.

What I have started to realize and I’m still working on it, is that by being honest, by letting others inside our world, even just a little, it can open the eyes to the reality of depression. It can show others that our smiles can hide so much and that we are trying because if we weren’t trying, we wouldn’t even bother to talk about it or address it. Sure, there will be people who will offer their suggestions, and there will be people who won’t understand, but there are also people who do and will understand. There are people who will start to care to see past the mask, and they are the ones who matter.

The other morning, when I was watching the sunrise and I felt empty and dead inside, when I felt hopeless and afraid, I took a picture and posted it on my social media where I captioned it with.

“This, is depression.”


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