When Depression Doesn't Look Like the Stock Photos


Depression” often evokes images of someone staying in bed all day, someone who can’t leave the house, and someone who has difficulty functioning. While this can be the case for some, this is not the case for me. I’m a PhD student, and I go into the lab every day, often on weekends, too. I have a good group of friends, I enjoy having a good laugh. Many of the people around me don’t know what’s going on in my mind.

On bad days, people might notice I’m a little more quiet — maybe even think I’m a little upset or stressed. What they don’t know is I’m fighting off constant thoughts of hurting myself, that I’m constantly feeling suicidal. Feeling this way and going about my life is exhausting and draining. It’s lonely and isolating, because as much as I want and need to reach out for help, I can’t. I can’t ask for support, because I’m constantly feeling like a burden on everyone around me. I feel guilty over everything I say and do, and I feel asking for support would only make me more of a “burden.”

I’m incredibly grateful for the friends I have, so I don’t want to put that weight on them; I feel they deserve so much better. This all gets me into a spiral of negativity and intensifies the thoughts that everyone would be better off without me — that I’m being selfish for staying alive. It all feels like too much, and I can’t handle it and wish I could die so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. But I have to go on with my day. I show up, I talk to people and get my work done. I can’t let it get in the way of my efficiency, so I go about my normal day, while trying to hold myself together.

In the midst of all this, there are good days. I have days when I feel like things are OK, and maybe things won’t be this bad forever. Days when I go for hours — on rare occasions, even the whole day — without wanting to hurt myself. Days when I can enjoy my time with other people. These are the days that keep me going. These are the days when I don’t have to try to be “normal.”

Depression can be what the stock photos show you, but it’s not just that. Depression can be much quieter to an outside observer. Depression can creep up on you without you realizing. It took some time for me to realize I had depression because of the way it’s often portrayed and how it didn’t fit my experience. Even then, I felt so many people had it worse than me, and so I didn’t deserve to get help — which is something I still struggle with. But I know now that this doesn’t make my experience any less valid. If your experience is different from someone else’s, that’s OK — and you are still valid, what you feel is valid, and you are deserving of help.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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