When It's Easier to Hide in the Shadows Than Face the Light


When you hear people talk about how to feel better when you have clinical depression and anxiety, the suggestions are enumerable:

Go take a walk.

Go do something fun.

Call a friend.

Distract yourself.

Exercise.

The idea is that perhaps if you get your mind off of your worries for a little while, you won’t feel depressed anymore. For me, it’s much easier to hide in the shadows than face the light of day where others might see me for who I am. I don’t want to go outside. I don’t want to talk to people. I don’t want to even exist most of the time. All that said, I often find myself forcing myself out “for my own good,” and because of my continuous struggle to become the happy person everyone needs me to be, the following is a run-down of thoughts I have when I do force myself out into the light.

When I go out in public, I just wind up ducking my head down and avoiding eye contact. I’m terrified that people will see my pain and try to talk to me. Or worse, that they’ll try to talk to me and not even notice what I’m hiding on the inside. Small talk feels fraudulent, but I’m terrified of saying what I’m really thinking. I can make it in the outside world, but I just don’t feel right when I do.

Smiling feels unnatural. I worry that as I get older, I’ll be one of those people with permanent frown lines etched into their faces. It’s the old adage that “if you keep making that face, it’ll get stuck like that” that I think about all the time. But a smile just doesn’t feel right. I see pictures of myself smiling and still can’t identify with the person in the photo. Who is she? I don’t know that smiling person. It feels unreal. It feels wrong. But I do wish I could be the happy person I see in the photos.

Going for a walk sometimes does help some. During the walk, if I have someone to talk to who will really listen, the openness feels liberating. Often, though, I spend the time doing more stewing instead of feeling the endorphin release I’m supposed to feel from the exercise. My body doesn’t feel like moving, and I feel like a sloth. I trudge along, but I don’t feel strong.

When someone wants to spend time with me, I have to weigh out the decision. Honestly, in the moment, when I’m doing something else, I feel a bit better. But in the back of my mind, I’m thinking about how the fun won’t really last and I’ll have to go back to my own misery later. I would like to say that going out and having fun gets rid of the depression, but it doesn’t. I guess the momentary reprieve is somewhat worthwhile. I mean, any break from the doom and gloom is better than feeling it all the time. I just wish it could last forever.
Inside, it’s like I’m actively fighting against happiness most of the time. I don’t want to do it, but I can’t seem to help myself. I wonder about what people must think when I’m out having fun and smiling. Those who know what I’m going through might think that I’m all better because I had some fun. I just wish they knew that I need more than just a day outside of the house to fix what feels broken inside.

All in all, I just don’t feel up to life, which feels even more awful when I think about how my mood disorder must make my kids feel. I can only hope that they know I’m not said because of them, and I try my hardest to show them my love for them. I know that if I could just pretend a little while longer that I’m happy and I don’t worry all the time, I could be a “better person.”

And that’s the real tragedy of depression and anxiety. You’re too tired to move and too anxious to reach out to people. Hiding in the shadows keeps me away from being hurt in the long run, because, you know, what if people hate the person I really am? I can avoid rejection and disappointment if I never expect anything. So here I hide, only reaching out to the online community, hoping to get better, but not really counting on it happening. While none of this inspires hope in others, it is, for once, real and maybe that’s OK. So if you’re feeling hopeless and helpless like me, maybe we can at least commiserate with one another. I don’t promise happiness, but at least bringing out what I’m feeling might make someone else feel validated, and, to be really honest, a validation of my feelings is all I really wanted all along. It might not stop the private hell I’m feeling inside, but it at least makes me feel less alone.

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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