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Why the Truth Behind My Smile Would Shock Most People

I read an article recently about “perfectly hidden depression.” The author’s way of describing hidden depression was very enlightening. While I have been so grateful I can be an amazing actress and hide it so well, I’ve always wanted someone to look deeply at me and say, “I know you aren’t OK.” I want people to look past the mask and see the signs. I know they are there, I can’t hide everything.

I always thought it would shock most people (my husband being the exception) if I finally gave up and let my depression win. I’m the “put together” one, the nurturing one, the one who helps everyone and anyone — and that is how I like it! How could anyone be expected to see inside I was experiencing such dark emotions? Who could blame them?

The photo with this post was taken a couple of days before I was admitted to a mental health hospital for two weeks because of suicidal ideation and the need to get my medication managed. The smiling and bubbly surface I show the the world is so different to what is often happening on the inside.

Even when I asked for help with my depression, no one I knew seemed to believe I really needed it. Some just brushed my request for support aside and told me of others it would be good for me to help because they were struggling. They didn’t mean harm. At the end of the day, I am sure they just felt I was having a bad week or two and knew normally I would be one of the first to put my hand up and offer to support someone who was downhearted.

I am so very thankful to have my dear husband and my doctor in my corner, two good men who I trust and know can see through the sometimes fake smile. They don’t brush aside my feelings when I tell them I am struggling, no matter the reason. This husband of mine who is supportive and kind is worth his weight in gold. He is my rock, my reason for getting through each hour. I also now know a psychiatrist who is friendly and caring is invaluable to me. This came as a big shock after years of believing I would never need or want help from a doctor.

I am also very thankful for my very select and small group of friends in my inner circle. They do care deeply and are always there to listen and ask if I am safe. On the really hard days, having someone tell you they will miss you and asking if you need them to come and sit with you so you are safe, gives you something to cling to.

Just because my depression is perfectly hidden doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist unfortunately. It is not a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” Maybe it is even a worse kind of depression, because there is no easy help, no outpouring of sympathy, most of all the support you need to survive this disorder is missing. It is missing because we hide our illness so well, afraid to burden others or to show ourselves as vulnerable. Those of us with a hidden depression spend so much energy pretending to be OK that even when we beg for help, no one believes it.

It is exhausting, it is lonely, it is dangerous.

No matter how small your group is, even if it is just one or two people, try to let your mask down just for a little bit, show them your raw feelings and let them show you that you can be loved even when you are not your smiling, perfectly put together person you work so hard to show the rest of the world.

This post originally appeared on The Art of Broken.

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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Photo via contributor.