To My Parents: I Am Lying When I Tell You I Am Fine

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I’m not fine.

I am not fine, but even with tears running down my cheeks I will look you in the face and still insist I am. Why? Because I hate to admit that I need help, even when it’s blatantly obvious that I do.

Let’s debunk some things here. It is never just one thing, one person, or just one “bad day” that causes a spiral into sadness or an anxiety attack. It is layers upon layers of self-doubt, self-loathing, stress, overthinking. Sometimes certain things trigger a breakdown, but it is never just one thing that causes me to lay in bed for hours, staring at the ceiling. In these dark hours, I am going over every awful thing I have ever done. I am thinking of things I could have done better. I am thinking of the future, terrified I will never amount to anything. I am thinking of the present, the million better ways I could be spending my time to improve myself and my future, but have instead wasted staring mindlessly at a screen or in bed crying because I just can’t muster enough motivation to brush my hair, let alone “take on the world.” And I hate it.

I hate myself for being this way, and I know I shouldn’t because mental illness is not something you can control; it wasn’t my choice to be an emotional wreck. But that’s the thing — anxiety has a way of making everything seem like it is your fault. Things beyond my control become my fault. I think of all the ways I could have done better because I never feel like I have done good enough. I think about every last one of my faults, listing every reason I am a disappointment, a bad daughter, an awful sister and a dysfunctional human being in general.

My mood shifts often. What you need to know is that depression doesn’t just “go away.” It is not just here one day and gone the next. Depression is a dark cloud that is always looming over. Somedays the sun breaks through, and on those days, I smile, I laugh, I am OK. Other days, rain pours from this cloud and pounds against the ground, drowning out everyone and everything surrounding. On these days, I just can’t fake a smile; I can’t pretend I am OK. Most days, this cloud just keep the sky overcast — not a bad day, but not exactly a good one either. It’s just a day.

One very important thing you should know: It is not your fault. I know it is hard not to take it personally when there is nothing you can do to make me feel better, when I isolate myself, when I won’t speak for days. Know that you are doing everything right. It may not seem like it when you leave my bedside and I haven’t said more than two words to you, but your constant reassurance and letting me know you are there has helped me more than you will ever know. I know it is hard for you to understand my mental illnesses when I won’t tell you what’s wrong. I want to, believe me; I want to be able to tell you everything, but it is so hard to put it into words when I am in the middle of a breakdown. Not to mention, I feel like a burden on you already as it is, that I feel like you shouldn’t have to be burdened with my emotional turmoil. But that is not your fault either.

Depression takes all of my motivation, my joy, my positivity. It literally drains the life out of me. Anxiety makes me afraid of everything. My mind never slows down. The fact that I am too afraid to find a job weighs heavily on my brain. I am very aware that I am an adult and I need to start taking care of myself, but I am not functioning. I hate, hate, hate that I have to rely on you. That’s why I refuse to ask you for money, because I feel I don’t deserve it and you need it for the house and the kids and yourselves. I should not be a financial burden on you at 19 years old. I should be helping out, bringing some money in, paying for my own things. But instead, I sit in the same spot on my bed day after day doing nothing but being a burden on everyone. The slight indentation in the top left corner of my mattress is a depressing reminder that I am not functioning.

I am sorry. I am so sorry that I can’t just function like a “normal” human being — that you are forced to be more attentive toward me. But I hope you know I am so appreciative. I love you more than anything in this world, I just struggle to show it sometimes.

Thank you for not giving up on me, even when I want to give up on myself. Thank you for trying to be there and trying to understand. Know that I am trying to be better. I want to get better. I want to be functioning. It is because of you I am still fighting every day. Without you, I would have given up a long time ago. I am lucky to have such amazing parents that refuse to give up on me, that don’t scrutinize me for having these struggles and acknowledging that anxiety and depression are real and that they are very hindering and debilitating. Even I still struggle to acknowledge my mental illnesses as “illnesses.” I could never thank you enough.

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Thinkstock photo via Sjale

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How I Came to Admit I Had Depression

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Like many others, I am independent, stubborn and strong-willed. Despite being a very candid individual, I’m also fiercely private. Those things combined can make opening up and saying “I need help” very hard.

To contextualize that, 2.5 years ago — prior to my depression diagnosis — I ended up in hospital as I’d ignored a growing problem. The change had so been subtle over a prolonged period of time that I convinced myself it was OK. It wasn’t.

Similar story last year. I’d been having a tough time at work, a few personal challenges and I knew I wasn’t in great shape. However, I was working through it and trying to take care of myself — or so I thought.

The challenges stacked up, got bigger and then a real family crisis hit. I thought I had myself in check. I didn’t and instead, I capitulated further into despair.

It wasn’t until the third bout of vomiting, diarrhea and full body aching and a conversation with my wife that I admitted self-help wasn’t working.

That was a really hard conversation. Frankly, it sucked. I cried a lot and it hurt. It may sound cliché, but admitting I needed help lifted a weight. This kickstarted several months of assessments, doctors appointments and starting therapy.

Each of these conversations hurt. They filled me with dread, real physical and emotional pain. I’d feel terrible before and during, I’d be exhausted after, but each time a little more weight was jettisoned.

I cried a lot during this time. I almost felt like I was sinking further, but actually, all I was doing was admitting what I’d been denying for months. It sucked, but it was important. It put me on course to start addressing what I realized was a lifelong issue with anxiety and depression.

At this stage, I told a few friends, colleagues and family members and every time it was the same — it sucked. But it made a difference, it helped me make peace with myself and created a network of knowing and supportive people.

And the more I have done it, the easier it has become. Sure, it takes a lot of strength and bravery and it is emotionally draining, but it really helps and I know I’m not alone.

I hate that I’m reliant on doctors, medication and the support of some wonderful people, but I’m proud of myself for allowing it and grateful to all of them. I still have a lot more soul searching and growing to do, but I’ve come a long way and talking has been key to that.

So yes, talking about depression sucks, but it’s important — really important. So, stay safe and speak up.

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Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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I Brushed My Hair Today

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The moment is finally here. I pick up my flat, dull pink brush off the cluttered counter and take a deep breath. I glance up and know I cannot put it off another day.

I try to separate my hair in half, then I gently start brushing. The tug and pull are almost enough to just make me give up and say “I’ll brush it tomorrow.” But I don’t, I keep going.

I eventually just go at it with the band-aid mentality, the quicker I brush the sooner it will be over. After a solid 10 minutes, I have made a significant dent in the knots.

I step into the warm water of the shower and try to wash away the shame. The shame of knowing I haven’t brushed my hair in two weeks or washed it in at least three days. I try to make a mental note to text my hair stylist, to see when she can get me in. Maybe if I cut a few inches off I’ll feel better.

It’s one of those “why do I do this to myself” moments, the moments where I try to remember that I am not alone. I say a few things that I am thankful for — like my boyfriend, who loves me even when I don’t brush my hair. Like my mother, who celebrates my small victories like brushing my hair or cleaning my house. There is so much to be thankful for, the good outweighs the shame today.

Thinkstock image via Transfuchsian.

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15 Things Only People With 'Smiling Depression' Understand

15 Things Only People With 'Smiling Depression' Understand

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When many people think of depression, they often think of sadness — and not much else. This generalization can be harmful to people who experience depression, but may not “look” depressed. For some, depression may look like sadness or exhaustion. For others, depression might look like a smiling face, or a person who “has it all together” — something we call “smiling depression.”

It’s important to remember every person’s experience of depression needs to be taken seriously, no matter what it looks like on the outside. We wanted to know things only people with “smiling depression” understand, so we asked members of our mental health community to weigh in.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “It’s easier to cheer people up but not myself. I can make them feel great when they’re going through the worst [times], but I cannot get myself happy, really happy. That happiness you see is just a way of not letting people [see] my problems.” — Sofia V.

2. “I am so tired. So, so tired, all of the time. It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting and pouting or smiling and engaging. [It doesn’t matter if I’m] dancing, running, swimming, eating, brushing my teeth, by myself or in a room full of people or sleeping. I. Am. Exhausted.” — Rinna M.

3. “Other people don’t get it. What it’s like to feel so trapped and in darkness, because I appear ‘happy’ and strong — even though [it feels like] I’m slowly dying.” — Nicole G.

4. “[I] fake it because [I believe] no one wants to hear about [my] depression. [I] fake it because [I am] tired of hearing all the ‘expert’ advice insinuating that [I’m] just [not] trying hard enough.” — Lisa C.

5. “[I] don’t always wear the mask for other people. Sometimes [I] wear it because [I] don’t want to believe [I] feel as miserable as [I do]. [For me], it isn’t always about making other people with [me feel] OK. Sometimes it’s wearing the mask so [I] don’t lose [my] job or so [I] can just get takeout without being asked what’s wrong.” — Melinda A.

6. “I can still laugh and give a big belly laugh about things, but on the inside, I feel empty. It’s a weird feeling being happy as much as you can, but your mind won’t follow suit. [I] just feel empty and the happiness isn’t genuine. It’s fake but [I] can’t change that no matter how hard [I] try for it to be a real feeling. Depression drains everything out of me. It takes an enormous amount of strength to appear ‘normal,’ it exhausts me… [My] smile doesn’t reach [my] eyes.” — Rebecca R.

 

7. “The problem lies in the fact that no one truly and honestly knows me. I feel like I’m alone every day — even when I’m surrounded by people.” — Jen W.

8. “[I] constantly doubt whether [my] struggles are real. When [I] finally get the courage and strength to open up about [my] depression, [I] always hear, ‘But you don’t act like you have depression.’ It took me years to come to terms and believe my own struggles.” — Adrianna R.

9. “Most days, I feel like I’m just barely surviving. Once I’m alone at the end of the day, all I have the energy for is crying. Crying because I’m just so exhausted with life and I’ll convince myself I can’t handle tomorrow and I need to call in sick. But when the next day actually comes, I’m too afraid to not show up. Eventually, after debating with myself for far longer than I should, I drag myself out of bed. The cycle [feels] never-ending. It’s like, if I choose one day to just stay in bed instead of getting up, it would be the most horrible thing in the world, so I eventually always get up, no matter how exhausted I am. It’s inevitable.” — Keira H.

10. “I try to keep up appearances to protect my family because my depression upsets them. I’m not very outwardly emotional, so everything gets to me more than I show it. I can’t open up to them, because I just get told, ‘Change your thoughts,’ ‘You seem fine, why do you want to go to a therapist?’ It makes those times when I can’t control my emotions even worse. I feel alone, tired and lost.” — Jessica C.

11. “Sometimes I really, like really want to show people how I’m really feeling, but I just physically cannot take the mask off. It’s like the walls just grow stronger the more I try to tear them down.” — Kira H.

12. “[I thought] if I faked being happy enough, then maybe I could get a glimpse of what it’s like to be ‘normal.’ I always feel like such a burden on the people [who] love me. [I feel] I have no choice but to pretend.” — Bree N.

13. “The time I’m most encouraging to myself is when I’m telling myself, I can make them laugh so they never suspect anything! I’m funny, right?” — Shelby S.

14. “The physical pain as well as the emotional pain. It hurts to walk, get up, move, force [myself] to smile, try to look ‘normal,’ happy.” — Keara M.

15. “[ I believe] we are the best actors in the world. Because if I have to explain depression one more time… it’s just easier to fake it until I get home.” — Lisa K.

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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15 Things Only People With 'Smiling Depression' Understand
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A Good Day Vs. a Bad Day With Depression

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What it’s like to have both good and bad days living with depression.

Read the full transcript:

A Good Day Vs. a Bad Day With Depression

On a good day, when I stay in bed, it’s because I want to lay there for a few extra minutes, just to stretch my legs and look at my phone…

On a bad day, I wake up with a brick on my chest, pinning me down, making getting up seem impossible.

When I’m feeling OK, I’m late to work because I got distracted, took a wrong turn and it’s just been “one of those mornings…”

When depression takes over, I’m running to late to work because I spent an hour debating whether or not it was worth going at all — or if it would be better to stay home, and climb back into bed.

Depression is distraction, not because I’m thinking about my weekend plans,

but because I can’t focus over the constant stream of negative thoughts running through my head.

It’s the difference between taking a nap because you’re tired,

and taking a nap because you want to escape, because there’s nothing worth doing when you’re awake.

It’s not doing chores, not because you’re busy

but because you can’t find the energy or motivation to get up.

What you see might be laziness. Procrastination. Forgetfulness. When I’m having a bad with with depression, it’s so much more than that. Don’t assume you know what’s going through my head.

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When a Low Mood Makes You Frightened Depression Is Returning

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I am well into recovery from a severe episode of depression. I’m thankful I’m able to write that. I’m doing well in terms of medication, getting more exercise and looking after myself better. However, there’s always the fear every time a mental slump occurs that depression is rearing its ugly head once more.

There are days, even weeks, of feeling mentally stable, and I almost convince myself I’m in a great place and will remain there for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, my mind likes to mess around with me every now and again and drag me down into the pit.

This is a place that scares and confuses me. I know even the most mentally robust of people have a bad day and just aren’t feeling it. I want to be one of those people who says “bad days happen” and gets over it.

The problem is that when you’ve been so low that you’ve tried to die by suicide, sometimes even the slightest twinge of melancholy can be frightening.

I am writing this on a day when low mood came crashing in from the moment I opened my eyes. Rather than normal waking, it was more like a heavy shutter crashed down on me, with a sign upon it stating, “closed for business.”

These days are thankfully few and far between now, but they still make me question where I am with my mental health. The problem is that a low mood day is similar to depression. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I feel angry with the world, I’m irritable, sad, out of sorts and generally just long to stay in bed all day.

The only hope I hold on these low mood days is that maybe tomorrow I will wake up and it will have passed. This is where my mind can be cruel. I’ve had low mood days plural, even as long as a week. I panic and grow concerned that I’m relapsing. I try to keep going and do all the good things that help me both mentally and physically. I battle with whether it’s worth it if I’m just going to go hurtling back down the rabbit hole of depression. I monitor myself so hard that it makes my head hurt.

This is the curse of being someone prone to depression and who has had episodes of varying severity over the past 20 years. I can never rest easy. I know that sounds pessimistic. Don’t get me wrong — I do not live life waiting to slip into depression.

Once I’m in recovery, I try my best to not only pick up the pieces but seize the new days to come. It’s just that when you’ve spent a large part of your life having at least two severe episodes a year, you cannot help but brace yourself for it to hit when you’re having a low mood day or week.

Low mood days are hurtful reminders of an illness that takes over my life. Low mood days are unwelcome signifiers of how it was and how I never, ever want it to be again.

When a low mood day comes, all I can do is hold on tight, use all the coping strategies I know and dip out of life for a while. I know self-care. I’m getting better at it.

If the housework doesn’t get done because my brain is whirring negative thoughts at the speed of light, so what? The world will not end.

If I cannot work on my novel today due to the inability to stay awake and focused, I will try to be kind to myself and not buy into the feelings of failure. I’ve come too far to quit.

Today is a low mood day.

Today I am giving myself a break and care for me. After all, I am the most important person right now. That’s not selfish. That’s survival.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via spukkato

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