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What My Beard Says About My Depression

I, like so many others in their desperately mid-20s (because it doesn’t get more mid than being 25), struggle with the worst facial affliction any one person of this age could tell you about.

I am what some would refer to as a “babyface.”

A “babyface” would be loosely defined as being an individual who looks younger than their actual age, causing mass confusion and surprise when the answer to the age-old question of, “how old are you?” comes to fruition. So many times I have answered this question and heard the response, “oh really? You look way younger.”

It all starts with my superpower: growing a beard. I’ve been growing one for as long as I can remember and I’ve been quite fond of it. It is mine, after all; I grew it myself. It sits on my jawline (and a little bit on my neck), where it catches sunlight, drink residue and bits of food. It has a slight red tinge to it, giving me the oft-terrified and unwanted “ginger beard.” So many shudder at the idea of it, yet it is mine and I wear it with pride, just the same as any with a badge of honor would. Sometimes, it is short and neat — kept tight to my face and maintains a professional look to it. When it is short, it gives the guise I may be slightly older than I truly am, bringing unexpected respect and being looked to for ideas or advice. At times, it sits at a medium length, placing me closer to the age that adorns my birth certificate and gives the sense I am exactly what you expect from someone with thick-rimmed glasses, tattoos and asks the server, “what do you have for craft beers?” when dining out with friends or family. It gives the sense I may not know fully what I’m doing or where I’m going, but I’m getting there.

However, when it is long, it tells more about who I am and what I’m dealing with than any words ever could. When my beard is long, it is because I have lost the feeling that self-worth is important. When it is long, it is because I have let myself believe that the thoughts I had in the dark of the night before are true. When it is long, it is because I have let myself believe I do not deserve what I have in front of me. When it is long is when I am quiet. When it is long is when I cancel plans. Somehow, the length of my beard has become connected with the same mental fortitude that I lose the lack to feel. The length of my beard has become synonymous with my depression. It has become a beacon I attempt to hide behind, yet writes so plainly on my face what is going on. The longer it grows, the harder the fight has become.

Something as small and trivial as the length of hair on my jawline has become a tell I have tried so hard to keep hidden; to keep away from those who offer help when all I want is to crawl into the dark and let go of the world. Through it, I have found a physical manifestation of what I really am and what I really am going through — a physical way to see what is going through my head and what is lying in the dark at night.

A great lyricist once wrote, “I walked upstairs and shaved my beard. I felt like I was holding sadness here.” Of all the words, lyrics or phrases I have read, heard and sang along to in my life, I have never once felt a connection to such few words. For every time I have walked upstairs and shaved my beard, I reminded myself that this is a new beginning. This is the start of a new chapter. This is the first step in the constant fight to take myself back. And so, I walked upstairs and shaved my beard. I knew I was holding sadness here.

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Photo by Vinicius Amano on Unsplash