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When People Don't Notice You're Struggling With Depression

“What does Emily McGuigan have to be depressed about? You’re talented and successful.”

I cried when someone said that to me after I opened up about being in therapy, because they’re right. Or so I thought, at least. I feel like I have no reason to be depressed. My life could’ve turned out so much worse, and although I’ve never actually been ungrateful for my life, I feel like I seem ungrateful because to others, I do very well for myself but to me it feels like what I do is still not good enough. People are always surprised or skeptical that someone with a strong outwardly appearance could be so sad and unstable internally at times, but I just emphasize that you really never know what someone’s going through. I didn’t talk about my struggles publicly until more recently and in doing so, people I never would have expected have reached out to me to share how they face the same challenges. It seems like everyone wears a disguise so no one can tell they’re hurting.

I’m a “high-functioning” depressed person, so I feel like I get overlooked. People assume that because I’m so productive I must be “fine.” They assume people struggling with depression just stay in bed all day, don’t shower, don’t eat much or cry a lot. However, depression comes in many different symptoms, cycles and levels. Having episodic depression means I will usually have a few days to a week of feeling amazing, then I’ll come crashing down into about two weeks of feeling very low. Instead of staying in bed — no matter how much my brain begs me to every day — I can usually just get up and go through the motions of what is my daily routine. Sometimes I can’t get up though. My anxiety immobilizes me and my depression fatigues me, so I have to miss class or cancel my plans for the rest of the day, which gives me more anxiety about what I’m missing. It is still just as hard for me to do basic self-care things like brushing my teeth and showering, but I do it. I’m usually entirely detached to what I am doing, but I tell myself I will never get better if I don’t even try and hope that maybe staying busy will distract me from feeling so crappy. Although, I tend to take on too many committments then get overwhelmed and become too tired to do the things that I designate as my outlets.

Throughout my life, I have been very successful in my pursuits, but success just doesn’t equate to happiness for me. Many times, I spent wondering why I would feel so indifferent to a major life accomplishment when others would be celebrating. Depression has me convinced my life belongs to someone that can actually enjoy it — that I don’t deserve this life I live. It’s not always like that, though; sometimes, I can ride the high of reaching a goal I’ve worked so hard for and sometimes I can recognize how hard I actually do work every single day. Being proud of myself is a lifelong journey that takes practice every day. My depression may hinder me, but I know it is not who I am.

Unsplash photo via David Webrouck