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Living With Sadness Others Can't See

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Years ago when I was in the midst of one of the most difficult years of my life, I sat down and wrote these words. I have always struggled to correctly articulate how I felt because I feel like there is a picture of what depression and anxiety look like in people’s minds, and I wasn’t it. I seemed to have it all together, I had a smile on my face and I was working full-time. From the outside everything looked good, and so when I would open up about my internal struggle it was hard to be taken seriously. You see, I had gotten so good at masking my inner world that sometimes I even fooled myself.

So I sat down and wrote these words…

If you want to know what my sad looks like, look at me on an average day. It looks like waking up, getting out of bed and starting the day. It looks like my daily cup of coffee on the way to work. It looks like throwing myself into my job and putting in effort for my students each and every day. It looks like turning up and being involved day in and day out. It looks like smiles and conversations with friends, it looks almost perfect, nothing to see here.

My sad also looks like the anxious moments I keep hidden, like hiding under a hoodie or turning away. Like me reaching for my rescue remedy. It looks like me walking away or shoving my headphones in my ears to quiet all the noise. It’s hands shaking and chest pounding, it’s the constant headache, the constant checking of my phone. You won’t see me on those days. I am good at hiding. If you do catch me in those moments, I will most likely brush it off. “I’m just tired,” or “I’m OK.” Don’t worry is my usual sentiment.

Sometimes my sad looks like tears and crying until my face hurts. It looks like an anxiety attack and being curled up on my couch where only the people closest can see. Those moments are rare and reserved for those who are closest to me. If you catch me in those moments, you have been given a rare glimpse into my sad.

My sad isn’t always obvious, it’s the negative thoughts running through my head, it’s striving for perfection and beating myself up when I fall short. It’s trying so hard to appear like I am not sad at all.

Perhaps that is what is so dangerous about being able to function with a mental illness: no one sees you breaking down and falling apart when you have a smile on your face.

This is my sad…

I guess I wanted to bring clarity to my own experience and have something I could share with others.

Years later my feelings are somewhat the same but the story is even more complex. I have added motherhood to the mix and that comes with its own unique challenges.

I am glad for my team, my support network, who help me on my darkest days when it seems all a bit too much. I hope that you too find your support, those people who can hold you up when you can take it no longer, but I also hope you know you are not alone and your feelings are valid, no matter what your brain tells you.

Getty image via Ponomariova_Maria

Originally published: October 22, 2020
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