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Just Because I Don’t ‘Look Sad,’ Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Still Struggling

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I pause my state of gloomy television watching (or meaningless staring) to pick up my phone, which had just buzzed. I had a text from my friend. I opened it to find an essay of words that gave me that unsafe feeling once again. “I am a bad friend. I don’t deserve to live because I am a bad friend. Do I deserve to live?”

While this seems vague and arbitrary to most, it’s happened to me more than once. I’ll get blamed for my successes and their impacts on my friends. Now it’s easy to say, “Yeah, well what if she’s a braggart?” I’ll tell you straight away, I am not. The things other people consider great feats for someone in high school, I merely consider to be the outcome of something I worked for, so I don’t advertise them. Do you know that typical story, where the child gets a 100 percent on a test and the father or mother say, “Great, that’s what you should be getting,” in an unimpressed manner? That’s what it feels like being me. I am permanently unimpressed with myself.

Naturally, this can bring on a lot of dysphoria, but it’s even worse when someone you care about tells you that they feel horrible because of it. It’s almost like it’s my fault for working and accomplishing things that frankly, I don’t even consider to be a big deal. I guess my problem is I look at the big picture too much. I don’t see a girl who gets a role in a show, or the admiration of her teachers. I see a girl who comes from a broken home (or two), growing up alone as an only child, feeling even more alone because nobody is there for me to talk to.

I see a girl that has an undeniable resentment toward her father, who moved two hours away from her. I see a girl that has panic attacks over lots of small mistakes. I see a girl that can lay in her room, staring at the ceiling for hours, punishing herself for minuscule things. I see a girl who comes home and tries to write music, but can’t finish it because her thoughts get in the way. I see a girl who goes to school with a mask on and comes home, ready to fling that mask across the room and reveal her face — the face that aches from crying sometimes.

None of my friends take my depression seriously. “How is she depressed? She has so much. I don’t understand. She just wants attention.” These are the things said behind my back amongst my friends. But things get back to people in high school. I go to school and plaster on a smile, I laugh and joke with my acquaintances and I let others vent to me while I listen to their obstacles, but nobody does that for me. It feels like I’m doing things for everyone, but nobody’s doing those things for me.

The thing is, nobody feels like they need to do things for me because they think I am not saddened by my father’s calls. They think I don’t go home and cry, eat junk food, watch some pointless YouTube videos (mainly Shane Dawson) about life hacks to try to cheer me up. They think I don’t have thoughts of ending my own life when things are looking particularly grim.

Most of them don’t know I go to therapy weekly. The ones who do know are just jealous of me for it because they wish they could go to therapy. That’s always the problem — jealousy. I blame myself for it because I care too much about others and not enough about myself.

Why am I writing this story, you ask? Because I would like everyone reading this to know that depression doesn’t have a face, name or situation. It is a mental illness that can affect anyone. Even the people you think you’re close to. The thing about depression is, you don’t have to talk about it. Some people don’t want to talk about it. That’s why my friends don’t understand, because I don’t talk about it.

Depression is never an easy topic. I bet some people will read this and go, “She doesn’t have depression, she’s just in high school.” But like I said, depression is an illness that can affect absolutely anyone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people romanticize and overuse the word “depression,” and make it seem like they’re calling for help and automatically feel better when people give them their pity. That’s actually how I knew I wasn’t just having normal attention cravings. I began to see that no matter how many people I talked to, I didn’t feel better. So I stopped talking about it. And now the only person that hears about it is my therapist and very occasionally, my mother.

Society needs to realize that the misuse of “depression” needs to stop, because the people who are struggling with depression are being pushed aside. Just because I don’t look sad doesn’t mean I am not sad. I am an actress, after all.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via Mushika 

Originally published: August 4, 2017
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