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When You're Fighting Depression 'Under the Radar'

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“Are you all right?” they ask.

“Yeah,” I answer. “Just tired.”

And that’s good enough for them. They go about with the rest of their day, not asking about it again.

My depression isn’t out there for the world to see. I’ve never attempted suicide, and I’ve never been to a psychiatric hospital. I don’t have a bad home life. I get out of bed and go to school or work.

I’m not the “high-functioning” overachiever either. I don’t make straight A’s or throw myself into extracurricular activities. I don’t have the appearance of a “perfect life” or even look like I have my life together.

My level of functioning is somewhere in the middle. My grades slip as I struggle to keep up with my academic responsibilities, and my GPA has been on the downslide since college. I get out of bed every morning, but I often return there and spend much of my day there. It isn’t because I want to stay in bed all day, but I find myself without the energy or motivation to do much else except lie there in my mess of a room. Clothes, blankets, pillows, bags, boxes and papers often lie strewn about my floor, which hasn’t been vacuumed in months.

I can talk to my friends. Yet, when I do, I often fade into the background, feeling as if I have nothing important to say, and that no one would care even if I did. I also have social anxiety, which makes talking in general difficult. It makes it harder to reach out. While that should make me feel better, it just makes me feel worse.

Most nights, I sleep normally. Yet, I still wake feeling tired. I get up, and I go through the motions with no passion, searching for something to keep me distracted from the growing emptiness inside. Sometimes, that emptiness begins to show on the outside, and people ask me if I’m all right. I assure them that I am and put on a better mask.

I remember what it’s like to be happy. It isn’t difficult for me to act. Sometimes, I hope I’ll be able to fool myself, but I never do.

Some nights, I lie awake and wish the next morning will never come. I wonder how long I can keep going while the darkness inside of me grows.

My psychiatrist is a kindhearted woman who tells me things will get better. I want to believe her. I try to focus on a future where I’m happy. I keep that vision in my head at all times. During my darkest nights, only that hope keeps me going.

Hope can be a powerful weapon in the battle against depression, especially if you’re under the radar fighting alone. Hope for a future beyond the pain and darkness has kept me from giving up. Yet, it’s hard to fight alone.

My advice to you is not to stay under the radar. Seek help, whether it’s through counseling or medication. Let the people in your life know you struggle with depression. While this is much easier said than done, you never know where a helping hand may come from.

For those who suspect they know someone struggling with depression, reach out to your distant friends. Your support could make a huge difference in their fight. Depression can be fought alone, but it’s much harder. Let your friend know you’re there for them no matter what and actually act on that. Check up on them often, even if it’s just to chat about the weather. Find ways to show them you value and appreciate them.

Often times, it’s the little things that go a long way to make a person feel as if they’re not alone. This is a tough battle, but it’s a battle that we can win.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 15, 2016
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