The Mighty Logo

When You Spend All Day Pretending to Be OK

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

In a typical day, I get up and get myself and my kids ready for school. I drop them off at school, then I go to work and have a productive day, and then I come home. I might take my kids to softball practice, or help with homework, but I go to bed early. I am exhausted.

I’m in bed early not because I’m tired, even though that’s true. I go to bed so I can take off my mask and stop pretending. All day long, I play a role. I fake smiles, I feign laughter and I even lie outright and tell people I’m “doing great” when they ask how I am.

But I’m not great. I’m barely even OK or fine, unless merely surviving counts. I am on autopilot most of the time, but I wonder how much longer I can pull that off. And although I may sometimes appear happy, I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt genuine happiness. I feel hollow inside.

Anxiety is my constant companion, keeping me second-guessing every single thing I do. Depression, however, completely takes the life out of me. When I’m well, I smile a lot. I really am a big kid at heart, and I love to laugh. I love and adore my kids. I’m personally invested in my career, and have always had a strong work ethic. But for the last two years or so, I’ve felt so physically heavy that it is a real struggle just going through my daily routine. For more on the reality of depression, check out this article, which is spot-on for me.

I want to ask for help, but I can’t. It makes me feel weak, and I am sure people are judging me. I want to reach out, but I struggle in silence.

Let’s be real. Everyone has a story. Everyone has had difficulties in life, and as busy as we’ve all become, I am fully aware I am not the only one who is tired and running on fumes. I am not catastrophizing my struggles, nor am I fishing for sympathy or attention. What I do want is for my voice to be heard. I want to feel worthy, I want to matter, I want to feel whole. Anxiety and depression are trying to suck every bit of life out of me. And I wonder if one day, they will succeed.

I long for connection. Again, we all do. But I need you to picture someone at the end of a rapidly-fraying rope, fighting hard to hang on. After a short while, her body becomes tired and sore, she is mentally unable to fight, and it is physically impossible for her to reach out for help (because, hello, it would cause her to lose her grip and fall). At the end of the day, she can get off, but she is forced to get back on every single day. Her desperation is palpable, she wants to hang on, but without support, it might simply become too much.

I want to hang on, so I play my role. Inside, I am suffocating. I need support but don’t
know how to ask, so I’m hanging on the best I know how.

If you care about someone struggling with anxiety or depression, please reach out. Don’t expect them to make the move, even if you think you have made it abundantly clear that you’re available to them. They might believe their problems are a burden. They can become so consumed that they don’t think you care anymore, and don’t take it personally. Please reach out. Worst-case scenario, you appear too concerned or caring. Best-case scenario, you save a life.

And if you are that person who is struggling, continue to hang on. Keep fighting. You are not alone.

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.

Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: October 29, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home