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Why I Hid My Depression for Years

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I’ve read posts about smiling depression and realized that was me. I hid behind smiles, goofy humor and jokes. No one could ever tell I frequently experienced suicidal ideation. No one could tell I had severe mood issues and chronic pain. And no one could tell I was not coping well with the pain.

In my late teens when I had my first bout of depression, I used humor as a positive coping strategy to counter my negative thought patterns. And it worked — well. I cultivated my humor. I encouraged it and it flourished.

At that time in my life, my depression was due to a few factors. I was away from home for the first time, I was managing the stress of university and dealing with the pain I now know as fibromyalgia.

When I was older and the physical pain was far worse, I pushed through the pain in order to keep working full-time. This led to bouts of severe depression and suicidal ideation. I consistently used my humor, smiles and laughs to mask my struggle. My tool for coping had now become a way to mask my depression and chronic pain.

I felt ashamed of my struggles. Mental illness has a significant stigma attached to it, so I felt weak for not being strong enough to handle things. I didn’t want people to know because I didn’t want to be judged by them.

Stigma even exists in the world of medical professionals. Sometimes when you have a chronic pain condition and symptoms of depression, they can often blame the depression completely and ignore the chronic pain symptoms all together. Because of this, treatment can really suffer. Because of this, I didn’t even want to go to the doctor.

I felt like I could handle it on my own. I thought I could control my suicidal ideation because it was just a matter of controlling my thoughts. I handled it myself successfully when I was younger, so there was no reason why I couldn’t do it again, right?

But the physical pain was far more severe now.

I experienced a lot of fear. I didn’t want to admit it was depression. That would make it real. I felt like admitting it would make it so much worse. Then I would have to really deal with it. I couldn’t imagine admitting to having suicidal thoughts because I was scared of what the doctor might do.

The depression seemed to ebb and flow as the pain did. I convinced myself I was fine, and that it was normal to experience suicidal ideation with chronic pain.

It didn’t seem like anyone cared how much pain I was in as long as I still had a job and was still working. It seemed like no one wanted to help me and I gave up on the possibility of anyone ever wanting to. I couldn’t see it making a bit of difference anyway.

I didn’t want my family to know. I didn’t want them to know the extent of my struggle. I didn’t want them to feel guilty or at fault. I didn’t want them to feel powerless to do anything about it.

Because I tend to learn things the hard way, I didn’t get help until I survived a suicide attempt. After the attempt, I couldn’t hide the depression anymore. I was able to get the help I needed in treatment with a pain psychologist because my depression correlates so much with my chronic pain. My doctors prescribed me with medication that has provided me with profound relief. Battling your brain for survival can be so draining when you don’t want to win. Medication has balanced me out such that I do not have the horrible lows I once had.

Although my treatment has brought many positives into my life, there is still self-stigma to deal with. There are still these feelings of shame and weakness that I experience daily. However, I am getting treatment I need and my loved ones are now aware of what is going on “in that brain of mine.”

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.

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Originally published: October 24, 2016
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