Ramona Samuels

@ramona-samuels | contributor
Ramona is a mother of three who works as a licensed massage therapist. Like most women of our day, she is an avid pinner, blogger and Instagrammer. She is anxious for real, honest discussions about mental health. She conquers her depression with medical help, travel, writing and recording her life, exploring feelings through art and worship.
Ramona Samuels

When Your Friend Is Hiding Depression

Most of us have had it happen — the conversation that reveals someone we know, possibly even love, battles depression and we didn’t know it. We think to ourselves “ but they seem so happy!” or “ they are so fun to be around!” and the news doesn’t compute with what we know. I have chosen these statements because they are statements that have been said to me when I was finally brave enough to tell someone I’ve struggled with clinical depression for most of my life. I have even been surprised by the number of people I know who fight a similar battle, and I never would have guessed. Here are a few reasons why the revelation of clinical depression takes us by surprise, as I have experienced in my life. 1. Episodes of depression come and go. I have gone as long as two years without serious bouts of depression hitting me. I was naive enough (hopeful, maybe?) to believe I had been cured. But it returned when I least expected it. Most of my life has been a roller coaster of “emotional times” and “stable times,” and when I was younger I just told myself I was a “sensitive” person. It wasn’t until a doctor pushed for more information and I researched on my own that I realized I had all the major signs and symptoms of depression and had battled with them most of my life. So yes, it does come and go, and if you catch me on an “up” there would be no reason to suspect I could have ever had a brush with mental illness. As I have matured I have also realized there are definite triggers, and the response to them is very real and very dramatic, but outside of that there is little reason to discuss my illness. 2. Depression mimics (although in an unhealthy amount) normal emotions. Let me speak plainly: If you do not suffer from clinical depression, you will have a hard time relating the reality of someone who does. A crying fit to you may be the sign of a bad day. To someone with depression, it may be the explosion that is expressing complete worthlessness and despair. Retreating to your room in frustration to you may be a way to cool down. To someone with depression, it may the start of withdrawal that begins an emotional downward spiral. Declining a social invitation for you may mean you need some quiet time. To the person with depression, it is a way to avoid contact and remain in the darkness. You are seeing the tip of the iceberg in a person with depression, and you have no idea there is mass hiding below the waters because for you there never has been the bitterness of cold, frigid ice. Trust them when they try to tell you they feel depressed. 3. They are living functioning and contributing lives. Again with the iceberg analogy. You see the tip of the life they present. Sure, you may see the warning signs you have read so diligently about, like weight changes or withdrawal, but for the most part the times in my life when I have been most depressed I have also still functioned well. I have showered, curled my hair, ran my kids from place to place, even lunched and laughed with my friends. I can’t say why I don’t usually completely shut down, I just never did. I don’t know if I function out of habit or out of hope, but I do. I rarely wallowed in my filth and let my life fall apart. As a matter of fact, when my real battles with depression and death idealizing began I was in school, an honor student, singing the theme song for prom and cheering at the school basketball game. But the clouds still rolled in and I didn’t want anyone to know. So I lived and suffered mostly in private. 4. The person you know with depression doesn’t want you to know they have it. Depression is extremely easy to downplay.  A quick little “ that was a rough time for me...” or “ I am struggling with that” is usually all I have to tell someone who is checking up on me after an emotional battle. People are understanding when it comes to struggles. What they don’t understand, however, is real depression. Telling someone you are struggling with serious doubts about the worth of your own life, or if you have the strength to face one more day, is a huge risk. Not all are created equal when it comes to this news. I have lost a friend or two who I knew just couldn’t face the storms with me. And I don’t blame them. It’s not fun and it’s not easy. It’s even harder if you weren’t aware of the problem (see opening paragraph), thus, we learn to hide it. It’s safer that way (not in reality, but we see safety in hiding) so we pick and choose very carefully who we tell, if we tell anyone at all. In my experience, even upon the telling of our illness we will downplay it. We desperately want to avoid the stigma, we want to be normal and we desperately want to be helped. We just don’t dare say those things out loud. Because of the perceived risk in revealing this news, too many people suffer in silence. Too many pull themselves together to face the world, but alone at home they crumble in shame, guilt, and agonizing pain. The pain is the worst part of it, and while feeling it you are sure this is the only way you have felt and the only way you will ever feel again. That is why ending the charade is so important. As I have become more open about my illness, with my husband, my doctors, my church friends and even my siblings, it is easier to win the battles. The storms still roll in, but I have many willing hands ready to hold an umbrella for me until it passes. That is why if you find out someone you know and love has depression, your reaction will make a difference. It is why if you are struggling with mental illness, you must take down your mask. When we work together, we can win these fights. Follow this journey on Better Than We Deserve. The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Ramona Samuels

Myths About Taking Antidepressants for Depression

For some reason, I always believed medication was “bad.” I don’t know if that was ingrained into my psyche or if it was taught, or just assumed, but it seems like medication for a mental need is treated much differently than the rest of the body. Have you ever rolled your eyes at someone who needed medication for another issue? Have you ever wondered if someone was “faking it” for attention if they needed medication for their heart? Or did you tell someone with diabetes to “think positive” and skip the insulin? Of course not! But these are reactions that happen all the time in the field of mental health, and I believe these reactions are hurting all of us. Let me clear a few things up, because I have battled depression for close to 30 years. Some years were harder than others, and some episodes simply didn’t clear until I relied on my doctor and medication. In fact, I am sure it has saved my life a number of times. Here are some things I want to clear up: Antidepressants are not “uppers.” They’re meant to reduce the symptoms of depression. It’s not like speed and it doesn’t make you weird. Let’s get that notion cleared up. Antidepressants do not make you void of emotions. Someone close to me once said they were afraid if they went on medication they wouldn’t have spiritual experiences any more. I’ve heard people say they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to feel anything if they went on a med. Some people start meds and are shocked to learn they still have bad days and feel a little depressed occasionally. Your soul is still in tact, your heart still beats, you still get excited and disappointed. I still feel like me — just a better, less-reactionary me. I can observe my worthless feeling and let it go, reminding myself of the good around me. I can have a thought of death enter my mind and see it, and have the mental power to deal with it in a healthy way. I cry if I’m sad. I laugh when I am happy. I feel things every day. Staying on medication is not a sign of weakness. This one I wish I could shout from the rooftops: “If you need medication, stay on it!” Too many people take their medication and “feel OK,” and tell themselves “I can go off this now.” First of all, there’s a reason you started medication and a reason it worked. There’s a physical need here, and because of our shortsightedness we forget that. If you’re in this situation, please reflect on what urged you to actively treat your illness, and honor that. Secondly, pulling yourself off meds can be risky. More risky and dangerous than people are willing to talk about (and they should be talking about it more). It should be treated as seriously as the heart, diabetic or blood pressure medication. Please, please, please, don’t just go off  “cold turkey” and wreak that havoc on your brain. I don’t understand how society seems to believe it’s unacceptable to treat one of our most precious and vital working parts. I get it, because I feel it. It’s a real stigma and chances are at one time or another in your life, you have said or reacted in a way that added to this stigma. That is the tragedy of it. While it’s true medication can be a temporary thing and does not have to be a life sentence, any change in dosage or phasing out of it should be done under the care of your doctor and with lots of help and support from those around you. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity. I have tried to be braver in my conversations about my mental illness. I’ve started telling people how I treat it, talking about it more and sharing my experiences with a little more courage. I’ll admit, I’ve contributed to this stigma most my life through my fear to speak up and speak out. As long as those who deal with mental illness are ashamed of it, and those who don’t deal with mental illness give them reasons to be ashamed, things will never change. I just happen to believe we are all too caring and all too connected to let that happen. Editor’s note: This piece is based on the experience of an individual and should not be taken as medical advice. The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Brandon Geib

Husband Writes Letter to Wife With Depression and Anxiety

To my wife and my best friend, When we first met five years ago, I never thought I would be writing this. As we stood on stage in front of all of those strangers, acting our hearts out, I never once believed we would find ourselves here. We’ve come a long way. When we first met, I’d never been truly close to a person who suffered from long-term anxiety and severe depression. They’d been merely buzzwords thrown around too many times by people who couldn’t think of another way to describe their daily frustrations. “I think I’m going to have a panic attack.” or “Oh my gosh, I’m so depressed” became a monotonous phrase that strangers were all too happy to proclaim when the coffee shop ran out of their favorite muffin or they were forced to stay in the library a little later than normal to finish a paper instead of going to the bars with their friends. It was a signal to others they had problems and they wanted people to recognize and sympathize with their petty difficulties. But you were different. I never saw this monotony in you. To the contrary, you were always so bright and full of life and energy. But then, slowly, I started to see the side of you that you were so apt to hide from me and the rest of the world for fear of being found out. The multiple days where you would stay in bed, or not shower, or the days where eating a meal seemed like too much work. The times I would catch you crying and you would try to hide it in a (poor) attempt to smooth everything over. We have now been together five years and married for nearly two of them. The time we’ve spent together has been amazing but truly defines an “emotional roller coaster.” Writing from the perspective of a husband who always likes to consider himself truly honest and, for lack of a better term, “manly,” it seemed inconceivable for me at first that there were days I couldn’t make you feel better. That I was powerless to change how you felt. When you reached your lowest low, it was difficult for me to not take personally your statements asking me to simply let you be and that you needed to work through it on your own. That there was nothing I could do to be a better husband or companion and help your sadness and anxiety go away and that, yes, you were crying, but it was nothing I had done. At that time, I’m sad to say, your assurances fell on deaf ears. When you reached your lowest low, you said something to me I will never be fully equipped to handle. “The only reason I’m still alive is because I couldn’t do that to you. I couldn’t kill myself only because I know how much it would hurt you.” That’s what you said. It broke my heart. In one sweeping statement, you managed to communicate exactly how much you value me and at the same time how much value you have placed on yourself. The frustration that comes with not being able to tell your depressed wife how much you love her, how each day is brighter with her in it, and instead knowing she will simply smile and not fully believe you or not realize what you’re trying to communicate is truly one of the hardest feelings I’ve ever had to overcome. In a word, I felt helpless. Leading up to our wedding and even a few months past it, I felt absolutely immobilized. I firmly believed there was nothing I could do. I felt trapped in a cycle of trying to understand your depression, to getting frustrated when it got too bad, and finally returning to wanting nothing more but to help you feel better. A truly unenviable position for any new husband. But today is a brighter day. It is more than a one year since that day and, after numerous phone calls and quite a few tears, you have been meeting with a psychologist who has helped you (well… helped both of us) learn to deal with your depression and anxiety in a healthy, controlled way. I have learned that there will always be days when you are down. Days when you are not quite yourself. And, while some days are a struggle, I am still trying to learn that when you are unhappy, there may not be a root cause. I know it still scares you. While your suicidal thoughts have dissipated, I know you constantly think about a day when they might reenter our lives and the home we have made. But know that this time… this time I will be ready. When we first met, I was a foolish college boy with a tremendous crush. I was not properly equipped to handle the effects of mental illness, nor was I ready to deal with the perceived backlash I thought could only be my fault. I was ready to give in to whatever you wanted, even if those tendencies were reckless or self-destructive. Today, I am a man. Today I am your husband. When we first met, I thought you were different. I was right. Because despite the internal battle you fight on a daily basis, you still manage to be truly the best wife I could have ever hoped for. Despite the challenges mental illness will no doubt bring to our future, I welcome them head on. So long as we can do it together. Your vigilant defender, Your husband. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to  community@themighty.com . Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our  Submit a Story  page for more about our submission guidelines.

Ramona Samuels

Myths About Taking Antidepressants for Depression

For some reason, I always believed medication was “bad.” I don’t know if that was ingrained into my psyche or if it was taught, or just assumed, but it seems like medication for a mental need is treated much differently than the rest of the body. Have you ever rolled your eyes at someone who needed medication for another issue? Have you ever wondered if someone was “faking it” for attention if they needed medication for their heart? Or did you tell someone with diabetes to “think positive” and skip the insulin? Of course not! But these are reactions that happen all the time in the field of mental health, and I believe these reactions are hurting all of us. Let me clear a few things up, because I have battled depression for close to 30 years. Some years were harder than others, and some episodes simply didn’t clear until I relied on my doctor and medication. In fact, I am sure it has saved my life a number of times. Here are some things I want to clear up: Antidepressants are not “uppers.” They’re meant to reduce the symptoms of depression. It’s not like speed and it doesn’t make you weird. Let’s get that notion cleared up. Antidepressants do not make you void of emotions. Someone close to me once said they were afraid if they went on medication they wouldn’t have spiritual experiences any more. I’ve heard people say they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to feel anything if they went on a med. Some people start meds and are shocked to learn they still have bad days and feel a little depressed occasionally. Your soul is still in tact, your heart still beats, you still get excited and disappointed. I still feel like me — just a better, less-reactionary me. I can observe my worthless feeling and let it go, reminding myself of the good around me. I can have a thought of death enter my mind and see it, and have the mental power to deal with it in a healthy way. I cry if I’m sad. I laugh when I am happy. I feel things every day. Staying on medication is not a sign of weakness. This one I wish I could shout from the rooftops: “If you need medication, stay on it!” Too many people take their medication and “feel OK,” and tell themselves “I can go off this now.” First of all, there’s a reason you started medication and a reason it worked. There’s a physical need here, and because of our shortsightedness we forget that. If you’re in this situation, please reflect on what urged you to actively treat your illness, and honor that. Secondly, pulling yourself off meds can be risky. More risky and dangerous than people are willing to talk about (and they should be talking about it more). It should be treated as seriously as the heart, diabetic or blood pressure medication. Please, please, please, don’t just go off  “cold turkey” and wreak that havoc on your brain. I don’t understand how society seems to believe it’s unacceptable to treat one of our most precious and vital working parts. I get it, because I feel it. It’s a real stigma and chances are at one time or another in your life, you have said or reacted in a way that added to this stigma. That is the tragedy of it. While it’s true medication can be a temporary thing and does not have to be a life sentence, any change in dosage or phasing out of it should be done under the care of your doctor and with lots of help and support from those around you. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity. I have tried to be braver in my conversations about my mental illness. I’ve started telling people how I treat it, talking about it more and sharing my experiences with a little more courage. I’ll admit, I’ve contributed to this stigma most my life through my fear to speak up and speak out. As long as those who deal with mental illness are ashamed of it, and those who don’t deal with mental illness give them reasons to be ashamed, things will never change. I just happen to believe we are all too caring and all too connected to let that happen. Editor’s note: This piece is based on the experience of an individual and should not be taken as medical advice. The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Danielle J

Comparing Depression to 'David and Goliath' Tale

The day was going well. I was feeling pretty good and having fun with my family. And then, while driving back from the post office, the following conversation happened: “I think I’m going to need a new laptop. One of those cool ones that’s also a tablet,” I said. I had recently left my job to stay home with my new baby for awhile, and I planned to gradually start writing again. I had an image in my head of me at my desk in the morning, fancy laptop in front of me, cup of steaming coffee at hand, immersed in my work. Simple and straightforward, right? Well, here was the response: “You’d be better off with a $100 piece of crap. You’re the last person who deserves something like that, you lazy ass. You contribute nothing and yet you think you have the right to have something pretty and new? You’re a loser and it would be a waste of money. You should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking of it.” Who would you guess that cruel voice belonged to? A no-good husband? An abusive parent? In fact, it was neither. It was Goliath, the voice that’s lived in my head for as long as I can remember. Through graduate school, world travels and job transitions, through marriage and moves and babies – Goliath has been there. And this is how he’s always spoken to me about every single thing in my life, from the small to the large – from the items I want to purchase, to the foods I choose to eat, to the career path I’ve taken, to my role as a new mother. He’s been with me so long I’ve come to trust him and defer to him, knowing all the while that he’s ruining my life and I’m letting him. Goliath has some impressive traits. He’s persistent and resilient; he’s clever and can outsmart anyone; and, he’s incredibly reliable and never afraid to assert his opinion. In fact, he embodies so many traits I deeply admire. It’s just that he uses them against me, ruthlessly and constantly. I wish David would come to the rescue, just as he does in the famous biblical story. I suspect he’s in there somewhere, but he’s still young and small and scared and I don’t quite know how to nurture him (or perhaps I’m simply too afraid to). Sometimes I hear him, though. Like later that night, while I was nursing my son and listening to Goliath’s relentless monologue about what a lousy person I am, I just about make out a small, meek voice asking “but how do you know? What if you’re wrong?” There might be a thousand moments like this in each day. Moments when I could listen for David and choose to back him instead of Goliath. If I did this, I’m sure he would get stronger and eventually fell Goliath. And that would be good for my son, for my marriage, for my career and for my heart. It would mean I could be grateful, really and truly grateful, for my amazing life like all those “how to be happy” books and articles tell you to be (without ever explaining how that’s possible if you live each day believing you don’t deserve all the things you appreciate so deeply they break your heart). But I usually don’t. Instead, 999 times out of 1000, I make the wrong choice, the tired choice. And then when I wake up the next day it’s even harder to hear David and even easier to blindly trust Goliath despite the lump in my throat and the ache in my heart. And this is the story of my depression, the cycle that separates my life into the happy times and the hard. But as I write this, I recognize something hopeful. Tonight, after months of therapy and the prospect of many more, I heard David for the first time in weeks. He piped up against a really scary giant, and I let him. I let him speak and I even took him seriously for a moment. I felt a little sorry for him when he inevitably shrunk away again, but now I know he’s still in there somewhere. And that has to be a start. The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to mentalhealth@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Ramona Samuels

When Your Friend Is Hiding Depression

Most of us have had it happen — the conversation that reveals someone we know, possibly even love, battles depression and we didn’t know it. We think to ourselves “ but they seem so happy!” or “ they are so fun to be around!” and the news doesn’t compute with what we know. I have chosen these statements because they are statements that have been said to me when I was finally brave enough to tell someone I’ve struggled with clinical depression for most of my life. I have even been surprised by the number of people I know who fight a similar battle, and I never would have guessed. Here are a few reasons why the revelation of clinical depression takes us by surprise, as I have experienced in my life. 1. Episodes of depression come and go. I have gone as long as two years without serious bouts of depression hitting me. I was naive enough (hopeful, maybe?) to believe I had been cured. But it returned when I least expected it. Most of my life has been a roller coaster of “emotional times” and “stable times,” and when I was younger I just told myself I was a “sensitive” person. It wasn’t until a doctor pushed for more information and I researched on my own that I realized I had all the major signs and symptoms of depression and had battled with them most of my life. So yes, it does come and go, and if you catch me on an “up” there would be no reason to suspect I could have ever had a brush with mental illness. As I have matured I have also realized there are definite triggers, and the response to them is very real and very dramatic, but outside of that there is little reason to discuss my illness. 2. Depression mimics (although in an unhealthy amount) normal emotions. Let me speak plainly: If you do not suffer from clinical depression, you will have a hard time relating the reality of someone who does. A crying fit to you may be the sign of a bad day. To someone with depression, it may be the explosion that is expressing complete worthlessness and despair. Retreating to your room in frustration to you may be a way to cool down. To someone with depression, it may the start of withdrawal that begins an emotional downward spiral. Declining a social invitation for you may mean you need some quiet time. To the person with depression, it is a way to avoid contact and remain in the darkness. You are seeing the tip of the iceberg in a person with depression, and you have no idea there is mass hiding below the waters because for you there never has been the bitterness of cold, frigid ice. Trust them when they try to tell you they feel depressed. 3. They are living functioning and contributing lives. Again with the iceberg analogy. You see the tip of the life they present. Sure, you may see the warning signs you have read so diligently about, like weight changes or withdrawal, but for the most part the times in my life when I have been most depressed I have also still functioned well. I have showered, curled my hair, ran my kids from place to place, even lunched and laughed with my friends. I can’t say why I don’t usually completely shut down, I just never did. I don’t know if I function out of habit or out of hope, but I do. I rarely wallowed in my filth and let my life fall apart. As a matter of fact, when my real battles with depression and death idealizing began I was in school, an honor student, singing the theme song for prom and cheering at the school basketball game. But the clouds still rolled in and I didn’t want anyone to know. So I lived and suffered mostly in private. 4. The person you know with depression doesn’t want you to know they have it. Depression is extremely easy to downplay.  A quick little “ that was a rough time for me...” or “ I am struggling with that” is usually all I have to tell someone who is checking up on me after an emotional battle. People are understanding when it comes to struggles. What they don’t understand, however, is real depression. Telling someone you are struggling with serious doubts about the worth of your own life, or if you have the strength to face one more day, is a huge risk. Not all are created equal when it comes to this news. I have lost a friend or two who I knew just couldn’t face the storms with me. And I don’t blame them. It’s not fun and it’s not easy. It’s even harder if you weren’t aware of the problem (see opening paragraph), thus, we learn to hide it. It’s safer that way (not in reality, but we see safety in hiding) so we pick and choose very carefully who we tell, if we tell anyone at all. In my experience, even upon the telling of our illness we will downplay it. We desperately want to avoid the stigma, we want to be normal and we desperately want to be helped. We just don’t dare say those things out loud. Because of the perceived risk in revealing this news, too many people suffer in silence. Too many pull themselves together to face the world, but alone at home they crumble in shame, guilt, and agonizing pain. The pain is the worst part of it, and while feeling it you are sure this is the only way you have felt and the only way you will ever feel again. That is why ending the charade is so important. As I have become more open about my illness, with my husband, my doctors, my church friends and even my siblings, it is easier to win the battles. The storms still roll in, but I have many willing hands ready to hold an umbrella for me until it passes. That is why if you find out someone you know and love has depression, your reaction will make a difference. It is why if you are struggling with mental illness, you must take down your mask. When we work together, we can win these fights. Follow this journey on Better Than We Deserve. The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Ramona Samuels

When Your Friend Is Hiding Depression

Most of us have had it happen — the conversation that reveals someone we know, possibly even love, battles depression and we didn’t know it. We think to ourselves “ but they seem so happy!” or “ they are so fun to be around!” and the news doesn’t compute with what we know. I have chosen these statements because they are statements that have been said to me when I was finally brave enough to tell someone I’ve struggled with clinical depression for most of my life. I have even been surprised by the number of people I know who fight a similar battle, and I never would have guessed. Here are a few reasons why the revelation of clinical depression takes us by surprise, as I have experienced in my life. 1. Episodes of depression come and go. I have gone as long as two years without serious bouts of depression hitting me. I was naive enough (hopeful, maybe?) to believe I had been cured. But it returned when I least expected it. Most of my life has been a roller coaster of “emotional times” and “stable times,” and when I was younger I just told myself I was a “sensitive” person. It wasn’t until a doctor pushed for more information and I researched on my own that I realized I had all the major signs and symptoms of depression and had battled with them most of my life. So yes, it does come and go, and if you catch me on an “up” there would be no reason to suspect I could have ever had a brush with mental illness. As I have matured I have also realized there are definite triggers, and the response to them is very real and very dramatic, but outside of that there is little reason to discuss my illness. 2. Depression mimics (although in an unhealthy amount) normal emotions. Let me speak plainly: If you do not suffer from clinical depression, you will have a hard time relating the reality of someone who does. A crying fit to you may be the sign of a bad day. To someone with depression, it may be the explosion that is expressing complete worthlessness and despair. Retreating to your room in frustration to you may be a way to cool down. To someone with depression, it may the start of withdrawal that begins an emotional downward spiral. Declining a social invitation for you may mean you need some quiet time. To the person with depression, it is a way to avoid contact and remain in the darkness. You are seeing the tip of the iceberg in a person with depression, and you have no idea there is mass hiding below the waters because for you there never has been the bitterness of cold, frigid ice. Trust them when they try to tell you they feel depressed. 3. They are living functioning and contributing lives. Again with the iceberg analogy. You see the tip of the life they present. Sure, you may see the warning signs you have read so diligently about, like weight changes or withdrawal, but for the most part the times in my life when I have been most depressed I have also still functioned well. I have showered, curled my hair, ran my kids from place to place, even lunched and laughed with my friends. I can’t say why I don’t usually completely shut down, I just never did. I don’t know if I function out of habit or out of hope, but I do. I rarely wallowed in my filth and let my life fall apart. As a matter of fact, when my real battles with depression and death idealizing began I was in school, an honor student, singing the theme song for prom and cheering at the school basketball game. But the clouds still rolled in and I didn’t want anyone to know. So I lived and suffered mostly in private. 4. The person you know with depression doesn’t want you to know they have it. Depression is extremely easy to downplay.  A quick little “ that was a rough time for me...” or “ I am struggling with that” is usually all I have to tell someone who is checking up on me after an emotional battle. People are understanding when it comes to struggles. What they don’t understand, however, is real depression. Telling someone you are struggling with serious doubts about the worth of your own life, or if you have the strength to face one more day, is a huge risk. Not all are created equal when it comes to this news. I have lost a friend or two who I knew just couldn’t face the storms with me. And I don’t blame them. It’s not fun and it’s not easy. It’s even harder if you weren’t aware of the problem (see opening paragraph), thus, we learn to hide it. It’s safer that way (not in reality, but we see safety in hiding) so we pick and choose very carefully who we tell, if we tell anyone at all. In my experience, even upon the telling of our illness we will downplay it. We desperately want to avoid the stigma, we want to be normal and we desperately want to be helped. We just don’t dare say those things out loud. Because of the perceived risk in revealing this news, too many people suffer in silence. Too many pull themselves together to face the world, but alone at home they crumble in shame, guilt, and agonizing pain. The pain is the worst part of it, and while feeling it you are sure this is the only way you have felt and the only way you will ever feel again. That is why ending the charade is so important. As I have become more open about my illness, with my husband, my doctors, my church friends and even my siblings, it is easier to win the battles. The storms still roll in, but I have many willing hands ready to hold an umbrella for me until it passes. That is why if you find out someone you know and love has depression, your reaction will make a difference. It is why if you are struggling with mental illness, you must take down your mask. When we work together, we can win these fights. Follow this journey on Better Than We Deserve. The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Ramona Samuels

When Your Friend Is Hiding Depression

Most of us have had it happen — the conversation that reveals someone we know, possibly even love, battles depression and we didn’t know it. We think to ourselves “ but they seem so happy!” or “ they are so fun to be around!” and the news doesn’t compute with what we know. I have chosen these statements because they are statements that have been said to me when I was finally brave enough to tell someone I’ve struggled with clinical depression for most of my life. I have even been surprised by the number of people I know who fight a similar battle, and I never would have guessed. Here are a few reasons why the revelation of clinical depression takes us by surprise, as I have experienced in my life. 1. Episodes of depression come and go. I have gone as long as two years without serious bouts of depression hitting me. I was naive enough (hopeful, maybe?) to believe I had been cured. But it returned when I least expected it. Most of my life has been a roller coaster of “emotional times” and “stable times,” and when I was younger I just told myself I was a “sensitive” person. It wasn’t until a doctor pushed for more information and I researched on my own that I realized I had all the major signs and symptoms of depression and had battled with them most of my life. So yes, it does come and go, and if you catch me on an “up” there would be no reason to suspect I could have ever had a brush with mental illness. As I have matured I have also realized there are definite triggers, and the response to them is very real and very dramatic, but outside of that there is little reason to discuss my illness. 2. Depression mimics (although in an unhealthy amount) normal emotions. Let me speak plainly: If you do not suffer from clinical depression, you will have a hard time relating the reality of someone who does. A crying fit to you may be the sign of a bad day. To someone with depression, it may be the explosion that is expressing complete worthlessness and despair. Retreating to your room in frustration to you may be a way to cool down. To someone with depression, it may the start of withdrawal that begins an emotional downward spiral. Declining a social invitation for you may mean you need some quiet time. To the person with depression, it is a way to avoid contact and remain in the darkness. You are seeing the tip of the iceberg in a person with depression, and you have no idea there is mass hiding below the waters because for you there never has been the bitterness of cold, frigid ice. Trust them when they try to tell you they feel depressed. 3. They are living functioning and contributing lives. Again with the iceberg analogy. You see the tip of the life they present. Sure, you may see the warning signs you have read so diligently about, like weight changes or withdrawal, but for the most part the times in my life when I have been most depressed I have also still functioned well. I have showered, curled my hair, ran my kids from place to place, even lunched and laughed with my friends. I can’t say why I don’t usually completely shut down, I just never did. I don’t know if I function out of habit or out of hope, but I do. I rarely wallowed in my filth and let my life fall apart. As a matter of fact, when my real battles with depression and death idealizing began I was in school, an honor student, singing the theme song for prom and cheering at the school basketball game. But the clouds still rolled in and I didn’t want anyone to know. So I lived and suffered mostly in private. 4. The person you know with depression doesn’t want you to know they have it. Depression is extremely easy to downplay.  A quick little “ that was a rough time for me...” or “ I am struggling with that” is usually all I have to tell someone who is checking up on me after an emotional battle. People are understanding when it comes to struggles. What they don’t understand, however, is real depression. Telling someone you are struggling with serious doubts about the worth of your own life, or if you have the strength to face one more day, is a huge risk. Not all are created equal when it comes to this news. I have lost a friend or two who I knew just couldn’t face the storms with me. And I don’t blame them. It’s not fun and it’s not easy. It’s even harder if you weren’t aware of the problem (see opening paragraph), thus, we learn to hide it. It’s safer that way (not in reality, but we see safety in hiding) so we pick and choose very carefully who we tell, if we tell anyone at all. In my experience, even upon the telling of our illness we will downplay it. We desperately want to avoid the stigma, we want to be normal and we desperately want to be helped. We just don’t dare say those things out loud. Because of the perceived risk in revealing this news, too many people suffer in silence. Too many pull themselves together to face the world, but alone at home they crumble in shame, guilt, and agonizing pain. The pain is the worst part of it, and while feeling it you are sure this is the only way you have felt and the only way you will ever feel again. That is why ending the charade is so important. As I have become more open about my illness, with my husband, my doctors, my church friends and even my siblings, it is easier to win the battles. The storms still roll in, but I have many willing hands ready to hold an umbrella for me until it passes. That is why if you find out someone you know and love has depression, your reaction will make a difference. It is why if you are struggling with mental illness, you must take down your mask. When we work together, we can win these fights. Follow this journey on Better Than We Deserve. The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Ramona Samuels

When Your Friend Is Hiding Depression

Most of us have had it happen — the conversation that reveals someone we know, possibly even love, battles depression and we didn’t know it. We think to ourselves “ but they seem so happy!” or “ they are so fun to be around!” and the news doesn’t compute with what we know. I have chosen these statements because they are statements that have been said to me when I was finally brave enough to tell someone I’ve struggled with clinical depression for most of my life. I have even been surprised by the number of people I know who fight a similar battle, and I never would have guessed. Here are a few reasons why the revelation of clinical depression takes us by surprise, as I have experienced in my life. 1. Episodes of depression come and go. I have gone as long as two years without serious bouts of depression hitting me. I was naive enough (hopeful, maybe?) to believe I had been cured. But it returned when I least expected it. Most of my life has been a roller coaster of “emotional times” and “stable times,” and when I was younger I just told myself I was a “sensitive” person. It wasn’t until a doctor pushed for more information and I researched on my own that I realized I had all the major signs and symptoms of depression and had battled with them most of my life. So yes, it does come and go, and if you catch me on an “up” there would be no reason to suspect I could have ever had a brush with mental illness. As I have matured I have also realized there are definite triggers, and the response to them is very real and very dramatic, but outside of that there is little reason to discuss my illness. 2. Depression mimics (although in an unhealthy amount) normal emotions. Let me speak plainly: If you do not suffer from clinical depression, you will have a hard time relating the reality of someone who does. A crying fit to you may be the sign of a bad day. To someone with depression, it may be the explosion that is expressing complete worthlessness and despair. Retreating to your room in frustration to you may be a way to cool down. To someone with depression, it may the start of withdrawal that begins an emotional downward spiral. Declining a social invitation for you may mean you need some quiet time. To the person with depression, it is a way to avoid contact and remain in the darkness. You are seeing the tip of the iceberg in a person with depression, and you have no idea there is mass hiding below the waters because for you there never has been the bitterness of cold, frigid ice. Trust them when they try to tell you they feel depressed. 3. They are living functioning and contributing lives. Again with the iceberg analogy. You see the tip of the life they present. Sure, you may see the warning signs you have read so diligently about, like weight changes or withdrawal, but for the most part the times in my life when I have been most depressed I have also still functioned well. I have showered, curled my hair, ran my kids from place to place, even lunched and laughed with my friends. I can’t say why I don’t usually completely shut down, I just never did. I don’t know if I function out of habit or out of hope, but I do. I rarely wallowed in my filth and let my life fall apart. As a matter of fact, when my real battles with depression and death idealizing began I was in school, an honor student, singing the theme song for prom and cheering at the school basketball game. But the clouds still rolled in and I didn’t want anyone to know. So I lived and suffered mostly in private. 4. The person you know with depression doesn’t want you to know they have it. Depression is extremely easy to downplay.  A quick little “ that was a rough time for me...” or “ I am struggling with that” is usually all I have to tell someone who is checking up on me after an emotional battle. People are understanding when it comes to struggles. What they don’t understand, however, is real depression. Telling someone you are struggling with serious doubts about the worth of your own life, or if you have the strength to face one more day, is a huge risk. Not all are created equal when it comes to this news. I have lost a friend or two who I knew just couldn’t face the storms with me. And I don’t blame them. It’s not fun and it’s not easy. It’s even harder if you weren’t aware of the problem (see opening paragraph), thus, we learn to hide it. It’s safer that way (not in reality, but we see safety in hiding) so we pick and choose very carefully who we tell, if we tell anyone at all. In my experience, even upon the telling of our illness we will downplay it. We desperately want to avoid the stigma, we want to be normal and we desperately want to be helped. We just don’t dare say those things out loud. Because of the perceived risk in revealing this news, too many people suffer in silence. Too many pull themselves together to face the world, but alone at home they crumble in shame, guilt, and agonizing pain. The pain is the worst part of it, and while feeling it you are sure this is the only way you have felt and the only way you will ever feel again. That is why ending the charade is so important. As I have become more open about my illness, with my husband, my doctors, my church friends and even my siblings, it is easier to win the battles. The storms still roll in, but I have many willing hands ready to hold an umbrella for me until it passes. That is why if you find out someone you know and love has depression, your reaction will make a difference. It is why if you are struggling with mental illness, you must take down your mask. When we work together, we can win these fights. Follow this journey on Better Than We Deserve. The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.