I debated whether or not to post this blog today for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be known as the Depression Writer. In the end, I decided to post because people need to open up more about mental health if we’re ever going to erase its stigma.
Last night, as I was soaking in the bathtub, I got to thinking about how depression affects our relationships.
See, when you have depression, you spend a lot of time “faking it till you make it”. You tell yourself to smile and pretend you feel normal so people will want to spend time with you. After all, who wants to hang around someone who is sad all the time?
And so, you keep all those negative thoughts in your head a secret, saving your sadness for late at night while the world believes you’re strong and happy and have everything under control. Problem is, you’re not being 100% authentic and the distance that inauthenticity creates makes you feel worse. Deep down you desperately want to bear your soul to someone. Only you’ve become so used to keeping your negative feelings to yourself that you can’t find the words.
Then one day you connect with someone well enough or you summon up enough courage, and you say out loud that you’re suffering. At first people are sympathetic. They offer platitudes or advice, none of which really helps. Because honestly? You don’t really know what you need. Maybe you just needed to say the words out loud. Maybe it was to have someone – anyone – realize that you weren’t as strong and happy and in control as you appeared.
So your friends stop offering words. Maybe they even pull away a bit, because they don’t know what else to do or say. You wonder if you over-burdened them, or if you’re an energy vampire, sucking all the positive energy out of the room with your sad-sack presence. To erase the awkwardness, you go back to smiling and keeping the feelings inside. Back to faking it, because it’s better than making everyone miserable by your presence.
Until the next time you decide to share. Then the cycle starts again. Over and over and over.
Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?
And yet, I’m fairly certain there are thousands of people who read those paragraphs and knew exactly what I was talking about. That’s why, despite my misgivings, I decided to share this blog. We need to stop keeping those feelings secret.
Please feel free to share your feelings below.