The worst thing about depression and anxiety, in my opinion, is you can’t see my suffering. On the outside, I can be my carefree, happy, loud, sarcastic self and even hold intelligent conversations. I can laugh at your jokes, make bad jokes myself, hold eye contact, give you wisdom to change your life and even cheer you up. I can look like my absolute normal self and you can’t see the suffering. Sure, you can see maybe I look tired. Maybe I have bags under my eyes, I yawn more, I day dream more when no one is talking to me, there’s more sadness in my eyes than normal but I can brush it off easily by saying I didn’t get enough sleep and go back to being my perky self. But you can’t see the suffering. On the outside, I’m rock solid. I have the smile on lock, the witty comment ready to go, my posture is straight and there’s a strange sense of stillness around me. But you can’t see the suffering.
On the inside, I’m screaming, suffocating from a lack of clarity and drowning. I’m hit with a thousand different emotions all at once and dying with every single blow. Every time I revive myself, I run at the door and scream louder only to be hit with another blow. A hook from the right, a slap from the left, a kick to the stomach, a bat over my head, my feet are kicked out from under me and I’m crushed, face smashed into the ground, suffocating from an enemy I can’t see. Every rib is broken; breathing causes each bone to stab just a little further causing me to gasp yet I feel my lungs fill with more and more blood. I can feel each slow death dragging out as I fight for life but eventually lose. These fights, these deaths take less than a fraction of a second but drag on for a lifetime. Each death is detailed, animated, painful. I lose every time.
“Well, you don’t look depressed.”
What does depression look like? Sad goth girl, dressed in all black, hair covering half her face, droopy raccoon eyes with way too much eyeliner and black lipstick. She stands with rainbow bracelets that accent the black outfit but you know they cover scars from where she must cut every night. She probably smokes and has a mean snarl when you try to say hi. She stands with her arms crossed across her chest and an angry glare, listening to her heavy metal music in her too big headphones. Is this what you envisioned? There’s no way the happy, carefree girl could possibly be depressed. She has so many friends, she has money, she has an education, she has a great family, and she looks so happy. People who look that happy can’t be depressed.
“Depression isn’t real.”
Erase this phrase from your mind. Telling someone that suffers from depression it’s not real is telling someone their pain is worthless. Your pain is not worthless. Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it’s not real. I don’t and will never understand physics. Does that mean it’s not real? I don’t and will never understand what’s at the bottom of the ocean. Does that mean all the creatures that live down there don’t exist? I don’t and will never understand what another planet like Jupiter looks like. Does that mean it’s not in space right now? To tell someone with depression it’s not real is to tell them they don’t exist.
“Just get over it.”
Oh you’re right. How could I possibly be feeling this way? Okay, I’ll just stop.
No. That’s not how depression works. We are human beings and we feel. Sometimes we feel everything, sometimes we feel nothing. For me personally, since I suffer from both anxiety and depression, I feel everything and nothing at the same time. I don’t choose to feel this way. Nobody suffering chooses to suffer, it just happens. Nobody chooses to feel heartbroken, sad, tired or pain but we do because that comes with life. And that’s okay.
“Wait, what? How could feeling all of those bad things be okay?”
Because you’re alive and that’s a good thing. Pain comes with this silly thing called life we are all experiencing. No, it doesn’t feel good and I think all of those quotes saying things like it makes us cherish the good moments more and they’re a blessing are dumb. Those things may be good but pain isn’t something to glorify. It’s something we go through and we can make it something beautiful but it’s not something to encourage. In a society that encourages endless happiness, we often shove our negative feelings aside. Pretty soon, someone is going to notice the lump under your rug and it’ll spill over. It’s okay to feel those negative emotions. It doesn’t make you an unhappy person, it makes you human. It also makes you a human without a weird lump under the rug.
“Just remember that somebody else has it worse.”
Am I not allowed to feel sad once in a while? Telling someone this is to tell someone they can’t be happy because someone else has it better. If you think about it long enough, you’ll realize it’s illogical and unfair. Nobody wins. Who has it the best? What determines that? It’s all subjective and everybody loses in one way or another. This competition about who has it the best or worst needs to stop. The only time we should look over at what our neighbor has is to make sure they have enough. The only time we ask about how someone is doing is to genuinely see how they are, not to compare and see who has it better or worse. We survive together, we don’t survive stepping on each other.
“You don’t look sad.”
Depression isn’t sadness. Something people often tend to forget is that happiness can be faked. The pursuit of happiness is the greatest lie ever told because we eventually realize happiness isn’t an object, it’s an act we’ve been taught and we’ve gotten so good at it that maybe we actually have become happy. This fake act of happiness only shows up when we’re in the spotlight. When the lights are off, we take off the costumes, wipe off the make up and continue on as aimless drones. Depression allows you to act happy yet most of the time, the best actors are the ones suffering the most. We crave the light to escape the dark. We don’t feel sad, we don’t wear all black, we don’t fit the picture you have in your head of what depression looks like because depression doesn’t have a look. Depression just is. It’s the empty void nobody looks at or wants to talk about. It’s the black shadow at the edge of your sight that you can’t quite look at. It’s the star in the sky that disappears when you look directly at it. It’s nothing and it’s everything. It consumes you until you feel absolutely nothing. Yes, I look happy but only because I’m acting for you. But you can’t see my suffering.
The truth is, I would give up all of my acting trophies just to stop acting for a day. I don’t want the happiness to be rehearsed. In fact, you can take all of my happiness. I want joy. I want a joy rooted in Christ that can’t be shaken by circumstances and continues when the lights go out. I don’t want a costume or make up. I want to be me freely, lights on and off.
I suffer from depression. I don’t look it, but I do. I laugh, yet I hurt. The emptiness tries to consume all of me almost everyday but I keep going.
I quit this pursuit of happiness because nobody wins. That’s all it is: a pursuit. You don’t gain anything except acting trophies along the way. My shelves are full and I’m tired.