depression, my invisible enemy

One of the hardest things about living with depression is that is it is invisible. It’s not like a broken leg or the flu, with outward symptoms, signs that something is wrong. Depression is incredibly easy to hide, or maybe it just looks like a bad attitude. I think maybe that’s part of why its difficult to talk about, it’s seemingly impossible to get people to understand how debilitating it is.

A life with depression looks outwardly like anyone else’s life. I love my life. I have an awesome job that fulfills me and makes me happy. I have friends who love and care about me, the best family in the world. I have fun adventures and live near the mountains and the ocean where I can go explore pretty much whenever. I’m quick to laugh, quick to smile. I’m enthusiastic about the things I love, passionate about little things that make life better. I make people around me laugh. That’s the problem. Everything can be going great, you can love your life and be genuinely happy. You can look like the happiest person anyone knows. But depression doesn’t really care about all of that. Depression can seep in no matter what your life looks like and how happy of a person you are.

I want you to understand that just because it doesn’t look like someone has depression, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t struggling every day. I want you to know that as someone with depression, I like to be happy, I don’t want to carry this weight, that I didn’t choose for my brain to be wired this way. Telling someone with depression how great of a life they have, how much there is to be thankful for, to just be happy, or -god forbid- “seriously, just snap out of it!” — believe me when I say that this does not help, that this hurts.

It’s hard to explain, and if you don’t know what it feels like, I’m sure its really tricky to imagine.

It’s like wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day.

It’s feeling like you feel like you are a burden to those around you, that you don’t really matter, that the world would be better without you, that people don’t really want to be your friend. Your depression remembers past rejections verbatim and doesn’t hesitate to replay these scenes for you.

You tell yourself that nothing is wrong, that everything is okay. Because outwardly this is true. But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels wrong and sad and terrifying and you don’t know why. Why can’t you just be happy like everyone else? What is wrong with you?

It feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest. You struggle through the day fighting back tears, your brain running nonstop in the background, reminding you of ways you’ve been rejected, of ways you failed, how you’re not good enough, that no one cares about you. All you want to do is curl up under a blanket and rock yourself to sleep because it hurts to much, these thoughts, this weight, these feelings. But how do you explain why you feel this way? There’s “nothing” wrong, and who will understand that you feel like you’re being squeezed to death on the inside?

You get an invite to dinner and you make up an excuse — “I have a headache, I have work to catch up on.” Because you know that the truth won’t be an acceptable answer. “I’m really sad and feel super alone, I don’t understand the meaning of life and why am I here, what is the point of me? Honestly I don’t have the emotional stregnth to go to a party tonight.” You’re so afraid that they’re just going to think you’re being dramatic, call you a party pooper, talk to each other about how lame you are.

It’s terrifying, wondering if you will be rejected if they find out, if they will stop being your friend because you have depression, if you will be “too much” or they won’t be able to handle you in your rawness, in your dark moments.

But why is it ok to skip an event because you have the flu, but not because your depression is pulling you underneath? Why do people sympathize and tell you to feel better, take a nap and drink some hot tea for your cold, but for your depression its just “snap out of it” or “why am I not surpised” or “you’re so dramatic and emotional”.

Depression has many weapons. Sometimes it numbs you. It dims the color of the sky, it robs the flavor from your favorite meal. It dampens the humor of your favorite comedy. It robs you of social prowess. You struggle to smile, to focus on what is being said. You blank out and ask to hear the question again, you don’t laugh at the right places. People get offended and think you’re being a snob but really you’re just trying to keep breathing.

I want to have a conversation about depression so that we can learn to live more empathetically with people who live with it. I want to remind myself in those bad times that the darkness does lift, the color does come back into life. That I’m not a burden, that in fact I make the lives of people I love better because I’m there. I want it to be okay to tell someone you can’t make it to their party because you are depressed, and not have to lie that you’re sick. I want you to understand how it feels so that if someone in your life is living with depression, you can support them and help them remember that they are loved, they are important and the world needs them.

Maybe your waitress isn’t incompetent or careless, maybe she’s just trying to make it through her shift without giving into the hurricane of dark thoughts swirling in her brain. Maybe your friend isn’t being a party pooper because he’s lame, maybe he’s feeling lost and afraid and worthless, and he just needs someone to sit next to him and give him a hug, and face the darkness together.

Hope instead of fear, acceptance in our brokenness, that is all we are asking for. To love someone with depression instead of turning them away. We don’t need you to fix us, because there’s nothing wrong with us, we are beautiful just the way we are, depression and all. We just need you to love us, to remind us that we matter and to help us see the light when it just looks so very dark. That healing is possible and that help is out there, and that ultimately, we are not alone.

until next time,

a girl with depression who loves life