Invisible Illnesses: Depression is an Ocean
By: Desi Rottman
Depression doesn’t always look like you’d expect.
Content warning: suicide, depression
Chester Bennington died by suicide a few months ago, and the internet had a lot to say about it. Comment sections and Twitter were rife with people wondering how those around him could have missed the signs — essentially accusing his loved ones and allies of ignoring a worsening problem. His widow recently posted a video of him laughing with his family a few days before he died.
She posted this to display that “depression doesn’t have a face or mood,” that a lot of times, someone might look as happy as ever when grappling with these thoughts.
I can relate.
There is a photo of me that I love. My makeup looks perfectly done, my hair is styled just-so, the hairspray and weight from dry shampoo and sea salt spray and volumizing root pump amplifying it. I wear a knowing smile and my favorite necklace, and it was my Facebook picture for a long time since I felt pretty in it. (People seemed to like it, as indicated by the number of “friends” who clicked that little thumbs up button.)
It’s so funny that even though I choose this image to represent who I am and how I feel, there are things about it and things I remember about the day it was taken so clearly that no one could even begin to see at this first glance.
It was the first pretty weather day, so after I signed off work for the day, I did my makeup and hair, thinking that I would drive into town and meet up with some friends for some drinking on a patio. (I vividly remember sending these texts: “COME DRINK WITH ME ON A PATIO! I WANT NACHOS AND MARGS!”) No one could join me, so I had Mexican alone as the sun went down and the chill set in on the patio of one of my favorite Nashville restaurants.
Then, as soon as I got back in my car, something snapped in my brain. Why had I just had dinner alone? I felt so pretty and confident — why wasn’t I enough for my ex to come to have dinner with me, or some new boy, or anyone? All of the things that run through your mind when you’re depressed, no matter how good you know you have it. It felt like the pain would never stop. This is how depression and anxiety work: they take things and people that you love and tell you you’ll never be enough.
I spent the next four hours driving around Nashville and bawling my eyes out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew going home wasn’t it. I tried to go shopping for an office chair, but I couldn’t even get out of the car. I tried to take myself for some “treat yo self” frozen yogurt, but the place my GPS took me to had recently closed.
I finally took myself home that night, exhausted from the frustration and tears, and slept hard.
Invisible illnesses are just as real and taxing as physical illnesses. Depression and anxiety are hard, and it’s impossible to tell where they are hiding. Just because someone looks like they have everything together or has a perfect life, you never know what could be going on in their brain.
Using if-me.org to add this moment and share it with my allies helps make it easier to communicate the things my depression makes me think. In order to feel safe enough to talk about my feelings, I need some distance — which means putting things in writing, making it easier to be open. With if me, I can invite trusted people in my life to connect and see these types of thoughts — both negative and positive.