Depression – what you see and what you don’t

In connection with #mentalhealthawarenessmonth I wanted to share this to show what it can also look like with high-functioning mid- to severe depression, stress, and taking care of others before yourself.

I am not doing this to get pity or support; I am doing this to create awareness about the difference of what is going on inside and what is going on on the outside.

What you see:

On the surface I am a smiling woman with new t-shirt for the summer, freshly coloured hair, and makeup.

I am functioning fairly well, helping people, listening to the people I am manager for – and others who come to me because I create a safe space for them. I do what I am supposed to do. I smile, I eat.

What you don’t see

What you don’t see, is that I am sad inside, that I was hoping it would help to dress up, but it didn’t. That I didn’t take part in reverse casual Friday for a while – after having posted in twitter, facebook, and instagram it quite consistently for two years.

What you don’t see, is that I had to buy new t-shirts because I gained a lot of weight and I am now on my max ever. Weight from eating too much, eating comfort food, not having the energy, headspace or urge to cook, not having the energy to move (and this is before my post-covid). That I managed to still move out of being pre-diabetic but still becoming more obese.

What you don’t see, is that I cooked once in the three weeks I have lived in my current apartment, because I don’t have the energy – long live microwave food and McDonalds. McDonalds is my guilty pleasure, but I haven’t enjoyed it for a long time. I just eat it because it is fast.

What you don’t see is that I am not done unpacking because it feels like such an enormous tasks and I finally made it to the box with the makeup.

What you don’t see, is that I had my hair coloured a month later than usual, because it is hard to make appointments – especially appointments for me. That I was hoping it would bring me joy; and it is pretty but I have no joy.

What you don’t see, is that most evenings  and weekends the last six months, I did nothing – sleeping a bit, a few sudokus, but I really don’t know what I did with all that time. I used to watch tv, read stuff, meet people. I do still sometimes but almost never on my initiative – and I say no to things. Wanting to be with people, but not wanting to be a burden, so I don’t.

What you don’t see is how I struggle with the question of “How are you?” – do I lie or do I put all this burden on the other person. More darkness than most can handle.

What you don’t see is the frustration, dark pits and sadness and self doubt that I share with my closest friends. Or how often I have the need to do so just so I get it out of my head. Or how often I don’t because I don’t want to be a burden

What you don’t see is friends saying “your dark days become more and more often”, and me brushing it away.

What you don’t see is the weird paradox of knowing that I am good at working with people, organisations, safety, coaching, and at the same tie knowing that I am not providing any value… I deliberately write “knowing”, because that is what it feels like.

What you don’t see is that the energy is used on helping others, and little is left for me. And that I don’t know how to do it any other way (yet – I really hope it is yet).

What you don’t see, is the frustration of realising that I need to reach out for help, and finding it almost impossible to do so – or figure out what to do. Or how hard it is to get help, and not just have a psychologist say “this is not for you, call a doctor” once I finally got around to asking for help (thanks to my boss that pushed me).

What you don’t see is how the mood deteriorating over the last six months into not finding joy in things that I used to enjoy. And not really realising how bad it has become until I filled out a self-assessment sheet.

What you don’t see, is that this week I had meeting where I was crying most of the time, then ate a box of cookies and then going to bed for the rest of the day crying. 

It will be all right.

So the point is: you can’t see what is on the inside. And I can’t tell you what is inside others.

What I can tell you is that I am getting help and talking to a doctor tonight. It will be all right.

I have been here before and I have won every single time.

“Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end”…….

Patel, Hotel Manager, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

See more about what depression looks like from the inside in this video from The Black Dog Institute

Please take care of yourself and get help if you need it – you are worth it <3