By Jill Alexandra
1. Being happy despite depression doesn’t mean I’m happy to have depression.
That’s about as ridiculous as saying someone who smiles during treatment for a physical illness is happy to have it. Being happy means I am strong, I am resilient and I never give up. I have depression whether I’m happy or not. But I’m certainly not happy to have it.
2. Just because it looks like I’m always doing well doesn’t mean I am.
You don’t always have to look that hard to realize I’m not doing great. But even if it seems like everything in my life is utterly perfect, chances are it’s not. Usually, the better it seems, the harder I am working to hide something.
3. I listen to upbeat music to try not to get depressed, not because I am happy.
I never, ever listen to even slightly sad music. Not because I’m always in a great mood, but because I am extremely sensitive to emotions and will get depressed easily if I don’t work hard not to.
4. I laugh more often to avoid crying than because something is funny.
Laughing hysterically might mean you are actually hysterical. It also might mean I am not in the best mental place and something is close to sending me into a meltdown, so I will just laugh until I can escape somewhere private to cry.
5. Being sad and being depressed are not the same thing.
I get sad like anyone else. Bad things happen and we get sad. Being depressed has no connection to normal everyday events and emotions. It is an all-consuming, soul-sucking, logic-defying feeling of drowning in air.
6. “Celebrations” (weddings, graduations, new babies) can be harder than funerals.
These is nothing unusual about being somber at a funeral, but if I am expected to be particularly happy, sometimes it is simply more than I can manage. And if I can manage, I probably can’t for very long. That doesn’t mean I’m not happy for someone, it just means putting on exaggerated emotions is draining.
7. The only people who see me cry are the ones I trust with my life.
It’s not something I plan because personally, in an ideal world, no one would ever see me cry — ever. But when it does happen, it means that the person witnessing it has done something at some point to cause me to trust them on a level I rarely trust anyone on.
8. Being the perpetually-smiling one is extremely tiring.
Ask someone without depression to “act” as depressed as possible for a week. After an hour they will understand the incredible amount of energy it takes to constantly be fighting your feelings and trying so hard to “look” a certain way.
9. I overcompensate by acting the happiest when I feel the worst.
My biggest fear is usually that someone can see right through me. As a result, I sometimes force myself to put on an unnaturally enthusiastic and upbeat persona when I am really in a bad place, out of fear that people will be able to see the truth if I don’t.
10. If you say “I hate seeing you upset,” you never ever will again.
If for some reason I get to a point where either I trust you enough to let you see the way I am truly feeling, or I simply get too beaten down to keep pretending, the fastest way to send me hiding back behind my wall is to make me feel bad about my emotions in some way. Especially if I feel like I have bothered or inconvenienced you.
11. No part of how I feel, good or bad, is a choice.
When I am depressed, I don’t choose to be that way. When I am happy, I don’t choose to be that way. I may choose to pretend to be happy, but that is simply a matter of how I appear, not how I actually feel.
12. I will always have more unhealthy coping mechanisms than anyone thinks.
Depression doesn’t always leave you feeling up to “positive” coping mechanisms. I get it — I should work out, take vitamins — but that’s just tough. If I get through the day sober it’s a good start.
13. Unless you’re my psychiatrist, I don’t care what you think about psychiatric medication.
At all. I really don’t. I don’t care if it goes against everything you believe. That’s your opinion and you’re welcome to it, but I’m alive because of the guy with the prescription pad, and his job is about as hard as it gets. He keeps my world spinning on its axis, and for that, I owe him my life. So you can keep your opinions, and I’ll keep my doctor, and we’ll call it even.
14. Having severe depression doesn’t mean I look severe.
Make-up helps. Smiling helps. Lots of things help. Just because I don’t look depressed doesn’t mean I’m not. And just because I, and my life, don’t resemble the idea you have in your head about what “severe depression” must be, doesn’t change the reality of having it.
15. I feel best when I’m helping other people with their problems.
There is a reason a lot of people with depression go into the mental health field: we like to help people. We usually feel the best about ourselves when we are doing something for someone else. So yes, I spend as much time as possible trying to solve other people’s issues. It’s as therapeutic for me as it is for them.
16. I’m more fragile than I will ever admit but stronger than you will ever know.
I come across as Wonder Woman, and I will never admit I’m not. But for as ballsy and bulletproof as I act, my real strength lies in waking up every day and not letting depression win.
17. I’m not trying to get rid of depression, I’m trying to live with it.
I know it seems like we are all searching for a cure to depression. But in truth, I’m just searching for a peaceful coexistence with it. That would be more than enough for me.
18. Pills don’t make me happy, period.
No matter how happy I am, it is never because of the medication I take. Medication is a life vest, but I still have to do the swimming. Medication can not make you happy. It simply can’t.
19. If I ever do let my guard down around you, it is the highest compliment I can give.
There are no words in any language that mean as much as seeing the side of me I hide so well from most people. If I show you that side of me, even for the briefest second, consider it a compliment beyond words.