“I had no idea you deal with depression. You seem like you have it all together. You seem so … normal.”
That is essentially what I hear when I confide in someone that I deal with depression. They’re always so surprised. Because on the outside, I look like a regular, suburban, 30-something mom of little kids. I generally look put together. In a decent mood. You know … normal.
When I’m depressed, I don’t look sad, angry, anxious. Like I feel like I’m falling apart. Like I’m ready to scream at my kids for every little thing they do. Like I’m worrying I will blurt something that will make their little faces crumple in sadness or worse – fear.
I also don’t look dirty, frantic, or bizarre. I don’t act erratic or crazy. I look and act like me. Just maybe a little quieter, a little sadder, a little less of myself.
When I am struggling with depression, I look normal on the outside. Because I AM normal. I just have depression, too.
If there is one thing I want people to understand about depression, it’s this: Depression often – usually - looks “normal.” Because “normal” people struggle with depression.
Some people will bristle at a comparison I am about to make – and honestly, I’m not sure why – but I think my depression isn’t different from many other chronic diseases. I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who deal with lupus, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s, and other awful diseases that flare up and seemingly go away – just as my depression does.
I am not always depressed, nor do I always have to be on medication. My depression comes and goes. When it’s here, I take meds for it. When it’s gone, I don’t.
And yes, I know that many, many people have constant depression and have to take meds and go to therapy all the time. And you know what? I think their depression isn’t any different from any other disease that needs to be constantly monitored and cared for and medicated so the person who has the disease can feel normal.
(There’s that word again.)
It bothers me that there is such a stigma about depression. I can understand it – anything that messes with our brains is scary – but it still makes me mad that I’m afraid to talk about it much. But I’m writing about it, at least. And I’m glad that I am.
Because if I can help some of you out there feel less alone, and if I can help some more of you understand that regular people deal with depression – well, that makes me so happy.
Right now I am in a very good place. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I am coming out of this 3+ year bout of depression – the longest one ever. I have been slowly coming off my antidepressants and it’s going really well. I’m exercising, taking time for myself, and doing a host of other things that make me feel good.
I hope this bout of depression is ending like it seems it is. If it’s not? That’s okay. I’ll be disappointed. But I’ll be grateful there are medications I can take that can help me feel like regular old me.
So if you have a friend or family member who confides in you that they struggle with depression, just remember: They’re just as normal as your friend with diabetes or your cousin with lupus. And they’re still the person you know and love.
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