Have you heard the story of the Hollywood star that made the world laugh with his comedy, but then committed suicide? Or how about the reality television participant who seemed to be living the life, but then took her own? How about the world-renowned author that channelled her depression into a series of magical children’s books?
“He can’t be depressed, he goes to work every day”You smile and say good morning to everyone from the boss to the cleaners, complete all your work and manage to make small talk, but when you get home the darkness sets in. The minute you walk into your house, the overwhelming feeling of sadness engulfs you. All necessary tasks like eating and washing become irrelevant; your only motivation is to get to work and function. The motivation disappears, priorities change, and your thoughts change. It’s just you and this ‘black cloud’ for company this evening.
“She can’t be depressed, she’s gone out with her friends!”Your friends see you all dressed up. Your followers hit like on the fire selfie you uploaded in the club bathroom. The drinks are flowing, and the music is blaring, but you’re sitting in a corner people watching, over-thinking, slowly sinking into a hole of rumination and negative thought patterns. The world seems to be moving in slow motion as you sit and stare into the abyss, not seeing anything or anyone in front of you. You showed up because, for whatever reason, you felt you had to.
What does Depression look like?There is no set list of symptoms for any mental health disorder. Just as our minds are unique, as is each person’s ill mental health episode. How a person appears during bouts of ill mental health does not necessarily determine how they are feeling or how well they are. Just as we can smile at a passerby or thank a shop assistant for their help when we are mentally well, the same can be done during periods of ill mental health. The friend that listens to your problems all the time and has a huge smile on her face every day could be the one suffering the most. To be depressed is not necessarily to walk around with slumped shoulders, defeated demeanour and a negative outlook on life. We must also remember that ill mental health comes in waves. A person might – or seem to – have a great period of great mental health but deal with episodes of Depression every so often. Depression is not limited to specific circumstances or situations. Each disorder and circumstance is unique to any individual.
Why does Depression mean we cannot be seen in public?The individual you see out with their friends has a story to tell. If you sat down and had a conversation with her about her feelings, she might tell you what it took for her to get to the restaurant. You’d find out how she’s feeling despite her displaying a smile on her face. She might even divulge what she’s feeling right at that moment, or how hard things have been for her lately and for how long. You might also hear why she decided to come out that night. The male co-worker you see turn up every day, who smiles and says ‘Good Morning’ to everyone, has more to him than his outgoing personality. Have you ever asked him how he is? I mean really asked him, and wanted an answer longer than the generic ‘Not too bad’ response? You might find out that although he gets things done at work, his home life is a different story. It may seem like he has his life together at work, but you might be able to decipher from his chat, that behind closed doors he struggles with life. He functions at work, but anything outside of that routine drastically overwhelms him. You might find out why he is able to turn up to work. You might be able to find out why he’s depressed.
How can we recognise that someone around us is Depressed?A person will not always admit to feeling depressed, so it is the communication between you that could alert you to how they are feeling. It’s not always the case that we stop and make time to hear how a person is doing really, but those little moments could save someone’s life. The truth is we can never really know what someone is thinking, but there is a way to delve a bit deeper and get some inside information. Only then can we make an effort to really be there for someone.
*All thoughts and opinions remain the authors own, and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments of Sareta Fontaine.