The lovely people at Blurt had asked everyone recently to say what depression looked like to them. Since I sent in my response I’ve been thinking about it and there are quite a few pictures that I could choose to show what depression looks like to me but when I was putting some pictures together for the website this one struck me:
The picture shows a happy man smiling on Father’s day with his wonderful children sat on his knee. The photo is the epitamy of the phrase that you often get asked when you suffer from depression, “What have you got to be unhappy about? Your life is great!” The answer to that is surprisingly simple, my life is great. I have a wonderful and understanding wife, three amazing children, a nice house and most of the things that I would ever want. However, I also have a chemical imbalance in my brain which means I suffer from depression. It’s not a case of being sad and needing to be cheered up by hilarious cat videos on the internet or not being happy with what you have, it is a darkness that is hard to explain. It makes you feel worthless and robs you of your self confidence. It is difficult to do anything, you want to shut yourself away from the world and can affect all aspects of your life. If I could ‘get over it’ or ‘cheer up’ then I would but it’s more complicated than that.
That is part of the problem with having a hidden illness, as no one can see what goes on inside your head they don’t think it exists. If you could show them the scars or the symptoms then they might believe you but when they can’t see it, it simply doesn’t exist. Just because someone is smiling, it doesn’t mean that they are not suffering inside. The smile is often just a mask that is there to cover up the inner pain and to convince everyone else that you are ok. It doesn’t change how you feel but it just deflects questions and awkward silences.
I now know what I can do to try and limit my struggles, medication forms a part of it, but there are lots of other things I can do that help. Sleep and exercise are two things that have a pretty immediate effect but even when you do everything you can there are times when you struggle for no apparent reason. I’m hoping for a future without the need for medication but I’m not there yet but that’s the aim.
My life is good and the day I can rid myself of depression it will be even better. In the meantime I’m going to do all I can to try and help break the stigma of mental illness and keep the conversation going about depression and mental health.
Onwards and upwards