What does depression look like?
When people hear that I have struggled so deeply with depression and anxiety over the years, I hear many different responses. In some way though, every person asks this question.
“Well, what does that look like for you?” “Does that mean you spend a lot of time asleep?” “Oh you must need to eat better.”
There are so many ways that people try to ask about depression and they either don’t know how, or they are so ignorant that they ask harmful and hurtful questions. I used to get so offended and angry when I would hear people talk ignorantly about mental illness or when a rude question would be directed my way. (And I will forever advocate that the general population educate themselves about mental illness to help prevent ignorance on an issue that effects such a large number of people in the world!) However, I recently went through this experience of putting myself in my roommates shoes. I do not mean just my current roommate, but all former roommates as well. I tried to see myself from their perspective. I tried to remember each of the really bad days and some of the good days and instead of seeing it from my eyes, which I already know way too well, I put myself in their place. The result of this perspective shift was a heart change. Let me try to describe what I saw.
When I had only seen things in my own eyes, I saw a girl in the throes of a battle unseen; a girl deep in the mud, trudging along, barely managing to pull her feet from the mud. Step after step, she became more tired and felt more alone. And when I looked out around me, I had only ever seen cold, hard eyes. People who I perceived as choosing to be ignorant and completely cold to my struggle.
But when I switched perspectives, I saw a girl, broken and hurting. A girl who slept through her work schedule and then broke when she woke up without a job. A girl wasting away from not eating and drinking too much. A girl who had mastered the art of plastering on a smile before she opened the front door. And I, the roommate, didn’t know what to do. I saw a girl before me who, practically speaking, needed something like a “life coach”. She needed motivation and desire, the will to fight and to keep going. So I tried to give her that, only to be met with anger and hostility. Next I tried to feed her but the food was thrown in my face and I was accused of not knowing, of never understanding. I tried to love her, and tried to understand, but she shut down and would stop answering my texts, stopped responding. How do you love a person that doesn’t want to be loved?
Isn’t this the most ironic thing? All I wanted, during my really bad days, was to feel loved. But yet I would push away any real portrayal of love or of its actions. Oh how my victim mindset had me in chains!!
Friends, I used to get so angry for people not knowing, for people not understanding, and for people never “doing” the right thing. But I finally realized that I never communicated any of my needs! I never communicated what the “right thing” was! So I continued to function in this idea that no one cared about me, that I was a burden to everyone, and that I was better off alone. This mindset could not be more wrong! To be clear, there are people who choose to be ignorant and to continue to make actions based off that ignorance. I do not make excuses for these sort of people. No, I simply speak to those people who live side by side by those suffering with mental illness. Those wonderful, strong, and compassionate people who stay by our sides even though we yell, we cry, we throw things, and we accuse them of never understanding. When we trudge through our deepest mire, believing ourselves to be alone, they stand on the sidelines, cheering us on, doing their absolute best to help us live. They champion us daily, and even though it may not be exactly what we think we need, they are desperately trying.
So if you’re living with depression, anxiety, bipolar, or borderline (the list goes on) as I have, take a second to change your perspective. Look around at those who have always been there for you, even if they haven’t exactly known how or what was the best move to make, they love you SO much and they want nothing more than for you to succeed and for your smiles to be genuine and true. I can guarantee that they sometimes live to see you smile a true smile! Sometimes all they need to love you right is communication. Tell them what you need, tell them what is going through your head, tell them you need them. I bet their compassion will surprise you.
God has carried me through so many days but I would not be here without the people in my life that never left my side; the people God ordained to be in my life. Even when they didn’t understand what was going on in my head, even when I yelled at them or shut them out, they never left. So as I think back on harder days, thank you. Thank you for choosing to love me through the muddy days.
P.S. Shoutout to my sisters and my mom, to Teslan and Grace, to Megan, and to Lauren. You guys have never given up on me. Thank You.