I read an article on the face of depression that really hit me. The face of depression is often not recognizable. It is not a person with a frown who has their head down. It is usually a person who is smiling and appears to have it all. I have spoken to many people who have experienced the depression of a friend, family member or spouse, who never knew that person suffered from depression. I lived with a man who suffered from depression and anxiety his entire life. I had no idea that he did while we were dating, and it took me falling into my own depression, seasonal combined with post-partum, to recognize that he suffered also. I want to add my story and his to the many other stories of the face of depression.The face of depression is often not recognizable. It is not a person with a frown who has their head down. It is usually a person who is smiling and appears to have it all.
The Face of Depression Laughs
Jason’s favorite story from high school was the night he and his friends were ninjas in the neighborhood, jumping out at cars. The cops were called and they snuck back home to hide. Jason loved to joke around and be silly, but even in those years he hurt. He would escape into video games and books to find relief from the pain he felt. He was the boy who sat in the hall at lunch instead of facing the crowds. He looked like the life of the party, but on the inside he ached.
Jason desperately loved his family, but that love led to fear. He was terrified that he would be to rough changing a diaper or dressing a child, so he didn’t do those things. He was afraid they would drown so instead of enjoying the beach, he sat arms crossed facing the water and the kids to ensure their safety. He could be quick to anger if he spotted a remote danger, but it was because he loved so deeply. Fear stops a person from living, and Jason was often stopped in life because of the “What if” moments.
The Face of Depression Works so Hard
Jason often felt guilty because he couldn’t get himself out of bed even on vacations. He would hide for most of the day, and then occasionally venture out to do something with the kids. He attended family functions because he loved people, but because they induced so much stress, he would often leave and hide or he would hide behind the mask of happiness. He would be the life of the party, telling jokes and giving hugs while his heart just ached. My favorite photo is on his last birthday. He finally came out to the pool and played with the kids. They built a pyramid on his shoulders. It is a memory they will always treasure.He never felt like he was good enough.
The Face of Depression Succeeds
Jason worked with the scouts for years as a scout master. He never felt like he was good enough despite earning two mentor pins and awards from BSA. Even if you told him that he was wonderful, he could only see the flaws. Depression steals your success, so despite teaching leadership, training boys, creating a safe environment for learning and helping boys to work, Jason always felt that it wasn’t good enough. Depression steals your self-esteem. It was the same at his work. He was appreciated and wanted, but he never seemed to be able to see the positive recognition.Depression makes you pretend.
The Face of Depression is Disguise
For my last birthday, I wanted to take my kids to the spot where Jason and I decided we would get married. I didn’t remember it being a big hike, but it turned out to be 8 miles total. We did it with our four kids and four extra kids, and we were totally unprepared. My husband briefly spoke of his worries at the beginning, but I forged us all ahead. He smiled, talked and laughed, but I know he worried the whole time. We didn’t have enough water, snacks or flashlights, but he went anyway and did his best to be cheerful. Depression makes you pretend.
The face of depression looks like you and me. It is happy. It is working. It is doing. The problem is that the heart of depression is aching, longing and never successful. The body feel like a block of cement they have to carry. Taking a walk should be easy, but in reality, it is actually exhausting. Their minds don’t shut off at night. They spin and circle and are forever thinking about what might happen and usually of the worst case scenario. They work through plans of how to escape these scenarios, and they don’t sleep. Then those ways to escape become plans to leave this world, detailed complete plans. The exhaustion continues to build and build until it is difficult to get out of bed, turn on a light, or sit in a room with other people. The face of depression is deception.The face of depression looks like you and me. It is happy. It is working. It is doing. The problem is that the heart of depression is aching, longing and never successful.
For me the hope for depression is love. We can work to find a way to accept others and their offerings. Maybe we would do things another way or even do it better. Maybe we would have more energy, but instead of thinking these things, we should reach out and recognize the good others do. We should be more accepting. If they feel like we will be there no matter what, then they will be more free to be themselves and not hide their hurts. By letting go of judgement and giving unconditional love, we can help them bear their burden. Sometimes it can even be as simple as saying thank you for the service given, no matter how imperfectly it is given.
I think of the Savior and the story of the woman who was caught in adultery. They were ready to stone her. The Savior wrote in the dirt, “He who is perfect, let him cast the first stone.” The people walked away until it was just the woman and the Savior. He asked her where her accusers were. She replies that they have gone. He then tells her to go and sin no more. The Savior did not judge her. He knew she was imperfect, but he loved her, and she was enough. There is only one person we have to answer to and that is God. I know so deep in my soul that in God’s eyes, I am enough. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?
I don’t think depression has to lead to suicide. I do think it is hard work to change; painfully hard work to learn how to deal with depression and feel good enough, but it can be done. God wants us to feel His light. The Savior always said “I am the light and the life of the world.” For some, feeling the Savior’s light is harder, and for some it is easy. However, we can all generously share our love and the light we have to help others on their path.
The face of depression looks like you and me. Aren’t we all a little imperfect?