• Jim Denning

The Face of Depression

Indian Actress Deepika Padukone said recently “Being sad and being depressed are two different things. Also, people going through depression don't look so, while someone sad will look sad. The most common reaction is, 'How can you be depressed? You have everything going for you. You are the supposed number one heroine and have a plush home, car, movies... What else do you want?'

There is a profound difference between being sad and being depressed. Sadness usually is a response, to an event or series of events. Unlike depression, sadness also passes. Depression creeps into all aspects of your life, making it virtually impossible to derive any pleasure or joy from things that you use to enjoy.

Ms. Padukone makes a fascinating statement in her quote; “People going through depression don’t look so, while someone sad will look sad. She is absolutely right in this assessment, most people going through depression do their best to hide it. I have often told people the hardest part about having depression is pretending you don’t have it. This is something most of us do on a daily basis. Why do we hide how we are feeling? Why do we feel the need to put on a façade of being “okay?”

Why hide it?

First, depression for many folks is not a 24/7 thing. We do have good hours or days or even weeks, but we never know when the hammer is going to drop. When the good days come we enjoy them like everyone else and pray it lasts. When we feel the happiness slipping away, we try to hang onto it as best we can. We feel that if we pretend we are happy, the happiness will return, unfortunately it usually does not work that way.

Second, we do not want to be a burden to our loved ones. This is a fascinating “chicken and egg” scenario. Is our desire to not be a burden to others the cause or effect of the depression? Are we so concerned about the feelings of others that we sacrifice our own happiness? Do we worry so much about how others will perceive us that we exacerbate our own depression? I did this for years. When I wrote the book and “came out” as someone who struggles with depression, the support was overwhelming.

One other reason we put on the mask of happiness to avoid anyone asking us how we feel. We intentionally don’t look “sad” because if we do look sad someone may come up and ask us “what’s wrong?” For many of us, we expend a large amount of energy each day holding the answer to that question close to the vest mainly because if we start unloading and unburdening ourselves we may not be able to stop. At the height of my depression I went to counselors and psychiatrists. I would tell them that I was having serious suicidal thoughts. After I said it I would see a panicked look wash over their faces. Then invariably I would spend the next 20 minutes talking THEM down. I would try to explain that my suicidal ideation was a symptom and not an option. After a few of these episodes, I kept it to myself.

Robin Williams said, “All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you really are!” Sadly, we know how that story played out. We put on that fake smile because when we admit our situation we receive answers like Deepika Padukone received, “How can you be depressed?”

My hope is that you keep looking for that person who will reply “I do not understand what you are going through, but I’m sorry you are carrying this burden, what can I do to help?” Those people are out there.