Concealed depression?

I’ve recently started seeing a psychologist referred by my doctor. I’d seen a psychiatrist back in 2012 upon a similar referral and it didn’t work out, so naturally I was skeptical.

Following my initial consult with my psychologist, she asked me to fill out a couple of questionnaires so she could determine my level of depression. She calculated the score and looked at me, surprised. When she told me that I scored highly, I didn’t bat an eyelid. I know my illness better than anyone else, I live with it everyday. She admitted that talking to me I didn’t sound depressed, and she found the results surprising. If I can fool a psychologist into believing I’m fine, I’m doing a much better job at concealing my depression than I thought. Everyone else must think my life is really put together – and how wrong they are…

Since I’ve been diagnosed with depression (late 2012, for those interested) all I can think of is “how do I hide it from the people around me?” Several people I talk to about this have a similar approach – we see our illness as a weakness that people will judge us by. The stigma associated with mental illness is one of the main challenges. When it comes down to it, most people are uneducated about what mental illness is and how it affects those living with it.

I work in retail, so every day I put on that fake smile for several hours and pretend that everything is peachy. I won’t lie, doing this is one of the most draining things I have to do, and it took a lot of practice to perfect it. It started off innocent enough – “just serve the customers to the best of your ability so they can get on with their day”. Then I started applying this logic to my support network of family and friends, I didn’t want to be a burden so I kept quiet and handled my depression by myself. I’ve learned to control most of my negative thoughts and panic attacks without help, so I rarely ask anymore.

The problem with this is that sometimes you don’t know if your negative thoughts are truthful, or just your depression trying to catch you out. Last month I knew something was off about my relationship, but rather than talk it out with my boyfriend I kept it to myself, thinking it was all in my head. It wasn’t. He broke up with me on January 14 after 11 months. Fun times.

So what’s the moral/conclusion of this post? Well, I’m still trying to work that out myself. I like that I can be mostly self-sufficient in maintaining my illness, but I’ve realised that it’s okay to ask for help. I have a stronger support network than I ever thought possible. I have people treating me who I can trust. I don’t have to shout out to the world when something is wrong, but there is a handful of people I know won’t abandon me when I need their help – and that makes things a little more bearable.

Useful links:

*All images used in this article are screenshots of the British TV show Skins, all I did was google them.

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