Depression is a myriad of things to a myriad of people…
A clinging vine that suffocates the very last breath we have as we crawl further and further into the corners of our minds.
The way that our mother always looked when she was staring out the window on a Saturday afternoon with her fifth glass of wine, a smoke ring hovering over her head.
What we thought our best friend “had” in college when we noticed that she stopped leaving her dorm room after getting dumped by her high school sweetheart.
Whether we may have directly encountered it or have only (oh so luckily) read/heard about it from afar, depression is something that isn’t outwardly that easy to fully recognize. We confuse it with sadness and grief, and compare it to a disease like diabetes. There is no one characteristic that can be clearly defined and pointed to that demonstrates one is “depressed.” Actually, more often than not, people who suffer from it will only display signs in a very concealed way. Although not total in scope or depth, nor applicable in all cases, these 11 signs may help you discover if you yourself are covering up, or if someone you care about it.
1. Lifestyle Coping Habits Cycle Around Those Things That Others Would Use Only Occasionally
If recognized by the individual, depression can be something that both therapy and medication are turned to for treatment. When it isn’t something that is easily seen, or even misdiagnosed, those who find themselves constantly unable to scrape themselves out of bed will turn to other methods of coping. These habits will tend to push the boundaries of what others would see as “healthy” or “sustainable.” Whether excessively drinking, taking drugs, exercising, driving fast or doing anything distracting, it’s all a way to make the darkness stay at bay. Trying to keep this under wraps may mean that the habits appear antithetical to the person, but it’s actually just par for the course.
2. Emphasis Will Always Be On “Being Perfectly Fine”
It’s incorrect to look at depression as something someone “can snap out of.” It is far more than just a mood or emotion. Depression does not simply go away because we will it to, but people who have been suffering from it have learned how to protect themselves from prodding questions by putting on a happy face. You won’t see any lamentations on their Facebook or doom-and-gloom tweets. And it will be all smiles and hugs when you see them–probably to a very strange degree. This can be a sign that there is actually something up, and it’s worth asking if something has been going on in their life.
3. That Being Said, Depression Makes One Great At “Covering Up”
“Why didn’t you come to dinner with us last night?”
“Oh, I got too involved with something at work. I’ll make it next time.”
“What happened to your arm?”
“Oh, I just scraped it on something. No big deal.”
These are examples of the cover-up story. Depression takes so many twists and turns, and some days it makes a whole mess of our best-laid plans. When that happens, and the possibility of getting out of bed just isn’t there, someone who is suffering will come up with an excuse that sounds perfectly plausible, and completely benign, in order to misdirect attention away from what is actually happening. Sometimes it’s even a cover-up that the person will believe themselves, in which case it is even more important to follow up with them when you suspect something’s up.
4. Fear of Abandonment Is Huge, And Real
It takes a lot for people to open up to each other. This goes doubly so for someone who struggles with depression. They understand the weight of their troubles–they are being crushed by them every day–and they don’t want to pass that weight off on someone else. When they do share, and open themselves up, the sad fact is that most people run the other way. Whether it’s the way it should happen or not, it does, and it causes a deep sense that by sharing anything, everyone will leave. So they won’t be forthcoming with details, and will keep everything close to their chest, just so they don’t have to watch another person walk away again.
5. Substances Are Looked Upon In A Different Light.
Someone who suffers from depression is more attuned to what outside influences have on their mind and body. They are aware of what effects them more than other things, and what will happen if they eat this or drink that. This is because altering one’s state of mind is a whole other bag of cats for someone who has been experiencing depression. They are hardwired to the fluctuations in their mood almost down to the second because they need to know if they’ll be able to handle what comes next. Drinking, smoking, eating, taking medication and drugs…They will all carry a weight of experience that most “healthy” people won’t ever understand.
6. Sleeping and Eating Habits May Be Expressed Abnormally
It may seem small, but this is extremely impacting. Someone who is actively trying to conceal their depression is also actively, desperately, trying to control the most basic of habits in their lives. When the vine of darkness settles in, almost everything can be given in to its power. The mind will struggle hard against this, and the easiest two things that can be consciously manipulated are eating and sleeping. They may sleep in very late, or stay up very late. They may eat everything in sight, or nothing at all. This will be the way they cope with the crushing feelings and thoughts they experience every day, and it will be a much clearer sign to people around them that they need love and support.
7. There Will Often Be Distinct and Wonderful Talents That Are Expressed
There is nothing that is as easily revealed as depressive thoughts when one takes a deeper look at the meanings and sources behind some of this world’s greatest art, writing, and music. Those who have the most expressive, and thus illustrious, outward statements and stances on the beauty and understandings of what they see tend to also see some of the darkest aspects of humanity. Most of the time, they suffer from the dark weight of that themselves, but won’t show it outwardly. Even some of the names we have respected the most–Frida, Mozart, Hemingway–have been “plagued” by mental illness. It adds the longing for light that we see in their work, and is an integral part to how they have shared their insights with everyone else.
8. Conversations on Life and Death Will Be Very Involved
Not everyone who has suffered under the weight of depression has considered suicide. However, most of the time, how life works and how death operates are something that weighs heavy on their mind. They have explored the depths of their own limitations, and have reflected on what humanity is and how emotions actually operate. You may only notice this when conversations turn to more esoteric or deeper concepts, and you’ll probably be surprised on how eloquent and well thought-out their ideas how. Take note of this, and ask the kind of questions that a caring friend would.
9. Cries For Help May Come, In Subtle Ways.
Even if one is practiced at caring for the twists and turns of their own mind, there will come a time when it is too much to bear. This is when they will reach out, giving a little glimpse into the inner workings of their minds. When this happens, when you see a friend opening up to you, it is so very important to be there. To listen and acknowledge their pain. To offer your hand or your arm. To see them as who they are and love them for it. This will be the bridge that can help them climb out of their pain, and hopefully put them on a path to freeing themselves of their daily struggle.
10. Searching for a Purpose Can Be Extreme
It isn’t hard to see that we are all searching for our reason to be here. No matter who we are, what we may be or have, or where we came from, it is a human trait to be seeking that something “more.” This is the same for someone with concealed depression, but it may be a bit more intense. Whether for its constant swinging motion of going between this and that as what will satisfy, or a clearly defined, and honed-in focus on one thing, from the outside it may seem like their search is a different one. Their is a compensation going on here for what they see as inherent inadequacies in their personage, and they are trying to overcome that by having something purposeful to cling on to.
11. Just Like Everyone Else, They Are Also In Need of Love and Acceptance.
Disguising how they truly feel isn’t deceptive; it’s protective. They don’t want the whole world to see them as being so low down that they can’t even go out to get groceries. It’s really hard to function in a society that demands a constant “doing” when that “doing” does nothing but to serve the purpose of showing how much you dislike your every day. It is important to understand that someone close to you, or even yourself, is deserving of love, acceptance, and care just as much as the next person does. If you have found it difficult to face the light coming in your window every morning, day after day, and don’t really understand the worth that your life holds, you may be suffering from depression. It’s not clearly defined as to what depression looks like, and it may only be a simple malaise. What’s important is to understand that you aren’t as alone as you think, and there are people out there who can help.
Opening up and exposing the darkness you carry is the first step. Whether online, through a poem or song, or simply telling your dog, wherever you start is where you can start. If you see that someone you love isn’t feeling well, let them know you’re there for them. Do what you can to give them the start they’re looking for to get out from under their burden. However it works out, you, and they, are worth it.