By the time I was dressed in the morning, last bit of make up and every hair in place, I knew there was a role I had to play. I assumed an’outside persona’ just to get me through the day. I maintained a personality for the outside world and switched this off at the end of the day when I crossed the threshold, arriving home exhausted. God forbid the rest of the world should see beneath the perfect, shiny exterior. There’s no room in the busy working world for the sad, moody girl who just doesn’t have that spark anymore. And who wants to spend time around that? The quiet girl with the dead-behind-the-eyes look going on isn’t particularly approachable. So, we do our best to keep up the fake smiles and empty small talk, hoping we’re putting on a good enough show and no one will notice. Often, they don’t, in our modern world people rarely look past the carefully selected wardrobe and expertly applied make up. However, if they looked closely they’d notice it in the eyes; the ‘windows to the soul’ were no longer open; the curtains had been drawn and there was nobody home.
A few years ago, I found myself losing interest in everything. I had lost all vitality, everything in my life seemed like far too much effort and I stopped all activities that I’d previously been so passionate about. This was more than just sadness; sadness hurts and I’d reached a point where nothing hurt, everything was numb. Depression is an impossible illness to understand. Sometimes our closest friends will ask persistently, “what’s wrong?” but, honestly, all you can answer is “nothing”. Depression literally feels like nothing; numbness, detachment and total disinterest. How can we diagnose and treat nothing? It’s easy to understand why effective treatment for depression is still so severely lacking.
Despite this, I thank goodness that I was born in this day and age. Once upon a time we would have been sectioned and forgotten; just another crazy girl that can’t handle the world. We are finally beginning to understand and explore mental illness, making it easier for people to recognise symptoms and look for the help they need. For centuries it has been a key feature in art, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, for example, is a novel that will stay with me forever and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone interested in learning more about depression. More recently, films such as Two Days, One Night and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are changing attitudes towards depression and the more we talk about it, the better chance we have of fighting it.
As for me, it’s not all sad and depressing! Without my experience I would never have discovered the wonderful connection I have with certain friends after opening up to them. And, without sounding too dramatic, I truly believe that I appreciate the best times more because I have been through the worst. If the shadow of depression descends once again, and it will, I’ve already found light at the end of the tunnel and I know it will always be there. So, I might still apply my face of make up and dress to impress but don’t be fooled, everything isn’t always as perfect as it seems.
I’ll leave you with some wonderful advice from Stephen Fry;
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”