I am a different person, depending on who I’m with. When I’m with my University friends; I laugh more, I chat more, I become more cheerful around them. When I’m alone with my thoughts, that’s when the insecurities start to creep in. I start feeling worthless, a failure, it’s more often when I’m in isolation that I’ll start to feel lonely and unhappy.
My friends very rarely, if ever, get a glimpse into that side of me. Partly because I try my hardest to hide that part away from them. Partly because I am genuinely happier in their company.
The conflict with this is that I then feel like an imposter when I admit to them I have mental health issues. I feel as though they must be thinking, ‘Depression? What depression? But you’re always happy when I see you.’
Earlier in the week, I told my friend, the only friend who currently knows about my mental health issues, that I was going to see my psychiatrist for an appointment on Tuesday. Later in the week, I hung out with her and a couple of our friends from Uni. I certainly didn’t act the part of someone who’d need to be seeing a psychiarist for depression.
On MSN tonight, I was chatting to another friend. We are planning to go out for a movie on Tuesday. I told her I couldn’t in the morning due to an appointment from 10 to 11am.
‘Is everything okay Cass?’ she asked.
‘Yeah, why do you ask?’ ‘
Nah, it’s that you seem to be going to appointments,’ she replied.
I suppose you could argue there is a part of me that wants my friend to know about my mental health issues by telling her I have an hour long appointment on Tuesday. I could have given the excuse that, oh, I don’t know, I have class or something? Fine. I admit it. Yes, there is a part of me that wants to confide in a close friend. I long to be able to be honest, to say, ‘I’m seeing my psychologist today,’ rather than making excuse after excuse after excuse as to why I need to catch the bus straight after class, why I’m not free at a particular time to hang out.
I could have taken that opportunity to tell her that no, things aren’t as dandy as I make it out to be. But I didn’t. I lost my nerve. ‘Yeah, nah, I’m alright, thanks for asking.’
From my experiences, society’s perception of depression seems to be that if you are afflicted with this illness, you are unhappy all the time. All. The. Time. You’ll have a frown permanantly enfixed on your face and you’ll be lethargic and disinterested in everything and everyone. I’ve heard my mother say on more than one occasion, ‘But she doesn’t look depressed,’ and ‘She doesn’t seem to be the type of person who’d suffer from depression.’
Yes, there are people who are affected in this way by depression, they are unable to get out of bed because they cannot face the day. Yet there are so many others who are deeply depressed but high functioning. They put on a mask and they’re forced to be okay, even when they’re not. Their masks have been crafted and perfected so that no one is able to see the pain behind this mask.
I admit, I used to have this view of people with depression too. That I’d be able to tell easily if someone is depressed. That they’d all be quiet, desolate type people. But I’ve learnt. I’ve met plenty who struggle with mental health issues, some quite severe too, but I’d never have known just by looking, or even spending a short amount of time with them.
I wish others would learn too. That mental illnes is not always apparent from the outside. It would, for one, make it easier for me to tell my friends of my mental health issues, without the fear of appearing as a phony.
People’s opinions of me matter far too much and the last thing I want is for friends to think this as a ploy to seek attention and sympathy, that I’m faking my issues. I’m not. Honest.