Mental Health

Outwardly Cheerful, Inwardly Neutral

Hi.

Last week, I cried heavily twice in the space of two hours, probably for a total of about forty-five minutes. But today, I’m absolutely fine.

I have depression, but that doesn’t mean I’m constantly sad. I feel many, many things. Sometimes all at once.

However, my own experience of the worst of my depression is not feeling anything at all. Which is a very weird experience, and increasingly difficult to explain.

“How are you feeling, sweetheart?”

“I dunno. Neutral.”

“Well, what’s going on inside your head?”

“Nothing.”

That was a conversation I had with my fiancé a lot before I was diagnosed. It frustrated him because he didn’t understand that when I said that nothing was on my mind, I meant it literally. How could I be feeling or thinking nothing?

Unfortunately now, he does understand. Not because I got better at explaining it, but because he experienced it for himself.

It’s a common theme that people who haven’t experienced depression don’t understand it, and that’s fine. Once, drunk in a taxi, one of my colleagues said to me that it’s one of those things you can never understand fully if you don’t have it, and I think that’s very true.

When I tell people – or when they find out – that I have depression, the response is usually shock. Or, in one particularly hurtful case, outright and blatant disbelief. And this is because of two things:

  1. I have spent many years of my life not displaying negative emotions to protect or to avoid burdening other people.
  2. Aside from that, when I’m not depressed I have a relatively sunny disposition, and in general I am very a outwardly cheerful person.

It’s a blessing and a curse, that last one.

On the one hand, it helps me in life. Customers like me, I get on with my managers, and I’ve made very few enemies. I’m considered “nice” by most people. And I can plaster a huge smile on my face whenever I want and it will come across as genuine whether it actually is or not.

On the other hand, it makes people confused and uncomfortable when I seem anything other than happy, especially when that person doesn’t know me very well. I cannot stand the phrase “Cheer up, it might never happen.” Along with being made fun of for being in a mood and being told that appearing in any way upset or angry doesn’t suit me. Also, saying “It’s not like you to be [insert negative emotion here]!” is unhelpful. Because I know that it is, in fact, like me.

It doesn’t really make me want to be open about how I feel, which is something that I think anyone with any mental health issues should feel comfortable doing. Unfortunately, it’s commonly not the case.

But don’t get me wrong, there are people who know me enough to know that I’m not just sunshine and rainbows. My immediate family, fiancé and a lot of my work colleagues know that I’m sarcastic, very opinionated and I complain a lot.

I’m going to end this post, not by saying that you don’t know who could be suffering, because that’s cliché.

But I will say that if anyone wants to open up to you, let them. Even if you don’t really know them that well, spilling out their thoughts to you could be the difference between them having a bad day or a good one. They may just want to tell someone who they don’t know.

Talking helps. Keeping it inside doesn’t.

And if you are struggling, know that there is at least one person who you know who would be more than willing to listen to you pour your heart out. If someone asks you how you are, tell the truth. If someone quizzes you “Are you sure you’re okay?”, tell them that you’re not. I know it can be difficult to reach out, but sometimes all it takes is a message saying “Hi, I feel a bit rubbish. Do you mind if I talk to you?”

Or something to that effect.

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