Depression Doesn’t Have a ‘Look’

By Katie Snuggs

What does depression look like to you? Maybe you think of motionless bodies lying in bed, unable to eat, unable to sleep, unable to even move. Maybe you think of people crying, hot tears rolling down their cheeks as they shake, lip quivering as they avoid the eyes of their loved ones. Maybe you think of someone crouched in the shower, dragging a tiny blade across their skin as water pours over them, drowning them. Whatever you picture, you’re probably right. But most people don’t know what depression really looks like. Yes, there might be self harm, crying, lying in bed, but there’s also smiling, laughing, socialising, trying.

The happiest people are often the saddest.

f016a2b34a49b6b2ea3bb82d1713b86f.jpg

How many people do you think you know? How many people can you say you know really well? Because in reality, we don’t know anyone that well at all. I could bet everything that when I told my best friend, the girl that I spend most of my time with, that I was depressed and wanted to die, she didn’t see it coming. No one saw it coming. And that’s the somber truth of depression; we often don’t see it at all.

Yes, I’m depressed. Yes, I’m suicidal. But everyday I wake up and slip on that mask I’m so used to wearing, the mask that fools people into thinking I’m okay. That I don’t want to just fling myself off the nearest bridge. Some people lie in bed all day, but some people don’t. And that’s where it all goes wrong.

Assumption. It’s a dangerous thing.

When it comes to mental health, not just depression, never assume. Never look at someone, see a smile, and assume they’re okay when you know deep down that they’re not. If someone you know is struggling with their mental health, check up on them, ask them how they really are, make time to sit down and listen to them, ask if there’s anything you can do. Never just assume they’re okay and turn a blind eye.

I know first hand what it’s like; everyone assumes I’m okay, just because I say “I’m fine” in response to, “how are you?” Because when people ask, they never really want to know -- they ask out of politeness, out of sheer courtesy, not because they’re genuinely interested.

Ever wondered what someone would say if you said “no” in response to their muttered question? I have. I wonder every time what words would come out of their mouth. And when I tried it, all I got in response was “oh”, from my best friend. She wasn’t expecting it. And responses like that drive us away from the truth, and push us to pretend everything is okay, to pull our lips into a smile and force a laugh from our throats.

So ask. Ask and genuinely mean it.

I cannot stress the importance of checking up on people enough. It means a lot to people that someone cares and that someone is thinking of them. Most of the time, even if you can’t actually help, just knowing you’re there means something. I wish people asked me, I wish they really cared. Just because someone is smiling, it does not mean that they’re okay.

The happiest people are often the saddest.