What does Depression Look Like?

When I was little, I didn’t know much about depression. The only experience I had had with it was the TV commercials for antidepressants. A woman would look longingly through a window watching her children play, or a man would lie on his couch disinterested as his phone rang in the background. I never really knew what it meant to have depression. So when I started losing interest in activities, always being tired, and not wanting to get out of bed, I thought there was something wrong with me. It took me a long time to realize that I had the illness that I knew almost nothing about.

I have suffered from depression and anxiety since I was 14. 1 year ago, I realized I could not do it on my own anymore, and I needed help. I was going to lose this battle I had been fighting if something did not change.

I made my first doctor’s appointment almost 11 months ago and after canceling and rescheduling twice because of my anxiety, I finally went. I stood in line to check in with the receptionist when an older man walked up to me. He looked me up and down and said smiling, “You don’t look sick enough to be in this place.”  He meant it as a complement, but it broke me inside. All I could think was maybe he was right and I am not sick enough to be here, that I am wasting the doctor’s time, and that there are many more deserving people that need to be here other than me. Those thoughts consumed me and I thought about running for the door, but the receptionist called me forward and I checked in.

Flash-forward to when I went to pick up my new medication. The pharmacist was about to hand me the bag when she paused for second and stared at me. She said, “You look much too happy to be on this stuff.” She smiled and handed it over. Again I was filled with self doubt. What am I supposed to look like? Is it because I am wearing a dress? I wore a dress because it’s comfortable. Maybe it is because I young? This was not just a regular person either, it was someone who knew about the medication and what people who needed the medication.

The front I had put up for years made people question whether I was actually suffering or not. If they could have only seen the hurricane of pain that was destroying me inside. If they only knew about the days I could not get out of bed and the sleepless nights I had spent worrying about trivial things.

The one thing I realized through this is that judging a book by its cover can really hurt someone. Just because someone is wearing makeup, smiling, and is not in a hospital bed, does not mean that they are happy, healthy, or okay. There is not one specific look to people dealing with illness. There is no indicator light to warn people when someone has depression. Until you walk a mile in a person’s shoes, you do not know what demons they are facing.

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