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This Is What Depression Looks Like

Updated: Jan 1, 2021



By R. Ahmad

[Disclaimer: the following article deals with a subject matter that may be difficult for some to read. It is also important to note that in this article, when using the word ‘depression’, I am not referring to the mental disorder of ‘depression’. Rather, the general feeling of depression that many of us occasionally experience.]

depression

noun | de.pres.sion

: an act of depressing or a state of being depressed: such as a (1) : a state of feeling sad : DEJECTION anger, anxiety, and depression (2) : a mood disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies

bouts of depressionsuffering from clinical depression

b (2) biology : a lowering of physical or mental vitality or of functional activity

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

It happened late at night. I was alone in my bedroom, listening to music, laughing to myself, dreaming up my future, and dancing around my room in a way I only do when I know no one is around to see me. I sat down to take a breath after rocking out to ‘Blow’ by Ed Sheeran, Chris Stapleton, and Bruno Mars. Then, within seconds, an overwhelming sadness took over me. I felt my face go from a smile to a frown for no reason whatsoever. I had been going through bouts of depression, in and out, for about a week or so, and it almost always happened the same way. I’d be completely fine one minute, then feeling as though I was completely falling apart the next. This is what depression looks like. It has many faces; a smiling, happy face is one of them.

Outer appearances do not always convey what is going on in someone’s mind. When feeling depressed, your thoughts may be very confusing. They might not make any sense to you, which in a way may intensify the feelings and emotions you are experiencing at that moment. It’s overwhelming. This is what it was like for me. I felt so lost, because I didn’t understand why I felt so sad, so alone, and so empty. Of course, that is not the case for every person. Everyone experiences feelings and emotions in a different way and in varying degrees. They also express those emotions differently. The point I want to highlight is that not all depression, specifically, looks the same.

That being said, the only thing I could think to do in that state was write my thoughts down as they came. So, in an attempt to normalize the conversation surrounding mental health, and specifically address what depression really looks and feels like, I am sharing with you my journal entry. What you are about to read is the completely raw, unedited version of that entry.

[Start of journal entry]

July 20, 2019, 4:56 AM

I can’t pinpoint the exact thought that triggered the sadness I sometimes feel. It’s not sadness alone, but loneliness, incompetence, hopelessness, and emptiness. I feel so much yet I feel nothing. It’s a paradox. It’s confusing. The only way to describe it is a painful emptiness. All those feelings entice anger towards the things I feel negatively about. The feeling of anger makes me sad, and the vicious cycle and chaos repeats. I’m like an upside down wave where the storm is below the surface and the surface is beautifully calm and serene. You see, depression has many faces and surface happiness is one of them. I went to a dancing fountain show with my family. When the water began to dance, people smiled. I was holding back tears. Something about being in a crowded space, surrounded by the people who love you most, yet still feeling so alone is so heartbreaking. Everything I hate about myself and my life comes to the surface with a vengeance. Everything that I want that’s just out of reach is a weapon. All the people I’ve loved and lost, all the times those people hurt me in ways they’ll never know, come at me at full force. I want to fix everything right now. I want to make amends. I want to lose weight. I want to be free. I want to forgive those people. I want to tell them how much I miss them. I can’t. I can’t, because I don’t want to be that person. The bitter person. The one that can’t let go of things. The one that never goes away. You can, you just won’t. I can, but I don’t know how to prevent myself from getting hurt in the end. So I do nothing. I accept the painful emptiness in my chest, because it’s normal, right? It’s okay that sometimes my mind won’t stop pointing out everything that’s wrong with me and my life. It’s okay that sometimes I just want to die. My face won’t hold a smile. I tried. I physically feel my feature downcast. I physically feel the weight on my chest and sometimes if I’m laying down, it’s hard to sit up. I feel like I’m drowning inside myself. Every time my mom or dad say something, I want to scream at them to shut up. Why am I so angry at them? My teeth won’t stop clenching at the sound of their voices. I’m so tired. Of everything. I feel so defeated. I just want to give up before I even started. This past year took so much of my mental energy. I just do what I’m told and I rarely ask for anything in return. Yet it seems I’ve been disappointed more times this past year than I can count. This past year was the first time I had a suicidal thought. It was the first time my mental state terrified me. No one talks about it. No one wants to admit that they’re f**ked up. We don’t tell anyone because we either don’t want them to have a certain perception of us or we don’t want them to feel pity towards us or we don’t want them to feel responsible. We just leave it in hopes tomorrow will be better. Then I wake up tomorrow and it is. The painful emptiness is gone. Then a random thought crosses your mind, and it’s back. It never went away, because feelings aren’t that simple. There’s no on/off switch. There’s time and patience and self-reflection. Learn who you are and what you want and do it with the knowledge that it may not happen the way you want and that’s okay. I want romantic love. I want a higher education. I want my choices to be my own. I want to be treated like an adult. I want to be considered. I want to feel important. I want to know that it’s going to be okay. And it is.

[End of journal entry]

Re-reading this entry is quite difficult, because it conveyed just how real those feelings were for me at that moment. I occasionally experience these bouts of depression, and it took me time to realize that I just need to allow myself to experience those feelings instead of forcing them away. Self-reflection led me to understanding that I must welcome them and let myself process these feeling before I can even begin to let go of them. Deciding that I didn’t want be sad anymore never made those feelings go away, it merely masked them – only for them to reappear at another time. That is because feelings and emotions can’t be willed away. We will always have them. They’re integral to our human nature, and sometimes they help us make sense of things around us even if the emotion itself does not. Although the feeling of sadness is a normal feeling, it becomes a concern when the sadness is debilitating and we are unable to function as we normally would. Reflecting on this entry gave me some insight about deep-rooted feelings I have about certain things. I learned things about myself, even though they were not new to me. It’s important to reflect back on the things that are troubling us in order for us to understand who we are better.

Sharing this journal entry with you is not something that is easy for me to do. It is, in fact, very terrifying. Nevertheless, I am choosing to be vulnerable in the hopes that you will be encouraged to do the same, and in hopes that you will no longer feel alone. To be vulnerable is extremely hard, however, putting your most fragile human parts on display for those around you to see is such a beautiful act of solidarity. There is no shame in being vulnerable, in having these feelings, and in talking to someone about it (I felt so much lighter after I talked to my friends about what I was going through). You will always find someone who is willing to listen.

If the need arises, find safe and healthy outlets to express your feelings, do something enjoyable, reflect through journaling, and allow yourself to explore your feelings. In doing so, you will understand that feelings aren’t so black and white; they need time. Remember that being sad is not always a bad thing. We are not superhuman. We are not without flaws. We are not without moments of weakness. And most importantly, we are not alone. So, in that respect, I am shedding my fear and I am telling you: I know, me too.

Feel free to find us on social media and share with us your thoughts, your experiences, and what depression looks like for you.

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