Depressed people are faking it

Yes, you read the title right.  No, it wasn’t clickbait.  And yes, I mean it.

Depressed people are faking it.  Every.  Fucking.  Day.

I fake it.  Your best friend fakes it.  The guy at the psych office fakes it.  And every single other person with depression is faking it.

And some of us are so fucking good at faking it you’d never be the wiser, no matter how smart you think you are, and no matter how in tune with us you think you are.  We are masters at this game.  You’re maybe just a little confused about what it is, exactly, we’re faking.

Cause it’s not the sadness, or the numbness, or the anger or the paranoia or the self-loathing or the lack of confidence or the lack of joy.  Nah, it’s not the tears or the beating ourselves up.  It’s not waking up and wishing we didn’t.  It’s not the persistently nagging, pessimistic thoughts that have claimed our heads as home.  Nope, unfortunately, all that stuff is pretty real.

Instead, we fake the rest.  The other stuff.  The normal.

Like when you’re stuck in a slump, balled up on the couch feeling sorry for yourself.  It’s hard to find the energy to even say a word to your significant other, and suddenly someone knocks on the door.  The lights are on; they know you’re home.  So you have no choice but to open the door and fake it.  And god damn, do you do it well.  You amaze yourself every time, because who is this person, and why couldn’t I find her five minutes ago?

It’s the same at work.  You sit in your car in the parking lot, taking your last chance to breathe alone.  You don’t want to be here.  You want to be home, in bed, alone, forever.  You almost stayed home today, but you forced yourself to get this far.  So you go.  And when you walk through the doors… you’re different; you’re okay for now.  Why couldn’t I be okay before?

It’s when you go to the grocery store, or order your coffee, or when you have to make a phone call.  You don’t know where it comes from, but somehow there seems to be a living soul inside your normally empty body.  You hear yourself speaking clearly, laughing along and being a social being and you just wish you could be that way all the time.

So why can’t you?  Why is it so easy sometimes and so hard as soon as the circumstances change?   The second your visitor leaves; as soon as you’re finished work; right when you hang up the phone; walk out of the store – you’re back to where you were.  No more faking it.

It’s weird, because in those moments I sometimes almost forget I’m faking it.  I ride the wave as long as I can, but eventually I crash.   And usually once I do,  I am completely depleted.  It’s like going out for a joyride and not noticing you’re running on empty.  And then – BOOM, it’s over.  You’re out of fuel.  You crash and burn and it takes a lot to get you going again.

I fake it a lot.  I do it to get by.  It’s necessary for survival.  I can’t change how I’m feeling, but sometimes shit has to get done.  I can try to muster up the courage on my own – I can try to psych myself up to go out into the world.  Some days it’s no problem at all.  Other days, it’s impossible, and it won’t happen unless it has to happen.  So, I fake it.  I’m really good at it – I’ve fooled a lot of people.  And you know what?  I’m not the only one who does it.  I bet you know someone who’s been fooling you, too.

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Dear depressed me

Dear depressed me,

You are me.  I, however, am not you.  Not anymore (or at least not today).

I wish I could be the face you saw in the mirror, instead of that empty shell.

That look of pure nothingness; all excitement faded long ago. That blank stare. That twisted, screwed up face you make as you try to hold back your tears.  You look at your reflection and you try to be strong.  You stare into the mirror, hating what you see.  And still, you try and tell yourself you can do it.

One more day.  Push through one more day. Tomorrow might be the day things change.

But you’ve told yourself that same thing day after day, week after week, month after month, and it’s yet to prove true. You’ve yet to see me staring back at you.

I’m here. Somewhere. I am. And I’m telling you that one day I’ll be able to push back to the surface. That one day, I’ll teach you how to smile again, without dying inside as you do.

I know that right now you don’t remember me. You’ve heard of my existence, but you’re not convinced I’m real. You think you’ve always been a shell- you can’t remember being a warm and cozy home. You’re sure you’ve smiled before – there are pictures to confirm it. But you don’t think the smile was real – or at least you don’t see how it could be again.

You are me. Your thoughts are mine. My thoughts, however, are not yours.  But one day, they can be; they will be.

You will look into the mirror and you will see somebody new. You will see a reflection of your strength, in place of yesterday’s empty eyes.  You will see a smile staring back at you, just as you did before.

You will see me.

And then, you will remember that you are me – not the you you are today.

Help me instead of hating me

For me, writing has always been a sort of solace.  If I’m feeling overwhelmed by my thoughts, I write to get them out and organize them.  I have countless word documents on my computer from over the years. Most of them are short; just a few lines I wrote when I needed to vent.  I typically feel the need to vent when I’m in a bad state, and so a lot of my writing is quite sad.  Some of it, though, is downright scary – even for me.  It’s those documents that remind me of how very real depression is.

I make an effort to write when I’m in a happy mood, too.  I write to myself so I can read it when I’ve fallen back into a depression.  I read my own happy thoughts as a reminder that I’ve been there before, and I can get there again.

Although I am feeling strong right now, not everyone is.  And I wasn’t always.  The following is a rework of many recurring thoughts I’ve had when I’ve been depressed.

I’ve written it to anyone who is trying to support a person suffering from depression.  I get that it can be exhausting to care for someone who doesn’t seem to respond to your attempts to help.  I wrote this, hoping to provide some perspective – to both parties.

——————————————————————–

You may never say it, but I know you resent me.  At least sometimes.

You resent me for holding you back.  You resent me because you don’t want to be stuck here, looking after me.  You are annoyed by me.  You wish I had no problems, so you could go out and do whatever you want, whenever you want, and never have to worry about me.

I’m sorry to put you through this. 

I get that it’s hard for you, too.  You want to understand but you can’t.  You can’t because you’ve never experienced this – and I am so glad for that, because believe me: this fucking sucks. 

You want to provide solutions.  You want to fix my problems.  But you can’t.

You know this isn’t my fault, but sometimes you forget.  Sometimes you get mad at me for being such a downer.  And sometimes, you do blame me – you say it is my fault, and that if I’d just get out of bed, everything would be fine. 

No.  It’s not that simple, although I wish it were – and I know you wish the same.

I want so badly to want to do things.  I want so badly to want to go out.  I want so badly to want to be social.  But I don’t want to.  I can’t want to.  No matter how hard I try to want to.

I want to believe that people like me, and that they want to be around me.  But I can’t believe it.  My mind won’t allow me to believe it.

I know that my negative attitude brings my negative thoughts to life: I know that no one wants to be around someone who is sad all the time.  You don’t need to remind me of that.

Try to remember that I can’t help it.  I didn’t choose this.  It chose me, I guess.

Support me by reminding me that this is now; this is not forever

Validate my feelings, because what I’m feeling is real.  Accept the fact that I am the way I am right now: I am sad.  I am feeling worthless, useless, and hopeless.  Validate me, and then remind me that you’re here for me; that WE will get through this together.

I know you’ll have moments where you resent me.  That’s okay.  This isn’t a walk in the park for you, either.  Just try to remember it’s not me you’re resenting: it’s the depression. 

Help me instead of hating me.

My Two Closest Friends

Depression never used to knock before coming in.  Depression would just show up, uninvited, and stay as long as she pleased.  She’d hang out with me wherever I was.  She’s quite lazy though, and usually convinced me to stay in bed all day.  We wouldn’t do anything!  Even if we watched a movie, I could never pay attention because she was so distracting – always rambling to me, talking about god-knows-what.  It’s really hard to focus on one thing when someone is talking in your ear about something else.  Basically, whenever she came over, I was stuck doing whatever she wanted to do (and that doesn’t consist of much).

Sometimes, when I had friends over, she’d leave me alone for a bit.  She’d hang back, I’d hang out, she’d wait for them to leave, and then she’d come out as soon as the door shut behind them.  Usually, though, she’d demand all the attention: my friends would come over to hang out with me, but they’d end up hanging out with Depression.  I’d kind of just be there in the background… somewhere.

One day, Depression and I were hanging out.  She left soon after she came though – which was a very rare occurrence! – so I decided to go out.  I ended up meeting Mania that night.

Mania and I instantly hit it off.  We went out together with a group of my friends and had a fantastic night out.  We spent a bit too much money and drank a bit more than we maybe should have, but I didn’t care!  It was too fun to care.  After that night, Mania and I hung out nonstop for about two weeks.  We had become inseparable!

I guess Depression heard that Mania and I had been spending a lot of time together, and she wanted to be a part of it.  But for some reason, our schedules never allowed for us to spend time as a trio.  Depression kept asking me to hang out more and more frequently.  Every time she’d heard that Mania had been over, she’d insist on coming by the next day.  She was even more selfish during these visits, if that were even possible.

Everything had to revolve around her.  If she didn’t feel like eating, we wouldn’t eat.  Oh, but if she did want to eat, we’d eat an unnecessarily large amount of food.  If she didn’t feel like talking, we’d sit in silence.  But, of course, if she did want to talk, we’d talk nonstop about whatever she wanted to discuss.  I say ‘discuss’, but really it was more of a lecture: I just listened to her talk; I never had a say in anything.

Eventually, I couldn’t even have friends over anymore while she was in town.  She would literally take the phone out of my hand and write up some excuse.  She even forbade me from going to work.  She’d call in, pretend to be me, and say she was sick with the flu, or food poisoning, or whatever else came to mind.

I don’t know why I never stopped her.  I just never really felt like I could.  Peer pressure, maybe?

Anyway, I started to strongly resent Depression.  Hate her, really.  Looking back, I realize that Depression had sort of become a little jealous of Mania.  But at the time, I just wanted to hang out with Mania and forget about Depression entirely.

Mania and I always had so much fun together.  She managed to make me forget about Depression, even though we’d been so close for so long.  I always thought Depression and I would be in each other’s lives forever, but Mania made me second-guess that notion.  She pointed out how terrible Depression treated me.  I honestly never realized it until then, but it was a very abusive relationship.

It was a good thing that Mania and Depression were never in the same room.  I feel like Depression would have definitely taken away all the fun.

Those days, I hung out with Mania as much as I could.  Depression would still come by every once in a while, but she didn’t stay as long as she used to.  Mania was my new best friend.

The early days of my friendship with Mania were great!  We would always be on the go, doing something, going somewhere.  We would spend our free days making things, writing stories together or planning a trip.  I would go to work and she would entertain herself – that was another thing I greatly appreciated, because Depression couldn’t handle me leaving her alone while I went to work.  We went out on the weekends and the occasional – albeit rare – week night.  We had a great social life and my friends absolutely loved her.

After a while though, she started to go a little wild.  And, well, I saw how much fun she was having and couldn’t resist joining in.

We started to go out a lot.  We spent money on things we didn’t need.  We drank. We did drugs. We had a very unhealthy sleep schedule.  We would go days without sleeping properly, and then crash for 20 or more consecutive hours.  Usually, I’d wake up to an empty bed and the doorbell ringing: Mania was gone, and Depression was back.

It was exhausting, keeping up with those two!  If I wasn’t with one, I was with the other.  I had very few days to myself.

Depression came over after Mania and I had had another binge.  I wanted her to go the second she walked in, but I didn’t want to be rude, and I had a hard time flat-out asking her to leave.  After all, she did just want my company.

She eventually opened up and told me she was upset – she felt like Mania had taken over and that I didn’t like her anymore.  She told me she missed me, and just wanted to spend more time with me.  She asked me if we could just stay in bed all day and pretend to watch movies while she distracted me, like old times.  The fact that this all made me feel guilty didn’t even matter: I was so exhausted after my binge with Mania that it actually sounded like a great idea.

So, we stayed in that bed for almost an entire week straight.  We slept most of the time.  We ate occasionally.  We would start a movie and I’d turn it off after a few minutes of her rambling.  I would wake up in the morning and see that she was still asleep, and I’d resolve to stay in bed so as not to leave her. It always upset her to wake up alone.  Sleep, sleep, sleep, repeat.

After a couple of weeks, Depression left, and I was by myself for the first time in over a month.  I was able to reflect on things, and I realized that maybe Depression wasn’t as evil as Mania made her out to be.  She was just lonely.  I felt bad for her more than I felt hurt by her.

Mania wasn’t perfect, anyway – was she?  Sure, we had loads of fun together, but I always spent way too much money while she was around, and it took me days to recover from our sleepless, drug and alcohol induced binges.

It was hard to talk to my other friends about Depression and Mania though, because they didn’t know either of them like I did; they could never really understand our relationship.

Sure, Depression held me back sometimes, but she also held me closer than any other friend ever had.  I could feel how much she wanted me around.  No one can argue the fact that it feels nice to be wanted. And yes, Mania would encourage me to do things that might not have been the best idea, but in the moment, it was always so fun and exhilarating.  We spent money I didn’t have, but we created amazing memories.

Mania was much better at winning me, as well as everyone else, over. She would show up, just like Depression always did, and instead of coming in to hang out, she’d insist we go out and do something.

She wasn’t always in her wild, party mode: sometimes she’d revert back to her original form, and we’d be incredibly productive.  She’d come over and help me clean my house (this was especially nice when she came after Depression had been over, because there was always an accumulated mess), or we’d cook a delicious dinner, or we’d paint something or draw something or rearrange my apartment.

I started to resent Depression.  Again.  This time, more intensely.  And it stuck.

She’d come over and my spirit would sink away to nothingness.  I knew that the moment she walked in the door, there was no more fun to be had.  So I got fed up.  I told Depression that she couldn’t just keep coming over without at least telling me first.  She needed to give me a warning before she came, so I could prepare.  I could never get anything done while she was around.  What if I needed to do laundry?  What if I had someone visiting and actually wanted to spend some quality time with them?  Reluctantly, she agreed that she’d let me know she was coming when possible, but couldn’t always be sure how long she’d stay.  Fair enough, I thought.

As with many things, I was wrong.

These days, Depression sometimes lets me know she’s coming.  I know she’ll be here in a few days.  I can prepare myself as much as possible, but I can never really prepare.  I don’t know how long she’s going to be here.  I know I’m going to be stuck with her, and I know I can’t tell her to leave, but I don’t know when she’ll be gone.  Trying to plan my life around her uncertainties is even worse than being utterly uninformed of her arrival.

Mania never tells me when she’s coming.  I’ve asked her to, but she refuses.  She says she wants it to be a surprise.   I’d rather be surprised by Depression than by Mania.  I want to know when Mania is coming because I want to be able to look forward to the fun.  I want to be surprised by Depression because I want to be oblivious that I’ll be in pain until the pain has already begun.

Unfortunately though, that’s not how it is.  Depression’s compromise was a warning.  She won’t leave me alone, but she’ll let me know when she’s coming.  Mania’s ‘compromise’ is surprise.  She won’t leave me alone, she certainly won’t inform me of her plans, but we’ll have a blast when she gets here.  I cannot rely on her.

This is how it is.  These are my two friends, Depression and Mania, and they’re going to visit me until they tire of me.  They’re going to stick around as long as they please, without my permission, my consent or even my affection.  It’s not certain how often they’ll come, or how long they’ll stay.  It’s not even certain that they’ll ever leave.

All that’s certain is me.   I am certain that I cannot, and will not, ignore them. I am certain that I will accept them.  But most of all: I am certain that they will be my friends, and not my keepers.  I will run the show; they’ll just be my co-stars.