“Well, you look good!”
…is my neighbor’s response after seeing me emerge from my self-imposed isolation. Like many others suffering from depression, I isolate myself in my house, my bedroom. Isolation is one of my coping mechanisms during extended depressive episodes. But, let’s face it, aren’t all depressive episodes extended? Every second, minute, hour feels infinite. At least with a physical injury, we usually see an end in sight after the initial trauma. The impact jars us, takes our breath away, but is followed by ever-diminishing pain. Throbbing pulses recede over time and there is an end “in sight.” “This is never going away,” “I’ve been like this [for the] majority of my life.” These very same thoughts were my constant companions only last week.
So, when someone tells me “Well, you look good!”, I know that they mean well and often have no idea how to respond if I actually tell them about my depression diagnosis. We know the usual responses to this admission, “What do you have to be depressed about?”, “what’s wrong??” or they comment on how good I look. (I’ve no explanation for that one!)
This comment prompted a mental exploration of what the reponse might be if friends, family, and society could “see” the depression, underneath my mask? With a visible injury or physical illness, when confronted with a graphic image (of the victim), we would likely draw a sharp breath, avert our faces, and even close our eyes. The pain of the victim is evident in the tortured facial expression, damaged skin, and twisted, crushed limbs. What if depression, an “invisible” illness, became visible? for all the world to see?
Initially, I felt drawn to images of burn victims as rough “correlates”, visual representations of clinical depression. Why? Perhaps because of the intense suffering accompanying burn injuries, or so I have always heard or read. Their suffering is so extreme that many must remain under sedation while being given significant amounts of pain medication as well as massive antibiotics as their skin (hopefully) heals. As I found such images, of which there is too plentiful of stock, my first thought after the knee-jerk impulse to look away, was that these images were far too graphic and disturbing in nature to include in a depression blog. *Note how I almost automatically downplay my own suffering, the suffering of my fellowman.
My reader, seeking information/support on depression, would recoil so strongly that I feared being accused of unnecessary sensationalism, exaggeration out of proportion to the point I was trying to make: Depression, an “invisible” illness creates an infinite amount of suffering which is unrelenting in nature. Despair, hopelessness, anguish in infinite amounts relentlessly tortures our minds, our bodies. And, it lies just beneath my mask.