An Impassive Face
One technique that I use to cope when I’m around people, particularly people I know, is that I try and keep an impassive face. I try and make sure there is no feeling out there, no outward emotion, nothing. It wards off any unwanted questions. You know the sort I’m talking about.
Previously, I’ve told you about my mask and how I use things like humour to keep people from seeing what’s really inside. It’s something I do a lot and this impassiveness is a part of it as well, though one i don’t talk about as much. You may have noticed it, you may not. Anyway, I’m not going to talk much about my mask because I’ve written enough about that.
This is different.
This is about the face of depression.
The Assumed Face
You might be thinking I’ve lost the plot slightly but hear me out on this one. You see, I hear it a lot on our social media accounts that people are under the illusion that they can detect a depressed person. Call it similar to gaydar, where people think they can detect a gay person. Personally, I think gaydar is a load of rubbish no matter what people tell me, although I will acknowledge that some people make it a little easy to work out! Anyway, that’s beside the point.
My point is that people think depression has a face.
I remember having a conversation with one of my managers at my old job to tell him that I was struggling. I clearly remember him looking surprised and saying, “I wouldn’t have guessed! If you had been put in a line-up with nine other people and I’d been told that one person of those ten was depressed, you’d have been the last person I’d have picked!”
What does that even mean? How can someone look depressed? I suppose people will imagine someone looking like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, that gloomy, anhedonic character with the glum, flat voice. They believe that that is the face of depression, that everyone who suffers is a lot like that. Is that your experience as well? Do people expect you to be like this?
That perception couldn’t be further from the truth.
The true face of depression is a hard one. Why? Because really, there isn’t one. Some people will look like Eeyore, it is possible. They won’t go out, they won’t smile, they won’t show much interest or pleasure in anything. Others, however, will look very different. Like the picture on the right. Most of you will recognise my face there. I’m smiling. I seem happy. Yet, I am depressed. I am medicated. A lot of the time, I really struggle.
Where is the face of depression?
What about this image? Cheryl, dressed up as a mermaid for a Halloween party. She’s smiling, isn’t she. If anything, you’d say she looks happy. Surrounded by family – her daughter and son are just off camera in this photo – she looks as though she’s having a great day. The reality? She has depression. She has anxiety. Like me, she is also medicated and she struggles. Perhaps far more than either of us care to admit, we struggle.
Where is the face of depression?
You see, the sad truth is that there is no “face of depression”. It’s a myth, cultivated by the media and society to make them feel better about mental illness. Realistically, as I mentioned earlier, it is about as real as this “gaydar” that people talk about. Yeah, some people give off vibes that practically scream “I’m gay” but there are still plenty of people out there we surprise us when we find out they’re gay. And it’s the same as depression.
So next time someone admits to you that they’re depressed, don’t ask them what they have to be depressed about. Don’t tell them they don’t look depressed. Moreover, don’t assume that we’re fine just because we look happy.
After all: all it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul. They will never notice how broken you really are.
Depression has no face. So don’t assume.
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