By Sade Andria Zabala
“For those suffering from depression, the world has fallen apart every day and is put back together the next day.” – Emily Casalena
How is a depressed person supposed to act? Who is a depressed person?
If you ask the movies, most of them might say a person with depression is an introverted, shy, bullied, suicidal underdog who could’ve been saved to neurotypical-ness if the person they loved just loved them back. If you ask the poems, most of them might say a person with depression is a narcissistic, eccentric, one-of-a-kind tortured artist longing for acceptance, for purpose, for something other than the empty every day.
But what if you’re depressed yet still able to tweet dumb, hilarious, self-deprecating jokes? What if you’re depressed yet still go about your daily routine? What if you’re depressed yet still attend parties?
Although the stigma of mental health has decreased, the romanticization and stereotypes of mentally ill people – especially those with depression – seem to remain the same.
Depression manifests itself in many forms. Rarely do we talk about the extroverted depressed people or the high-functioning depressed people.
Of course, there are people who experience depression in a catatonic state as is often portrayed by Hollywood. Some days I feel like that, too. There are times where I want nothing but to stay in bed for an entire month because I do not have the energy to shower, eat, think, feel, or do anything at all.
But more often than not, my depressive episodes coincide with my normal habits. I go to school, I do my chores, I play with my pets, I laugh with my friends, I show up to therapy, I perform publicly, I work, I shower, I dress nice, I gossip, I have sex, I masturbate, I joke, I take selfies, I party, I eat, I read, I study, I exercise, I compete, I chase success – I do everything that typically indicates a well-balanced woman, however, I still grapple with myself internally.
There are many people like me. There are clinically depressed people who crack jokes, crave attention, have fun, and talk loud. There are people who cope with their depression in unconventional ways.
Unfortunately, many individuals can’t grasp the complexities of a depressed person. Some people, despite their left-leaning stance on mental illness, will become surprised or upset if you’re anything but strong or inspirational (especially if you’re like a lawyer, activist, manager, etc.). A person may advocate for self-care, self-love, and the normalization of mental health, yet alienate a depressed person who isn’t exhibiting the stereotypical signs and symptoms of depression.
A person shouldn’t claim to advocate for the mentally ill if their support is limited to sharing on Facebook news articles on depression. Our reality isn’t just a cause you can add to your social justice resumé, especially when you ostracize us when shit hits the fan. Depressed people aren’t all Hannah Bakers or Sylvia Plaths who cultivate their depression into a thought-provoking, stirring life lesson for future generations, and depression isn’t a fever or a cold wherein you can tick off a check-box to make sure all the symptoms are there.
Depression isn’t always sad, dramatic, and heart-breaking. Sometimes, depression is bitter, cynical, and angry, yet still humorous. Sometimes, depression is empty, dark, and hopeless, but still coping.
Our depression may not look like how you expected it to look, but it’s still valid.