I was suffering from depression for a long time yet in denial about it. Especially since the common conception of depression is someone bed-ridden and obviously downtrodden. It wasn’t until I discovered the term smiling depression that I finally figured out there was a name for what I was feeling and the symptoms I was exhibiting.
I had several major life changes that led to my decline in happiness. I had a failed relationship that scarred me deeply because I placed so much into it. Then I decided I wanted to make a change in my life and got a new job. However, this new job ended up making me feel more alone than ever. And right before I started it, I had some family drama that also hurt me deeply and made me question so much.
I moved for the new job, so I was in a new city without my family or friends. In this city, I experienced my first real winter which didn’t help my feelings. I wanted to better myself, so I started graduate school at the same time as this move and the new job.
I felt so drained learning and getting used to the new lifestyle of my job and trying to accommodate school. My body also began to change because I was getting older and this made me insecure. It made me feel like I didn’t recognize myself.
All of this was a deadly combination that caused me to feel less confidence in my self and to feel like I wasn’t sure of my place in life. I had so much pain, anger, resentment, hurt, and sadness. I felt overwhelmed and at the same time isolated. I was still carrying the pain from the failed relationship and family issues.
Yet despite all that I was going through, I still put on a smile and act of contentment.
On the outside looking in, everything looked great. You got a job that allows you the ability to travel the world, you’re going to a new city. How exciting! You got into school and are bettering yourself! You’re amazing! You’re single now, the world is yours! You’re getting more of a grown woman shape, you’re growing up! Things that on the outside look great to others have a dark side that people don’t realize.
Through this time, I kept up the appearance of happiness. I was pleasant to everyone, never let other people see me cry or down. I was energetic, I was bubbly. No one would have guessed that inside I felt like dying. It wasn’t until I was trudging back to my lonely apartment one night after work that I realized how bad things had gotten.
It was near one in the morning and the world was sleeping. I was slowly making my way through the snow, trying to be careful not to fall. At the same time, I was beginning to think, no one even knows I’m out here. I feel so alone and unnecessary. I began to think about how much easier it would be to simply not exist. Then I started to think about death.
I was halfway to my apartment, standing in between giant piles of snow and hidden amongst some thick trees when I just stopped. I didn’t feel like going on. It was there that I laid down. As I lay there in the freezing cold, I looked up at the dark sky and thought how easy it would be to just allow myself to stay there. I began to think about how it would be to just freeze. Allow hypothermia to set in and slip into a sleep I would never wake from.
It was then that I finally admitted to myself that something was wrong. I had never had these kinds of dark thoughts before. I was suffering from depression. I was suffering and hiding it behind smiles and feigned happiness. I began to shed tears which led to sobs. I thought about the person I used to be. I thought about the people really close to me that would be hurt if I wasn’t there. Then I made a promise to myself that I would try to get better because deep down this isn’t me.
So I struggled with pulling out of my smiling depression. I began reading books on the topic, reached out to anonymous chat sources for depression. And was more honest with my best friend about my feelings. I made some mistakes along the way seeking validation and self-acceptance from others rather than within. It wasn’t until I truly isolated myself from social media and expectations of happiness that it was feeding into that I started to make headway.
It sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? You were feeling alone but didn’t want to be, yet you purposefully made yourself alone. But that’s the point. I chose to isolate myself so I could get better. To really look at me and understand my feelings and emotions.
Now I am at a better place mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It wasn’t easy. Each day I learn to love myself more and dig into that well of happiness that can only come from within. So now I can say my smiles aren’t a mask to hide my depression. This didn’t come easy, this all happened in the expanse of four years.
The best advice I could give anyone suffering from smiling depression is to not be afraid to actually tell someone else how you are feeling and reach for help. It isn’t a weakness, you are stronger when you can admit your faults.
Realize that you can be your own worst enemy and color your own reality into shades of gray. It requires deep reflection and honesty to push through your pain and sadness. An affirmation I came up with to help me feel more in control and grounded is:
I decide my experience of life.
I decide to be happy.
to be sad,
to be angry,
to be beautiful.
I decide my reality.
In this, I have the utmost control
because I am the owner of my mind and senses.
It was hard to write about what I went through but if it can help someone then it is worth it. Check out my post defining and discussing smiling depression and resources available to you if you have more questions.