A mom’s experience with smiling depression reveals a tale of millions who suffer silently, presenting a facade of cheerfulness. Her story provides an insightful perspective on “When Happiness Disguises a Parent’s Hurt,” a situation many parents may find themselves in.
I wish I could say that this is a good day, a fine day, or a good day, but I’d be lying if I said I was content. That is winter’s dead of night. The air is chilly and fresh. I am shivering within my own residence. The days are brief. There is little light, but everything feels so lengthy. This is because I am experiencing another depressive episode. I can sense it suffocating me. Covering me.
In an ocean, I am treading water.
I am drowning despite my ability to swim.
Oddly, you would not recognize me if you saw me. Last month, I attended a Gala with crimson lipstick and a dramatic cat eye. I recently attended a party. With a grin on my face, I imbibed sugar cookie martinis. There were kisses and hugs. There was affection and tenderness. And yesterday, I sang karaoke. I sang ballads till my stomach ached and my voice ached. But I was internally screaming. I was in tears. I was on my deathbed. Internally, life had become too much for me to endure.
GoodTherapy, an online mental health directory, and resource states that the term “smiling depression” refers to a person with serious depressive disorder who covers their symptoms. “It is frequently referred described as ‘hiding behind a smile'” because individuals with smiling sadness do exactly that: they hide behind a cheerful façade. They may even attempt to convince others that everything is fine. Those with smiling depression, often known as “high functioning” depression, are highly productive. This category includes numerous celebrities, as well as parents, employers, students, and creatives.
“Individuals coping with smiling depression… will find themselves dealing with the hallmark signs of severe depressive disorder,” GoodTherapy explains. These comprise feelings of melancholy, hopelessness, rage, and impatience. Those with high-functioning depression or smiling sadness, on the other hand, appear “normal” and/or upbeat from the outside. People typically feel they’re compelled to conceal their depression symptoms.
Obviously, this is the case with me; I do my best to conceal my condition, whether deliberately or subconsciously. I am a mother and wife. An employee, sister, and friend. I was raised by a parent with mental illness, and I do not want my children to live in the shadow of my misery. I do not wish for others to feel responsible for my disposition. Therefore, I frequently and loudly laugh. I always smile brightly, despite having crooked teeth, and push through the agony. I take my children to the movies and birthday parties, and theme parks when I want to give up. When I am tempted to surrender.
But the reality? After leaving my daughter off at school each morning, I climb (back) into bed. I lay in the dark for 90 minutes before my day starts. Sometimes I sleep. Other times I stare at the ceiling, cold and alone. I take regular breaks during work. At least once a day, I lean to my left, fold in half with tears in my eyes, and fight off negative ideas. My mind is at battle with itself. My temper is short. I am furious, enraged, and volatile. And I waver between being engulfed by my sentiments and being void of them. Indeed, numbness is one of the most unpleasant symptoms of depression.
I am a human skeleton.
A ghost encased in a shell.
As a parent, this may be the most difficult aspect of smiling depression or my own melancholy. As a caretaker. As a mom. For while my children provide me joy, I cannot perceive it while I am ill. While my children bring me warmth by giving me moist kisses and warm hugs, I cannot feel it while I am ill. And while I laugh at their jokes, especially my son’s potty humor and my daughter’s honest but entertaining antics, my chuckle is hollow when I am sick. I am void.
Strangely, I am an advocate for mental health. I urge my children, as well as my family and friends, to discuss their emotions. I routinely inquire about the well-being of folks I care about. Perhaps to a fault, I am empathic, and I engage in counseling to address my demons. To keep negative voices and thoughts at bay. Also, I take medication to treat my problems. To be a better individual, mother, and wife. But my smile does not indicate my health.
An article from the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) notes, “People with smiling depression are frequently coupled or married, employed, and highly accomplished and educated.” “Their public, professional and social lives are not struggling. Their façade is constructed and finished. Behind the mask and behind the doors, however, their brains are filled with feelings of insignificance, inadequacy, and despair.”
The report continues, “a worrisome correlation exists between smiling depression and suicide.” Chronically depressed people who report a rush of energy may be more prone to attempt suicide, in contrast to those who have so little energy that they cannot even get out of bed.
So, what can one do if they are afflicted by smiling depression? What ought you to do? First, you should proceed. Hour by hour. Day by day. Second, if you aren’t currently obtaining help, do so. Communicate with your friends and family. Instead of saying, “I’m alright,” try opening up. Maintain basic activities if possible. Attend your treatment visits, for instance. Take your prescribed medication as directed. And remember: You are not terrible or broken. You are neither frail nor imperfect. You are ill and require medical care. The darkness will not continue forever, so take care of yourself as you would a sick family member or friend. Because melancholy changes and eventually lifts, and because there is always hope, even when it does not feel like it. Even if it’s just a flash. A spark. A bright thought.
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