4 things your friend with clinical depression wants you to know.

This story was originally published on The Mighty and Better Than We Deserve.

Most of us have had it happen — the conversation that reveals someone we know, possibly even love, battles depression and we didn’t know it.

We think to ourselves “But they seem so happy!” or “They are so fun to be around!” and the news doesn’t compute with what we know.


I have chosen these statements because they are statements that have been said to me when I was finally brave enough to tell someone I’ve struggled with clinical depression for most of my life. I have even been surprised by the number of people I know who fight a similar battle, and I never would have guessed.

Here are a few reasons why the revelation of clinical depression takes us by surprise, as I have experienced in my own life.

Image via iStock.

1. Episodes of depression come and go.

I have gone as long as two years without serious bouts of depression hitting me. I was naive enough (hopeful, maybe?) to believe I had been cured. But it returned when I least expected it.

Most of my life has been a roller coaster of "emotional times" and "stable times." When I was younger, I just told myself I was a "sensitive" person. It wasn’t until a doctor pushed for more information and I researched on my own that I realized I had all the major signs and symptoms of depression and had battled with them most of my life.

So yes, it does come and go, and if you catch me on an "up," there would be no reason to suspect I could have ever had a brush with mental illness. As I have matured, I have also realized there are definite triggers, and the response to them is very real and very dramatic, but outside of that, there is little reason to discuss my illness.

Image via iStock.

2. Depression mimics (although in an unhealthy amount) normal emotions.

Let me speak plainly: If you do not suffer from clinical depression, you will have a hard time relating the reality of someone who does.

A crying fit to you may be the sign of a bad day. To someone with depression, it may be the explosion that is expressing complete worthlessness and despair. Retreating to your room in frustration to you may be a way to cool down. To someone with depression, it may the start of withdrawal that begins an emotional downward spiral. Declining a social invitation for you may mean you need some quiet time. To the person with depression, it is a way to avoid contact and remain in the darkness. You are seeing the tip of the iceberg in a person with depression, and you have no idea there is mass hiding below the waters because for you there never has been the bitterness of cold, frigid ice. Trust them when they try to tell you they feel depressed.

Image via iStock.

3. They are living functioning and contributing lives.

Again with the iceberg analogy, you see the tip of the life they present. Sure, you may see the warning signs you have read so diligently about, like weight changes or withdrawal, but for the most part, the times in my life when I have been most depressed I have also still functioned well. I have showered, curled my hair, ran my kids from place to place, even lunched and laughed with my friends.

I can’t say why I don’t usually completely shut down; I just never did. I don’t know if I function out of habit or out of hope, but I do. I rarely wallowed in my filth and let my life fall apart. As a matter of fact, when my real battles with depression and death-idealizing began, I was in school, an honor student, singing the theme song for prom and cheering at the school basketball game. But the clouds still rolled in, and I didn’t want anyone to know. So I lived and suffered mostly in private.

Image via iStock.

4. The person you know with depression doesn’t want you to know they have it.

Depression is extremely easy to downplay. A quick little "That was a rough time for me" or "I am struggling with that" is usually all I have to tell someone who is checking up on me after an emotional battle. People are understanding when it comes to struggles. What they don’t understand, however, is real depression.

Telling someone you are struggling with serious doubts about the worth of your own life or whether you have the strength to face one more day is a huge risk. Not all are created equal when it comes to this news. I have lost a friend or two who I knew just couldn’t face the storms with me. And I don’t blame them. It’s not fun, and it’s not easy. It’s even harder if a friend isn’t aware of the problem; thus, we learn to hide it. It’s safer that way (not in reality, but we see safety in hiding), so we pick and choose very carefully who we tell, if we tell anyone at all. In my experience, even upon the telling of our illness we will downplay it. We desperately want to avoid the stigma, we want to be normal, and we desperately want to be helped. We just don’t dare say those things out loud.

Because of the perceived risk in revealing this news, too many people suffer in silence. Too many pull themselves together to face the world, but alone at home they crumble in shame, guilt, and agonizing pain. The pain is the worst part of it, and while feeling it, you are sure this is the only way you have felt and the only way you will ever feel again.

Image via iStock.

That is why ending the charade is so important. As I have become more open about my clinical depression with my husband, my doctors, my church friends, and even my siblings, it is easier to win the battles.

The storms still roll in, but I have many willing hands ready to hold an umbrella for me until it passes. That is why if you find out someone you know and love has depression, your reaction will make a difference. It is why if you are struggling with mental illness, you must take down your mask.

When we work together, we can win these fights.

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less

If you've watched HBO's documentary The Vow, you're familiar with Keith Raniere. The 60-year-old founded and ran NXIVM (pronounced "nexium"), a sex cult that masqueraded as an expensive, exclusive self-help group, but which appears to have served as a way for Raniere to get his rocks off while controlling and manipulating young women.

Raniere was convicted by a jury in July of 2019 of a host of crimes that include racketeering, sex trafficking, and sexual exploitation of a child, according to CNN. On Tuesday, he was handed a sentence of 120 years in prison by a federal court in Brooklyn. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis also forbade Raniere from having any contact with NXIVM associates and fined him $1.75 million for his crimes, which Garaufis described as "cruel, perverse, and extremely serious."

The Daily Beast described the bizarre NXIVM cult as "an ultra-secretive organization that preached personal growth through sacrifice" and that had amassed an estimated 17,000 members since it started in 1998. Raniere was a charismatic leader who used the lure of the organization to indoctrinate women, pressure them into have sex with him, and engage in various forms of abuse. In a disturbing twist, the organization was largely run by women, and five of them—including Smallville actress Allison Mack and heiress to the Seagram's fortune Clare Bronfman—were charged along with Raniere, some pleading guilty to the racketeering and forced labor charges.

More than a dozen victims either spoke out or issued statements at Raniere's sentencing, including a woman who was just 15 years old when Raniere began having sex with her—or more accurately, raping her, based on her age. She said psychologically and emotionally manipulated her, leading her to cut herself off from her family. He also took nude photos of her, which led to his child pornography charge.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

Keep Reading Show less

Sam White may only be six years old, but he's got skills that surpass most adults.

The Tennessee youngster and his dad, Robert White, have swept social media and stolen people's hearts in their "YouCanBeABCs" rap collaboration. With dad beat boxing in the background, 6-year-old Sam expertly takes us through the entire alphabet in order, naming careers kids can aspire to with short, clever, rhyming descriptions of each one.

You can be a "A"—You can be an ARCHITECT

Catch a building to kiss the sky

You can be a "B"—You can be a BIOCHEMIST

Makes medicines, save lives

You can be a "C"—COMPUTER SOFTWARE DEVELOPER

With programs and systems and files

You can be a "D"—You can be a DENTIST

Cuz everybody loves to smile

Sam's ease in front of the camera, skill in rapping the lyrics, and obvious joy in performing are a delight to witness. And dad in the background, backing him up with a beat, makes for both a sweet backdrop and a metaphor for strong, steady, supportive parenting.

Keep Reading Show less