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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.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


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Holly the delivery nurse.

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