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.

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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.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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