Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

*All* You Have To Do Is Smile

I’m finally getting around to posting a new blog.  I can thank the snow plows that went by my house at 5:30 for what is now maybe one centimeter of snow.  My area is in a Winter Weather Advisory until 6 pm for what is expected to be a grand accumulation of 1-2 inches.  Having grown up in New York and then lived in Pennsylvania for ten years, this makes me laugh.

But aside from the trivialities of how they handle snow in the middle of Missouri–why haven’t I been posting?  One of the things I value on my blog is honesty, so I will be upfront in saying that this episode of depression (I have Bipolar Disorder) took one drastic nosedive.  My treatment team and I decided a stay in the hospital was necessary in order to be able to quickly do a complete med change and to get me back on track with the ECT sessions.  Then I came home the next week and was overwhelmed with school and the end of the semester craziness.

It’s now January.  The spring semester has started (I’m an adjunct professor at an area college).  And the depression–still there.  Still rearing it’s ugly head in a ferocious way most of the time.  And I’m bringing this up because depression is often part of an eating disorder–and it’s also often part of the recovery process.

Here are some common ways that people have responded to me telling them I’ve felt depressed lately, both when it was related to the eating disorder and now, after I’ve been in recovery for some time:

“But you look happy.”  “But you’re going to school (or work).”  “But you were just at church last week.”  “You need to get out and have some fun.”  “All you need to do is push through this and it will all get better.”  “I thought you were doing well with the eating disorder?”  “Just keep trying.”  “Keep your chin up.”  “I don’t understand; you were doing so well.”  “You should be happy that your doing better with the eating disorder.”  “Well, at least you aren’t in the hospital.” “Haven’t you been praying?” “Everyone gets sad from time to time.”  “Ugh, I know.  Yesterday was a crappy day for me.”

Some of this is our fault (not the best word choice, I know).  Some of this is society’s fault.  Society in general would like to believe that things are fine and when things aren’t fine, it’s time to change to a new topic of conversation altogether.  Some of these responses are because people who have depression quite often try to hide it from other people, for a wide range of reasons.  For me–I grew up in a family that did not discuss emotions or feelings or moods, and I grew up with the idea that I’m not *supposed* to be depressed.  I was an All Star athlete in all my sports, Salutatorian of my graduation class, drum major, a member of an area youth symphony, and a member of my church choir.  And then I went to college, and the depression got worse and the eating disorder became a very serious issue.  And I still didn’t talk about it.  And with the eating disorder, almost all people who have an eating disorder learn to hide it.  Hiding the depression came with the territory.  And I also felt/feel guilty when I talk to my friends about how I’m feeling because I don’t want to burden them, and I don’t want to worry them.

I guess my point, which I seem to be taking the long way towards getting there, is that just because someone smiles does not automatically mean they are *fine*.  People with mental illness very quickly learn to put up the brave front during the day–which may sound like a good thing.  But the consequences of putting up the brave front are extreme exhaustion, frustration, loneliness, tears, sleeplessness or sleeping too much, isolation, and hopelessness.  We learn that a lot of people brush off our comment that we feel depressed, and then learn not to trust anyone at all.

Depression is not “a bad day.”  It is not the result of not praying hard enough.  And seeing someone smile does not mean things are automatically fine.  Depression is a very serious mental illness that can affect all areas of life from home life to school to work to social relationships to physical health.  Depression is not something that you just “get over.”  It doesn’t just “go away.”  Fighting and pushing through it are two useful skills, but they will not cure depression.

People with depression need support and encouragement and a safe place to let their guards down.  They need to be able to mention the word “depression” without people shutting down, running away, or changing the topic.  They need to be encouraged to seek professional help.  They need to know that people care for them, regardless of whether or not they are depressed.

I fully realize that being a friend or family member of someone with depression is taxing and tiring and frustrating, especially in the case of severe depression or long term depression.  I recommend having your own support person and making sure that you take time for yourself to destress and unwind and relax.

I feel blessed and grateful and lucky for the people who have crossed my path and have been supportive since I began struggling with depression.  I know I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my wonderful and downright amazing friends.



And if anyone wants to ask me questions–



January 12, 2012 - Posted by | bipolar disorder, coping, depression, Eating Disorders, ECT, recovery, relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. How timely. And your bring up so many good points. Reading your words reminds me of some of my own from High School. I wrote a poem titled “Silent Scream” that spoke about the pain of hiding behind a smile and that feeling that “nobody sees, nobody hears, nobody cares. I PUBLISHED it in the school literary journal and… Nobody said a word. Thank you for talking about compulsive behavior and the pain — and giving me a space to talk about it, too.

    Comment by Whitney | January 12, 2012 | Reply

  2. you aren’t PRAYING hard enough? well, if praying cured everything, there would be no cancer, no heart disease, no eating disorders, no war, and no one acting like a jackass. you just keep right on. i missed you. welcome back, badass…..;)

    Comment by chellespinsmichelle | January 12, 2012 | Reply

  3. Hi Lexie! Thanks for sharing your feelings. I hear the pain, and the hope. I’ll be thinking of you today. Peace, Chris

    Comment by Daily Prayers for Moravians | January 12, 2012 | Reply

  4. Honest pain. My heart is with you.


    Comment by Karen Barber | January 18, 2012 | Reply

  5. the best solution of every problem is smile. it resolve all your problems

    IT Support Services

    Comment by IT Support Services | January 26, 2012 | Reply

  6. I feel like most people are wearing blinders these days and its better to pretend everything is just fine instead of talking about the reality. Love the honest post. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Jess | February 4, 2012 | Reply

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