I’m living with depression. Me—the woman who smiles as the sunshine grazes her shoulders, unabashedly sings in public when her favorite song plays, and ensures that every work assignment she turns in is top-notch. My friends see this version of me, the sunny, always-smiling go-getter, but beneath the surface lies a vastly different side of my life.
My friends don’t see the sheer energy it takes to drag myself out of bed every morning. They don’t see the moments when sleeping through the day feels like all I’m capable of doing. They don’t hear my daily internal dialogue, the “not nows” and “maybe laters.” They don’t see the simultaneous rush of victory and frustration that washes over me as I finally step out of my room and slog to the kitchen to make breakfast.
My friends don’t see the days when even showering feels like too much. They don’t see my greasy hair and oily skin. They don’t see the clothes I haven’t changed in days because I don’t have the energy or the motivation to dress myself. They don’t see the moments of anger as I berate myself for not being able to take care of myself. They don’t see the empowering moment when I feel the warm water wash over me and know I’m defeating my depression.
My friends don’t see the overwhelming fatigue I can never seem to shake. They don’t see the moments when I lie in bed, feeling like every muscle aches to the core of my being. They don’t see the times when my body feels heavy and immovable, like lifting so much as a finger could break me. They don’t see the exhaustion creep over my entire body until everything but sleep feels impossible. They don’t see the meals I’ve missed because I’m just too tired after a full day of battling my mental illness.
My friends don’t see this side of my depression because I hide it from them. I know that they love me with my mental illness, but letting them see me in a state of utter exhaustion, bare-faced, wild-haired, numb and fatigued, reminds me of the difficult reality of my own depression. If I reveal undeniable signs of my struggles to my friends, it’ll etch my depression into my reality in a vulnerable, terrifying way—a way I can no longer escape.
But as I battle depression day in and day out, the reality of my mental health struggles becomes glaringly apparent. Day by day, I convince myself that it’s okay to embrace the imperfect, taboo aspects of mental illness—and share them with the people I care about. After all, my friends love me for all I am, and even the most challenging parts of my depression can never make me any less worthy of my friends’ love.