Masks. We all wear them, whether we realize it or not. There's the "face" we show to co-workers and strangers, the one that smiles even as we're crying inside and gives the appearance of having it all together. Then there's the real you - the one we allow only our closest family and friends to see, if at all.
I've battled with depression most of my adult life. I've taken Prozac, off and on, since my early twenties.
A few years ago, I was having lunch with a friend who knows me very well. I told her my little black cloud had returned and that I was back on my medication. "It's a chemical imbalance," I explained. "It comes and goes in cycles."
She nodded and said, "I think it would have to be some kind of chemical imbalance."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well... look at your life. You have a wonderful husband and family, a great career, and a beautiful home. What in the world do you have to be depressed about?"
Appearances can be very deceiving.
I know my friend wasn't being mean-spirited with her remark. It's simply the truth of how we tend to perceive others. We only see the shiny sugar-coated outer layer and not the darker, uglier stuff that lies beneath.
Depression, like all mental disorders, is widely misunderstood. Society as a whole is certainly better educated these days and more accepting of those who struggle with it. But the diagnosis continues to carry the stigma that if everything appears to be okay on the outside, then how can anything be wrong on the inside?
We can't see depression. There isn't a blood test for it like anemia or diabetes. It doesn't show up on an X-ray film like a broken bone or a tumor. Society today demands proof of everything. We tend to distrust what we can't touch or see.
Also, the manifestations of depression vary from person to person and can be easily misdiagnosed. Fatigue, sadness, aching joints and muscles, stomach issues, headaches, crying spells, insomnia, violence and angry outbursts - these are just a few of the symptoms of depression. In the meantime, other causes are ruled out and the wrong medications prescribed as moms and dads and teenagers and seniors from all walks of life struggle to get through a typical day.
Depression, like cancer, is no respecter of persons. It affects rich and poor, young and old, healthy and infirm, male and female. It can also be hereditary.
We all have issues - physical, emotional, or spiritual - that we keep carefully hidden from others with a variety of masks. Perfect lives don't exist, despite the jet-set celebrity personas pervading our culture today. So the next time you start to feel inferior to someone who seems to have it all, remember that what you're seeing is just a disguise.
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