Last year, a local hair salon owner, Shelby Lambidonis, did an apparently simple thing.
She revealed what had been underneath her bright smile, infectious laugh and beautifully applied lipstick. She risked telling her real story.
Up until then, her Facebook page, “The Young And The Rest Of Us,” had focused on her 40-something life as a cosmetologist and hairdresser. She had recorded live videos of her getting botox, applying creams and gels, and demonstrating make-up voodoo to make the least confident woman more certain of her product selections and her technique. Her advice was meant to be a boon for women 40 and above, who the advertising world ignores and demeans by using teenagers to sell anti-aging cream, and can cause any woman past child-bearing age to feel invisible and unimportant.
She’d attracted 12,000 followers in only a few months.
This time, her video wasn’t about outer beauty or confidence. This time it was about finding inner calm and purpose.
Shelby told the story of her journey to confront and work through her own mental illness. She revealed she’d been to therapy, and had worked through a severe depressive episode, while still living with anxiety.
What was the response?
What can happen when you open up about hidden depression…
“I’d never have guessed!”
“You, of all people… you’re always smiling and happy!”
“I’ve experienced the same thing, but I’ve never told anyone.”
Maybe you’re one of the people that doesn’t believe your problems are worth discussing, or your emotional pain warrants treatment, and you certainly don’t want anyone to know you’re struggling. Your world can quickly become a much darker and foreboding place. Maybe even thoughts of hurting yourself start popping up.
It can be frightening.
“I can’t feel this way… my kids need me. I feel awful for thinking this.”
“I feel like the whole world looks at me as if I haven’t a care in the world. But I feel like I’m losing it. I try to be what they think I am. I’ve got so many blessings.”
“Where did the years go? I’m 42, and things are starting to happen that I’ve never thought would happen to me. I feel so out of control.”
Unhealthy ways of trying to avoid and deny depression…
There are so many ways that you can try to hide.
You go on a crazy diet or have plastic surgery. You have an affair. You work — all the time. You volunteer — all the time. You drink or get a prescription for Xanax. You take up extreme sports. You get over-involved in your children’s lives. For you, the answer to depression and feeling overwhelmed is looking more in control, adding edgy excitement to your life, or finding any way to escape the fear which is invading your psyche.
And you keep on hiding.
Perfectly Hidden Depression occurs when someone intentionally or even unconsciously lives out the strategy to hide pain from others, perhaps even themselves. There can be many reasons for it — its traits include perfectionism, avoiding conflict, not revealing your true self to others.
And it can be deadly.
You can do what Shelby did. You can realize that your depression is winning the battle and that you need to talk to someone with the experience of knowing what to do about it. You can see that your anxiety is causing you to isolate, to worry constantly and irrationally, or to dread what the future may bring.
But you have to ask for help.
I’m a therapist because I got really good therapy. I wanted to offer that same gift to others. There’s no shame in having a problem. There’s no shame in becoming depressed, or admitting anxiety.
And it’s so interesting what you can receive from the world when you open up about what you experience. Many people will, in turn, tell you about themselves, and thank you.
Operations are frightening. Aging is hard to do well. Children can be little black holes of need. Depression is lonely. Anxiety feels awful.
Let’s talk openly about these struggles. You have them. I have them.
Let’s help and support one another, for what’s actually our own truth.
And you can tell your real story.
To identify your own possible Perfectly Hidden Depression, you can take this questionnaire.
Please confidentially email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you experience or have questions about Perfectly Hidden Depression. Or you can read more of my posts here on Psych Central or on my own website.
If someone has been hanging in there with you for years, and loving you well, click here for “Marriage Is Not For Chickens,” the new gift book by Dr. Margaret!
You can hear more about PHD and many other topics by listening to Dr. Margaret’s new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford.