Depression is like an iceberg: the most dangerous parts are those which are hidden from view.
If you have never personally experienced depression, it might be difficult for you to truly understand and appreciate just how debilitating the illness can be. What you see on the surface is a very small portion of the suffering. In fact, people who suffer from depression often do such a good job of hiding their struggle that what you see on the surface may not even look like depression at all. Which begs the question: what does depression look like?
Depression looks different for everyone, which makes sense when you consider the fact that it feels different for everyone. There may be some overlap in symptoms and feelings of sadness, hopelessness, etc.; but no two people have the exact same experience of depression. For some people, depression might look like staying in bed for days, weeks, or even months with no desire to do anything or see anyone. For others, depression might look like carrying on with work, school, and other daily life activities with a smile on your face and a deep hidden sadness or anxiety on the inside. For me, it’s a combination of these two. For someone else it could be something entirely different that I haven’t even mentioned here.
I think what really sets people apart in their experience of depression is how much of their “depression iceberg” is hidden below the surface versus how much of the iceberg is visible to the outside world. In my experience, the individuals who show very little (if any) of their depressive symptoms on the outside are the individuals who might be in the most danger. I believe this is because the people who hide their illness from their friends, family, and acquaintances are often the ones who go the longest without getting the help that they need.
With that being said, it is possible for someone to show only a small portion of their depression to their close friends and family but disclose the entirety of their suffering to their health care providers and mental health care practitioners. Once again, I believe that I am somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. I tend to disclose my suffering to my psychologist while I simultaneously shelter my family and friends from the reality of my mental health issues. However, the important people in my life are aware of the fact that I see a therapist regularly which I guess on some level is a way of letting them know that I have a lot going on that I am not comfortable talking to them about. So in a way, my family and friends know that I’m struggling and they are there if I ever decide to talk to them about it, but they definitely do not know how bad my mental health can get and they certainly don’t know all of the ways in which my mental illnesses manifest themselves in my life.
In my experience the only way to get some relief and stop the hidden parts of the iceberg from getting bigger and bigger is to reach out for help. Even if you are not comfortable talking to your parents or friends about your struggles, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor or start seeing a therapist. If you do nothing to help yourself, the iceberg will keep getting bigger and bigger until the weight of the suffering drags you down and you could start to feel as though you are drowning in an endless pit of despair.
If you are suffering, please don’t let it get to such a dangerous point. Talk to someone. If you trust even one person with your secret struggle you could be giving yourself the gift of even one tiny ray of light. Who knows, that little ray of sun could help melt away the iceberg that’s been weighing you down. Isn’t your mental health and happiness worth taking a chance and talking to someone?
I know it’s hard, but please reach out and find support, even if it’s just your doctor.
Side note: there’s a great website called “7 Cups of Tea” which gives you a chance to anonymously talk to someone who is there to listen and support you. If you’re not comfortable talking to someone close to you, perhaps you could try talking to a supportive stranger.