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planted A recent UK social media campaign started by Blurt for Depression Awareness Week popularized a very important hashtag on Twitter, #WhatYouDontSee. I think many of us can relate to messages like this one:

People don’t “look” depressed because depression isn’t a facial expression #WhatYouDontSee

A mental illness is an invisible illness. It’s a battle we fight daily, even on good days. It’s not easy. Depression is more than just being sad. You don’t need to look sad all the time or be crying to be depressed. It’s so much more than that. The Mighty posted an article, “28 Parts of Depression That Often Get Missed” containing some of the best and most relatable tweets using that hashtag:

  •  The absolute exhaustion after getting home from a normal day at work faking it for the outside world.
  •  all the ‘concessions’ needed in order to function. can’t do too much, too fast, or you risk crisis. one step fwd, two back.
  •  The feeling of shame & self-doubt is crippling. Total lack of self-worth. Feeling worse for the effect it has on close ones
  • @BlurtAlerts  The times I’m told (& tell myself) that my situation is nothing compared to those with “real problems”
  •  is how painful it is when people dismiss your problems or aren’t respectful of your feelings 
  •  is the struggle, the pain, the exhaustion and absolute torture your mind puts you through. You are an empty shell.
  •  is sometimes I cry on my way to school or work because I know I’ll have to pretend to be fine.
  • people don’t ‘look’ depressed because it’s a freaking mental illness, not a facial expression 

These tweets are honest and I’ve experienced these feelings too. I’m exhausted at the end of the work day because I am trying to stay calm, neutral and get my work done (let’s not forget how hard it is to concentrate). Concessions? I must accept that I should not take on too much and should be careful not to overexert myself, except I am a people-pleaser so I don’t know how to say no. But I am learning to be more vocal at work — I have even started to “gently” educate people about using mental illnesses as adjectives, and when I am stressed and overwhelmed I make it known (in a nice way) that I am busy so people will leave me alone.

Feelings of self-doubt? I keep doubting my memory and my abilities to drive, complete work and focus. Feeling like people minimize my “problems” or feelings and like they aren’t “real”? There will always be people who think that mental illness is less of an illness than a physical illness or that you are not entitled to be depressed or anxious because you have a “good life”, “a lot going for you” and “should be happy”. I know many people go through difficult periods of times and everyone reacts differently. Regardless, you should never tell a person with a mental illness that their feelings are invalid or minimize their feelings; it can really make that person feel like crap. Lauren Bacall

Twitter is an amazing social media platform where you can meet fellow mental health advocates and bloggers. I find a lot of great information and people I can relate to. Someone I recently have been in touch with is @BipolarHotMess, whose post “Dear Friends, I Suck” is something I think friends and family members should read. I too know this feeling: “I have crawled into a cave and found myself a nice cozy blanket in there.” I feel like hiding when I am in a depressed state and anxious. I want to shut down and just take a remote control and press pause. It’s hard being a people-pleaser, someone who herself has high expectations, to learn to find balance (or try to) and it’s hard to relate to others at times. We are so hard on ourselves. We want to practice what we preach, but we don’t have the motivation or time to do it. Does it make us hypocrites? Are we sh**heads for having real feelings too and needing support? Nope. We’re just humans. We’re strong people trying to live well in spite of mental illness.

As I have said before, not every day is the same. Some days will be better than others. Some days I can be more productive at work and forget my anxiety. Other times it stops me from focusing. But no one at work can tell what is going on, because I have become so good at acting. That’s what they don’t see. I can manage feelings of depression and “fake it” at work better than I can while experiencing anxiety. Both are exhausting, but the anxiety is not as chronic, and I am trying to use deep breathing to control it and to distract myself at work. I appreciate that I am learning to take back control in that regard, so good work, Anxiety! And to my depression, I’m going to say let’s make a deal and listen to these lyrics of Chumbawamba’s song “Tubthumping: and move on so I can feel like I am living life:

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down

japanese proverb

About Melanie Luxenberg

My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!

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