I don’t fake being ill – I fake being well.
It’s been a difficult two weeks for me. While plenty of positive things have been happening in my life, they don’t change the fact that I am in the midst of dramatic down turn with my depression.
You’ve likely heard the phrase functionally depressed, and if you haven’t, it really is just what it seems. I am depressed, but capable of carrying out my daily responsibilities and pasting a smile on my face while doing it.
Being functionally depressed is sometimes worse than when I am laid out in bed or on the couch, unable to move, unable to be productive. That may sound odd, but it’s true. At least when I’m not able to function, I take myself out of circulation for a while and don’t have to work so hard to appear “normal”.
That’s a difficult one to explain to most people.
“You look great. How can you be depressed? I don’t get it.”
Frankly, neither do I. I do know that if there is any truth to the old phrase “fake it til you make it”, that’s me right now. There is nothing more draining than being depressed except trying to act like you are not depressed. It’s hard work.
I admit, I’m a pretty good actor and for the most part, I can get myself through a day. But I’m finding it more and more difficult to maintain my “normal” the older I get for the benefit of other people.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. It’s not to benefit other people. It’s to benefit me so that I don’t have to chronically feel like I don’t fit in. I don’t have to constantly apologize for not being upbeat and positive. Since I’m acting those things, others won’t know the truth. And if others don’t know the truth, then I can be a part of things even when I feel isolated and lonely.
I feel like my diagnosis is boring for people and I’m always afraid of being “Captain Bring Down”. My main joy in life is making others laugh and being an encouraging influence on them. I can’t do that when I’m under the bed covers crying. Sometimes I’m not even crying, I’m just numb unaware of the time of day or day of the week it is.
I tell myself I can just get through the day. If I can just get up, get dressed and interact with those in my life, eventually the pain will subside and my “normal” will return. Trouble is, I’ve lost track of what my “normal” looks like. That’s when I get the most scared. I’m scared that I’ll never feel like me again and that I’ll lose the ability to connect with those closest to me.
That kind of fear is all encompassing. It clouds my thinking and insists that no one notices when I’m not around. I can’t allow that to happen. This illness lies to me constantly and makes me feel “less than” on a regular basis and it’s a fight just to keep going sometimes. But I do.
The alternatives are too awful to contemplate. I have to keep reminding myself that this episode will eventually pass, like all the ones before it. Even when I don’t believe it, can’t possibly believe it, I tell myself it will pass.
My pain is physical as well as mental when I am depressed. I know many experience their depression in similar ways. Feeling like crap physically makes the whole “fake it til you make it” thing just that much more difficult to pull off. However, I do. I have to. If I feed into the darkness, the longer it will take me to climb out. I realize that I can’t just “wish myself well”, but I do know that I don’t have to believe everything my brain is telling me right now.
I can’t “choose happiness” (Oh would that I could) but I can choose to look happy. I can, at least during this episode (I can’t say it’s been true for every episode), get myself up, dressed, made up in a way that makes me as comfortable as I can and head out the door.
And when I can’t? I am gentle with myself and acknowledge that I don’t have to always be “on”. I don’t have to carry every conversation or even start any conversations. I just have to be.
Fake it til you make it works for me much of the time, but it’s okay when I’m too tired to do it.
About Lori Lane Murphy
Lori is passionate about banishing stigma around mental illness not just for our kids, but perhaps, especially for our kids. She believes that if we can take away some of the guilt and shame associated with these issues, conversations will become easier. This is one of the reasons that Lori organizes storytelling shows across the city of Toronto focusing on sharing stories of mental illness. All in Our Heads gives storytellers and audiences alike the opportunity to learn from each other and support the efforts of anti-stigma campaigns. It’s also an opportunity for Lori to share some of her own stories in the hope of helping others. Lori volunteers with Art with Impact by being part of their board and organizing All in Our Heads. She volunteers as a speaker with Partners in Mental Health and is especially excited about her new volunteer role as a Healthy Minds blogger! As a storyteller, comedian, professional speaker and facilitator, Lori wants to use her voice to support those who struggle with the stigma of mental illness and to help remove the shame still too often associated with it.