Five Lies Depression Told Me

By Kelly Jensen

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I was not depressed.

I couldn’t be.

I had never self-harmed. I had never ideated on suicide. I had never felt the need to seek professional help for those low days or weeks or months. I wasn’t like the people I saw on TV or in movies or in books who were depressed. People I knew with clinical depression sought treatment when they engaged in destructive activities or couldn’t get out of bed in the morning or function on a day-to-day basis. I did everything with my whole heart—and depression always seemed to me to be like an all-over weight, impossible to live with.

I wasn’t like that.

The first lie depression told me was that I did not have depression.

Because I could get up in the morning, because I could take a shower and do my makeup and my hair, because I could sit down in my office at home and put in a day’s worth of work, because I could follow the routine day in and day out, my depression told me it wasn’t a big deal that I’d spend all my free time sleeping.

Depression lied about it being relaxing, recovering, and restful. Working takes a lot of energy. It wasn’t an avoidance tactic or an unhealthy coping mechanism.

Going through the performance of each day drained me, but it was ignoring depression that really wore me out.

The second lie depression told me was that things were OK if I maintained control.

By obsessively watching my food intake and making sure I ate only the healthiest meals, by ensuring I worked out daily, by spending an hour with a therapy light in the darkest mornings of winter, I would pull through my temporary seasonal blues. If I added in half an hour of yoga or a few minutes of mind relaxation techniques when I felt really bad, I could relax and avoid the unpleasant thoughts.

But being restrictive negatively impacted my physical and mental health. Insisting on controlling every aspect of my life denied me peace and balance, and it made the depression worse — which is exactly what depression wants.

The third lie depression told me was that I wasn’t good enough. 

I wasn’t a good enough wife.

I wasn’t a good enough friend.

I wasn’t a good enough daughter/granddaughter/niece/co-worker.

The critical things people said to me or about me, the mean things they wrote — those were the truest parts of who I was. The niceties, the compliments, and the solid, unwavering support of those who always had my back were all instances of temporary kindness. I was and could only be an obligation.

Depression told me people I knew loved and cared about me didn’t. That the things I thought were true and safe were anything but, and I needed to try harder to be better or retreat all together. The crushing insecurity depression wrought upon my thinking led to out-of-character behavior and the need for constant reassurance from those to whom I was closest.

The insecurity also led to building up giant walls and demanding space from others who cared about and sometimes needed me to be there. At times, the insecurity depression gave me meant doing both things in tandem: demanding reassurance while not offering the same back. Or worse, believing those reassurances were just there so that I would offer something back, even though I believed I had nothing worth offering to anyone.

The fourth lie depression told me was that I didn’t suffer from anxiety.

I didn’t have real problems. I had a house. Friends. A job. A family. Real anxiety involved trauma. Real anxiety involved fears outside of the things that I had complete and utter control over (because I could control everything, remember?).

Depression told me the anxieties I had were all made up, even as it fueled the feelings and demanded behavior that exacerbated my anxiety.

The truth is that anxiety fueled the depression that lied to me. Depression thrived off my low-grade anxieties, helping them grow, which in turn made my depression worse. Depression and anxiety weave together, for me, like a strand of DNA. They twist around and around and around, rooted and connected to one another.

The fifth lie depression told me was that it wasn’t “bad enough.” 

Depression told me getting out of bed in the morning meant I was functioning. That turning in work on time — sometimes really great work that showcased my sharpest thinking skills — meant I didn’t have miserable, self-flagellating, relentless thoughts circulating through my head. Depression told me sleeping my afternoons away was fine, even restorative, rather than part of a dangerous cycle. Depression told me that near-constant exhaustion came from pushing myself too hard on projects I’d taken on, not from being up half the night because I couldn’t shut off the voices or thoughts. Because I’d already slept eight or ten hours that day. Because I wasn’t eating enough and I was working out too much.

Depression doesn’t present one specific way. It doesn’t feel one specific way. It doesn’t function one specific way. But it will insist that it does, encouraging you with lie after lie after lie to explain away very real signs and symptoms of its existence, which only causes more pain and hurt.

Finally being able to untangle those lies and turn them into the truth of the situation—that I suffered from depression—was like discovering a whole new, different world: a healthier world where I did not have to be my depression, and my depression did not have to be me.

The first truth I told depression was that it existed, but it did not define me.

Kelly Jensen is an associate editor and community manager for Book Riot, as well as a former teen librarian, and a blogger at STACKED. Her writing has been featured in The Horn Book, School Library Journal, The Huffington Post, and VOYA Magazine. She’s the author of It Happens: Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader, a pair of essays in the forthcoming The V-Word anthology edited by Amber Keyser (Beyond Words, 2016), and the editor of the forthcoming Feminism for the Real World (Algonquin Young Readers, 2017).

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Comments (23)

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015 « TWLOHA

  2. ThankfulMe

    Thank you so much

    Reply  |  
  3. Victoria

    Thank you so much for your honest writing. For a moment I felt, that I am not alone and someone feels exactly the same like me. Either a doctor, nor friends, nor a partner could ever understand, what we/ I am going through. Thank you so much!!

    Reply  |  
  4. D

    This really resonates with me right now… after 5 years of coping and convincing, I finally have my first doctor’s appointment next week, and I’m still terrified that I’ over reacting or making it up…!

    Reply  |  
  5. Ann o numus

    I am 35 and have been suffering as long as I can remember. I just watched the movie and it resonated so much with me. Am I too old now to reach out? Just asking….but ultimately wanted to say that the movie was powerful and definitely hit a chord with me. Really hope more awareness can be brought to the surface on regards to deoression, addiction and any other form of mental illness as in so many cases they are linked in constant turn over. Thanks for doing what you do. I hrard you.

    Reply  |  
    1. Ann o numus

      Apologies for the typos. :/

      Reply  |  
  6. cristina ohlendorf

    I know all too well, that these 5 lies told by depression are very correct. I didn’t know I was depressed until it led me to do the thing I stand do strongly against which was attempting to take my own life in 2014. God got me through and I am forever grateful. Depression has a goal to ruin life’s, and to end them if out gets to that. I want to thank you for this article people need to understand that everybody can get depressed and they need to seek help if they aren’t sure but just feel ugh. Depression is serious and people don’t need to play with it.

    Reply  |  
  7. Manon

    I just want to say thank you to the team at TWLOHA that puts up these blog posts. They have encouraged me multiple times this last year. I have seen the destruction of depression in my family, I often wonder if I struggle with it myself. but at any rate I just want to say thank you so much, It helps to have my feelings/thoughts validated by seeing that I am not the only one to have them. Please keep doing what your doing. Keep sharing hope, and letting people know it’s ok to talk about their depression and that it’s ok to seek help. You are facilitating healing, and I hope helping remove the stigmas that are associated with mental illness.

    Reply  |  
  8. Ashley

    I just want to thank you for sharing this because it makes me feel less alone. I did not want to believe that I was depressed because I was still going through the day to day stuff without slipping too much, and I was ignoring the crushing desires to stay in bed and no go out anymore and chalking it up to how hard I was working. It was really hard for me to believe that I displayed some of the signs of depression because I felt that I could explain them away. I don’t have the most supportive people in my life to validate this for me, and I felt that I needed that. After dealing with it for years, I finally started treatment a few months ago, and I am feeling a lot healthier and alive.

    Reply  |  
  9. Xavier

    Preach it, miss lady!

    Reply  |  
  10. Kimberly

    Thank you. You are so right. I can still function; I still “look good.” Most people around me wouldn’t even guess my struggle(s). I guess Another lie is that I can’t ask anyone else for help, because they would not understand; they don’t realize that I even have a problem, let alone that I need help. Some times I wish some one would jut sit down and get me through the next few days, next few challenges, and remind me that I am not alone.
    I am learning that while people may have my back, what I really need them to have is my mind, if only for a few hours or days.
    Thank you so much. Your simple, profound reflections are helping me to understand myself better. And that I think is the 1st step forward.

    Reply  |  
  11. Teresa

    This post just gave me light in my dark day that I have been having. This is exactly my situation and I’m happy that in not alone. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  12. yassen

    thank you very much, you’ve just made it clear to me, I thought I was lying to myself by not having depression, it’s one big step I needed to take, and be honest with myself I just can’t get it why all people keep saying that life is great and it worth fighting for all I know is I didn’t want to be in this life I don’t even know why it just no one has ever been there, no one even want to listen and no one is ready to hear me, they can’t understand how it’s like to be alone even if I’m surrounded by people

    Reply  |  
  13. Alex

    Someone has finally put it into words.

    Reply  |  
  14. Nick Stokes

    Great story, it explains different things and misconceptions about this disease. You put it really nicely 🙂

    Reply  |  
  15. Jessica

    Thank you thank you thank you. I feel like I am going crazy and this helps me know that this is a real thing and that I am not alone ❤❤❤

    Reply  |  
  16. Pingback: 2016: Let’s Be Real & Loving! | Jessie Lane

  17. Mary

    This post made me realize that I shouldn’t doubt my experiences. That what I have gone/am going through is real. This will forever be one of the best things I have read.

    Reply  |  
  18. Pingback: 5 Lies My Depression Told Me — Viral Pie

  19. CMun

    I’d like to know how you handle it.

    Reply  |  
  20. Pingback: 5 Lies My Depression Told Me – Coffee and a Stroller

  21. Finally_Not_Alone

    It is nice to read something and be like “that is how I feel” because for once, someone understands what I am feeling. When I come up to my parents and ask them for help with depression and anxiety, they say that I don’t have it or that if I want help I need to get it myself. But then my anxiety kicks in and makes me think “they will hate me if I go and try to get help” or I dont need this help. Everyone acts as if it is so low grade, which it could be, but for me it has become my life. I want help and I wish there was somewhere I could go for it, but I don’t feel safe reaching out to everyone around me. I see pictures of me as a little girl and go who is she. I don’t want to do that anymore. This makes me want to get help even more so from watching this movie. Thank you so much for this.

    Reply  |  
  22. Pingback: 5 Lies My Depression Told Me – Daily Medical News