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Mar28
2016

Five Lies Depression Told Me

By Kelly Jensen

Ten years ago, TWLOHA came into existence as a story that invited people to speak and to be heard, to seek help and to help others, and to live this life together. This month we’re looking back on the last decade and sharing some of our favorite blog posts from TWLOHA’s history along the way.

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).

Want to contribute to our blog in 2016? Send an email to info@twloha.com with a submission or pitch.

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Comments (13)

  1. Suzie

    Et le sixième mensonge que la dépression m’a dit c’est que le bonheur n’est pas pour moi. Qu’il n’existe pas. Mais c’est faux, je veux être heureuse.

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  2. Denise Foulds

    So very true! Especially if you are perceived by all those around you see you as an achiever, sensible and rock solid!

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  3. Jacquie

    This is amazing. And side note- I know Amanda Nelson, at Book Riot. Keep on keeping on.

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  4. Annie

    Wow. Thank you.

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  5. Jessica

    If reading this and agreeing to nearly every point is any indication, I think I may have depression. How I’m feeling looks nothing like the depression described in pop culture.
    I have very few of thr classic ‘symptoms’ yet I know something isn’t right and this post just says so much to me.

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  6. Elizabeth Skillman

    Kelly,
    Thank you for sharing this. I have been keeping my pain and suffering to myself for years because I thought that no one really cared. Just these past couple years I have finally opened up about how I felt to my family, they all didn’t understand why or how I could be depressed. Like you said in the first lie depression told me, i didn’t have depression. After finally saying it out loud i started to question if I really had depression or if i just thought I did. Everyday I do get out of bed and go through the day, but nothing I do ever stops the constant emptiness i feel on the inside. I feel like all the friends I make only talk to me because they feel sorry for me, or because they just use me to get things from. I never feel good enough for anybody and Im afraid that I will never know what it feels like to be happy. No matter how hard the darkness tries to consume me I fight because I want to feel happiness, I want my family to not worry about me anymore, I just want to be better. Your post made me truly open my eyes and see that the only way I am going to get better is if I admit that I do have depression and that I am not alone. All those voices that tell me I am not good enough, I am not worth it, I will never be loved, are nothing but lies. I have depression, but I will be okay.. maybe not today or for a while but knowing that I have that someday to hold onto, gives me hope. So I just wanted to thank you and say that your words mean something, they mean everything to me.

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  7. Rod

    Everything I felt was so perfectly put onto word . thank u for giving me insight to why I am the waybi am. I’ve been obsessing about killing myself since I broke up with my partner of 6 years and the love of my life. I still don’t know if I’m going to live tgtu this ….I’m finding it very very hard to let go and find a reason to keep going. I’m here today so today is all we havecreally

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    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

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  8. Ylenia

    I came across this blog hoping to find something that could explain how I’ve been feeling for so long. Years ago I was forced by my parents and by my school to undergo intensive psychological care and lost the will to live. Many scars later and attempts, and through the endless battles I’ve had to face just hoping to stay sane, I’ve only become worse. Today has been an especially bad day, but tonight I came across this. Even though I was forced into medical help, I never really understood what I had. And your words helped me and now I’m absolutely bawling my eyes out because for the first time I understand and I can see some kind of light at the end. I want to thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for this post.

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  9. Pingback: I’ve Been Meaning To | MyTornHeart

  10. Ester S

    This is exactly what depression told me and what I told depression when I realized that it wasn’t me. God delivered me from depression 3 years ago and it’s like a new world. I still battle, because it always tries to find its way back but I’m glad I know now that it’s a fight I can win. Thank you for this!

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  11. sofia

    Your words felt like a breath of fresh air.
    Lies depression told me:
    I was raised in a christian home, I am christian, I cannot be depressed. Christians do not get depressed, because it is a sin, because we are supposed to have joyful lives.

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  12. Mark Limke

    Thank you for the thoughtful and insightful article. It spoke to me, as someone close to me is almost to a tee the person you describe. I shared this with her. It made her cry, but helped, I think. I do wonder what the next steps are, if there is a way to make this better for her. You described a first step, what you told depression, but I do wonder what was next. Thanks again, Kelly. I hope you are improving.

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