Five Lies Depression Told Me

By Kelly Jensen

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 (41)

  1. Rosanna

    Hi Kelly, thank you for sharing your experience. I really resonated with what you wrote and can relate it to my depression experience. I wanted to ask you, once you realized the truth that you were dealing with depression, what specifically did you do to become healthier? Can you expand on what you did to not let depression take a hold of you and define you? I’m curious to see how you came to this place. Thank you!

    Reply  |  
    1. kelly

      Hi Rosanna!

      Kelly here. I went to my doctor and talked. She did a routine exam, as well as looked at potential underlying health issues that can present with depression (things like a bad thyroid!). But it was none of those things: it was depression and anxiety, full stop. I made the choice to take medication and it’s made all of the difference for me. Some people will thrive that way, others will thrive in therapy, still others can find self-healing techniques, but the first step might be talking with a professional, and it can be as straightforward as your regular doctor!

      Reply  |  
  2. KP

    I try to stop in and buy something every time I see you at a rock festival. This is so incredibly spot on. While I fight the struggle with bipolar disorder, I have always been more prone to the depressive side and anxiety is a huge issue. I am so thankful to see an outstanding doctor that I’ve been with for over five years. Thank you for bringing this content to us. Really enjoyed the read.

    Reply  |  
  3. Tonia

    The above is my life. I’m not suicidal and never self harmed, but the above is my life. I rarely sleep because I can’t turn off the thoughts, but I am always tired. It’s exhausting. And I’ve tried about 10 different antidepressants over the years and none of them work. I go on feeling like I do. So here, I am. Just existing, barely, in my monotonous life.

    Reply  |  
  4. Guilene Regnier

    What insight! I have never thought of it as you so eloquently explained it. I have battled depression in all the ways you mentioned untill I found rest in my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. His words of truth have taken the heavy burden from me as He promised in 1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Now, I live in freedom. Praise God.

    Reply  |  
  5. J

    Thank you for writing this. That is the hardest part. When you’re told/think how insignificant your problems are compared to everyone elses. Thank you for verbalizing what has been rotating in my mind.

    Reply  |  
  6. Liz

    Well written.. & Truthfully 👍👍👍👍

    Reply  |  
  7. Jewelz

    This was truely inspiring and eye opening. Thank you for writing this and giving me the courage to move forward.

    Reply  |  
  8. monica

    *snap snap*

    Reply  |  
  9. Ally

    so much truth. as someone with anxiety and depression this speaks to me. one of the hard things about my depression is that it takes a while for me to realize i’ve “relapsed”. that i’m struggling again. that i can’t get out of bed in the morning, not because i’m exhausted, but because i have no desire to be awake. i tell myself I’m fine i get to work on time and get schoolwork turned in on time. but when i am home, i sleep. right now though. i’m in a good place. i have more good days than bad and when i have a bad day i acknowledge it. when i have a good day i acknowledge it. i’m in that stage in my depression that i refer to as “remission” and to use a quote posted by TWLOHA on Facebook “even on my worst days in recovery, i am worlds away from my best days of my illness.”

    Reply  |  
  10. Kelly

    I struggle with depression mainly at night is this common?

    Reply  |  
    1. Leigh

      Depression is always worse at night, for me. It’s the time where, after my husband and son are asleep, I get a clear mind just long enough to begin worrying or let myself wander into what’s bothering me. This is also the time I would lean on food to comfort me. Before I got help, I would wake me husband up after being up for hours alone and cry repeatedly for attention, if he wouldn’t give me the support I wanted (and to be honest, I never knew what I wanted) I would begin to self-harm during anxiety attacks. One night, when I had reached my peak of an anxiety attack, I called a friend who had previously talked to me about her issues. I had been medicated several times in the past and wasn’t sure I wanted that again. Yet, I knew this wasn’t in my control any longer. I made an appointment and I got help, emotionally and medically. So, to make a short answer long, it was my “normal” to experience depression and anxiety at night because it was always related to feeling alone. I hope this helps. Just know, you’re not alone, ever.

      Reply  |  
    2. kelly

      Nights can be hard, for sure! Sometimes when it’s quietest, when you feel most “alone” because the world’s asleep, the thoughts won’t stop. But you aren’t alone for those experiences at all.

      Reply  |  
  11. Grace

    So true… I have been dealing with depression for 15 years and I lie to myself that I am expert in managing it and controlling it. Admitting a relapse is difficult… Because after 15 years I “shouldn’t” have any relapses, insightful post. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply  |  
  12. Rose

    Nailed it

    Reply  |  
  13. Mary

    Very well written and clearly understood

    Reply  |  
  14. Heather

    I can really identify with your story. I have accepted my depression but my partner and friends don’t understand it and I’m always being told how miserable a person I am, I’m sick of hearing that! I would love nothing more than to ” just be happy”.. it’s like I don’t feel like I deserve to be happy, like if I allowed myself to be happy the other shoe is going to drop.

    Reply  |  
  15. Jen

    You put it into words. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  16. Gabrielle


    Reply  |  
  17. Alyssa G

    Thank you so much, Kelly for writing this. I was spiraling down into another depression without recognizing the symptoms. Reading your article snapped me back to reality and made me write in my own blog again for the first time in four months. So, thank you for helping me realize I need to look out for myself again, and realize that I’m not alone in these feelings. I owe you one.

    Reply  |  
  18. Sherry Haymond

    I wish there were a way to “share” your words – go “viral” – thanks! Sherry

    Reply  |  
  19. Arielle

    Thank you ❤️ for putting your thoughts and feelings into words. It helps

    Reply  |  
  20. Alisa

    This is incredible. Depression is real and telling the truth is the first step about it. Thank you 🙂

    Reply  |  
  21. Hannah♥️

    depression told me just one ____ wouldn’t hurt and I could control it.

    Reply  |  
  22. Brooke

    Thank you, so much, for sharing Kelly. I have to admit that I broke down in tears reading this blog post because I’ve experienced all of these lies and I know how painful they can be.

    Reply  |  
  23. deb

    I discovered recently that I had depression, but for years and years I knew I had anxiety. I haven’t been diagnosed, but I am fully conscious of the fact of my actions that I have it. Sleeping in till noon, knowing things need to be done in the house, but I tell myself I put so much energy for work, I don’t have it to clean or fix the house. Wanting to express myself but not no motivation to draw or the fear of messing up a masterpiece. The only thing that honestly helps me is Jesus Christ. Reading he bible before bed. Something about it lifts that weight that anxiety and depression weighs on me. I’m able to breath for the next day and just trust in that hand that guided me through everything. But I fall back to old habits and get signed in to three struggles of today. Working at a deli making only slightly above minimum wage. Not being enough to support on your own? Wanting to go to school but still trying to find the right career path and not wanting to spend all that money with no guarantee of a job to pay it off? People with artistic skills are seemingly running scarce of job opportunities to be able to support themselves. Computers are becoming the only way of creatinging cartoons than the original way. I’m just blabbering, but am I the only one that feels that way? Fear is depression. Not being good enough . no inner piece.

    Reply  |  
  24. Hannah

    One of the biggest lies that depression told me is that this was who I am. My sweet, happy, loving personality was a complete act, and if anyone cared to look beyond that, they’d see the “real me”, the depressed, chaotic, anxious, stupid, broken, dark me that did everything wrong. It told me that my life was just layers upon layers of masks, with every deeper mask getting darker, and I was terrified of finding out what sort of darkness was at the core.
    One of the biggest lies that depression told me is that the masks protected me and everyone else from who i really am.
    One of the first truths I told depression is that it is a monster that invades my life and presses down on me, and it is nothing but a cruel intruder. It is not who I am.

    Reply  |  
  25. Robert

    Your writing resonates with a fierce passion and detail that I am able to relate to and understand. I struggle with a lot of things most people would consider infantile. Thank you for putting into words what I have beaten myself up trying to get out for months.

    Reply  |  
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  27. Lexi

    Thanks Kelly for writing this. I’ve recently come across this organization and with this being the first piece I read, it really spoke volumes to me. I’ve never been able to fully explain how I felt/feel or why it seemed like I always denied being depressed. It was the thoughts in my mind that tried to convince me that I am not, in fact depressed. I’d always tell myself, “I’m not in that bad of a situation… my hardships are nothing compared to others,” etc. This is the first time I’ve read anything near what I’ve felt and how I thought, so thank you for sharing yourself with all of us.

    Reply  |  
  28. midnightshope

    Thank you for writing this!

    Reply  |  
  29. Carolina

    Thank you for writing this. I don’t have a “diagnosed depression” so, even though I feel identified with all the things you discovered about your own depression, I find it hard to consider that I might be depressed too. I feel like I can’t tell anyone what I’m going through because it might not be that serious. I don’t really know what to do about this. I’m from Argentina, so I apologize for any mistake in my writing. Thank you if you’re reading this.

    Reply  |  
  30. thomas

    Amazing and dead on thank you for sharing this with us depression and anxiety could work its wonders in many different ways! Thanks again

    Reply  |  
  31. Hind

    So real tank you,

    Reply  |  
  32. samantha harvey

    everyone has a past a tell myself on a daily. i try hard to keep the door closed of what likes to creep in and haunt me. the past two days i have gotten up at 6:30 to get my cousin up for school and then i g back to sleep. later in the day i get up and i just dont feel like dong anything i just stay in bed. if i want to go to sleep i have flash backs and staying u im not really doing anything but my mind is thinking constantly about things i’ve forgotten about. but the one thing i keep saying to my self when my aunt asks is are you depressed or is someone bothering you i say no i’m just tired. but reading your blog and others i have this feeling of needing help. heeding someone to help me stay on track because on the out side i smile and laugh and help those around me while fighting with my own demons that taunt me.

    Reply  |  
  33. april vallee

    I can totally relate. when im not depressed I lie to myself and say im ok. I just don’t want to have to face it or deal with it. the depression just seems to big to deal I pretend im ok but so scared of the monster coming back and well I make it through the next time. I spend a lot of time ignoring and in stress and fear. thanks for sharing I feel better knowing im not alone

    Reply  |  
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  35. Randy

    Well said. Depression told me the same lies and more. Mark Twain was quoted as saying we read to know we are not alone. Thank you for writing this. RJD

    Reply  |  
  36. Michael

    This is so well written and brings so much truth. The lie that it is no big thing, yet when you finally open your eyes, you see that you have been standing on an iceberg. Thank you for putting your experience with depression out there to teach those who do not understand.

    Reply  |  
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