I was reading another blog this morning written by a young woman with mental illness (depression / eating disorder). She was talking about how people often decide how you are feeling without asking you and judge your mental wellness by your outer appearance. She mentioned that just because she happens to smile in order to fit into a social situation does not mean that she is not depressed.
This is really true. People forget that the level of our struggle with mental illness cannot be seen from the outside. If someone with an eating disorder has gained weight, lost weight, or has put on make up for the first time in a while, it does not necessarily mean they are doing well.
Sometimes people are spiraling into a deep depression and they are forced for some reason to enter into some kind of social situation, In order not to feel weird or to be pointed out, basically as a way of self defense, we may smile and put on the generally accepted social airs in public. Sometimes in order to protect our own brains from further trauma, we have to pretend to be “normal.” This is not a sign that we are doing well.
People should ask rather than assume, or worse yet tell us that they know better than we do, about how much better we are getting. I have experiences this before where someone says how well I look and I tell them something like “I am not sure where you are getting that from.” Then they say .”Oh you just don;t remember how you were a few months ago. You are much better now than you were then.”
Then even if you tell them that they cannot really see what is going on inside of your brain, they insist that they have some magical seeing power that they know better than you do, about how you are doing. This is alienating to the person and makes them feel invisible. The feeling of invisibility is a feeling that I know well.
Especially if someone has an eating disorder and another person is judging their progress about their mental illness, by their current weight, this is a counterproductive and unknowingly cruel thing to do. People with anorexia do not want to hear that they have gained weight and the weight looks good on them. They are always in fear of getting too fat and when someone tells them that they look so different now, it is triggering to them.
There are always runnings thoughts and fears in the mind of someone with anorexia. There is a feeling of not having control of anything. They feel like other people want to control their lives and that they are powerless to do anything. Theis creates a severe depression and fearfulness.
The act of someone deciding and telling you that you are in fact, “better”, in spite of the fact that “you do not remember” how bad you were before, can make the person feel very misunderstood and also manipulated and controlled. The feeling of needing to take the control back, in order not to be destroyed, will send them into a worse depression, because they feel like their feelings cannot be communicated to anyone.
It is hard to communicate our feelings about depression to other people. The words to describe our thoughts are hard to say to other people. Most people cannot tolerate or believe that our brains actually do what they do. These thoughts are not acceptable to people’s reality and therefore they are either not heard or processed by the listeners brain or they are not believed.
People tend to think that the thoughts of a person in severe depression are exaggerated. They will tell us that things are not as bad as we think they are and that we are not as sick as we feel. This is why I do not talk about my depression with other people, because when you go through the painful act of spilling your feelings, it is traumatizing to have someone not believe you.
Depression is real and it is not visible on the outside of us. Even when there are “appearance related” signs that we are in depression, most people do not see them. Outer signs of not having been keeping up with personal care, changes in weight, facial expression and low energy, are often invisible to people.
It seems like people will see what they want to see. They want to think we are getting better, so that is what they see. They want to think it is not bad, so that is what they see. They do not want to “deal with” mental illness.
I was listening to Ted Talks the other day and they were talking about the fact that our culture has taught us to not talk about our emotions. We are taught to think that it is inappropriate to have mental issues and we are also conditioned to believe that our feelings will get worse if we get into a conversation about how we feel.
People think that if we open those feelings up, they will get worse and it is better to ignore them and especially not to talk to people about them. The studies on neurology that were mentioned in the Ted Talk, had come to the conclusion that talking about feelings reduced their control and power over us. The feelings are reduced in intensity, when we discuss them. So, the very things that our culture has taught us about dealing with emotions are completely backwards.
If I find the link the that Ted Talk, I will post it for you later. It was an interesting one. I love the Ted Talks. Do you guys listen to them also? Do you have any favorites that you would recommend to the readers? I will make a post one day about my favorite ones and why.
Blessings to all for a good day,