Smiling depression is a real thing, and it’s dangerous. The sadness of a frown could never compare to the hopeless truth behind the mask.
I’ve spent years, even decades living behind a mask. It’s not that hard to do, it’s easy to rise in the morning with mask firmly in place, and go about the routine of maintaining everyone else’s happiness. It’s a simple dance, step by step placement of the right words at the right time. A smile is always the icing on the cake, assuring that things are as they should be.
The objective – be happy, and make sure they all think you’re happy as well. Sounds kind of like one of those television sitcoms from the 50s or maybe the Stepford Wives, a movie which portrays perfect women completing perfect tasks every single perfect day. Wow, those two paragraphs exhausted me… but I’m still smiling.
I’m not happy all the time, mind you, not really. I have a mental disorder, I smile because society expects me to. My depression is hidden deep behind the veneer of making sure no one feels uncomfortable. But I really need to break this down for you, because at this point, you might be confused. This is what all my gibberish is about – asymptomatic depression or smiling depression.
First off, I want to help you understand smiling depression. This condition is marked by an outward appearance of happiness marked by inner turmoil. Of course, most people never detect the inner turmoil part, only the cheerful facade. Even the victim of inner pain sometimes never faces their own depression. These feelings can be hidden from self just as well as they are hidden from those around us.
Who are they these people behind the mask?
Smiling depression doesn’t just affect people with low incomes and sketchy lives. It doesn’t target dysfunctional homes and rebellious teens. Smiling depression, believe it or not, often affects seemingly happy couples, the educated, and the accomplished. To the outside world, you got it, these victims seem like the most successful individuals. Take me, for instance, I always got compliments on my positive and cheerful demeanor.
There is danger behind the smile.
The worst part about smiling depression is the risk of suicide. Yes, this ailment is dangerous, and it’s simply because there are few who know the truth behind the smile. Most people with smiling depression never give others a reason to worry about them. They are active, intelligent and seem to be content with life for the most part. There are not warning signs, and suicides of this manner rock the community.
Basically, from my own experience with mental disorders and depression, I see the smiling type as a cover, and it is. For various reasons, some deny their true feelings because of shame and others from denial, those that suffer from this issue are incapable of breaking down the barriers of their afflictions. It has become instinctual to hide the way they really feel, or even to hide feelings from themselves. As for me, I know I’m depressed, I just don’t wish to share this darkness with those who refuse to understand, namely my closest family members.
Oh, how troubling this all seems. It sends a shiver down my own spine to think of those friends who have died without intervention. One of them could have been me, many times over.
There are ways to help
If you wish to help those with smiling depression, you have to learn the signs in order to confront the disease. These signs may be evident to you or the one who suffers behind the mask. My aunt has intervened with my smiling depression on several occasions with statements such as…
“I know you’re not okay. You’re not fooling me, so let’s talk about it.”
This is what she saw that alerted her to a problem. These signs are noticed in many other ailments as well, but to her, the combination, paired with my fake positive attitude, pointed directly to depression. I may be fooling others, but she wasn’t having any of it.
- Overall feeling that something isn’t right
Pay attention to little cracks in the perfected facade. The more you pay attention, the more these signs will show through. When you have a feeling that someone you love is suffering from smiling depression, try to talk to them about it. Maybe they will be able to share the truth and you can work on the solution together, even if it means learning to cope with the issue indefinitely.
Mental illness is serious business, and another way to help those with smiling depression is to kill the stigma. Many people hide away because of the way they are treated due to their conditions. Eliminating shame will help bring many sick and hurting into the light, and support will finish the healing process.
Let’s remove the masks and face the world in truth!
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