Losing Hope and Appearing Normal

About a week ago I thought things were turning around. I was feeling hopeful, maybe even enthusiastic. You can read about what I mean here. I had my new creative projects, I had a heart to heart with my Ph.D. supervisor and I got a lot of loose ends tied up. I was accomplishing things, I was on top of the world. That magical feeling lasted all of about 30 hours. I don’t know what happened exactly, but the feeling gradually slipped away and reality seeped back in. It probably started with the headache that I’ve had on and off all week. That’s enough to put a damper on anything.

Hold on to hope.

Hold on to hope.

I still have my creative projects thankfully. I just haven’t had any time to work on them because work has been so busy. I’ve been showing the new Ph.D, around and getting him trained on all the equipment and procedures we use. He seems nice and it has been a relief to get his opinion on things. As far as having someone to share responsibilities with, that’s not really going to happen. He is in class all this semester, so he’ll only be able to take on a minimal amount. Then, he goes back home, to Kansas, for the rest of the year. So whatever I delegate to him (plus the new stuff he starts) will end up back in my lap come January.

Although my supervisor was sympathetic to my mental health woes and my being overwhelmed, I’m not sure she completely understands. She says she does, but I feel like she is looking for the textbook definition of depression in me and not seeing it. Here is a description of the changes in appearance you see in depression from Livestrong…

“Maintaining the appearance may become less important to depressed people. The effort and energy that was once put into grooming and dressing significantly decreases. Showering may no longer occur daily; hair may go uncut for months. They may wear the same clothes day after day, despite wrinkles or stains. Clothing may become too tight or too loose due to changes in weight associated with depression. Also, dark circles and bags may appear under their eyes from lack of sleep”

This description fits me when I am at home, but not when I go out. My appearance has a huge affect on my mood. If I can’t get it together, I don’t let people see me. I let what other people think of me determine my worth. What would they think if they saw me with greasy hair, no makeup and stained clothes?! I don’t even want to think about it. So I put on a show. I keep my thoughts, emotions and anxiety to myself. I don’t let them show on my face. I hide my dark circles, I buy loose clothes that I don’t have to iron, I tie my hair back and I look normal.

I don’t talk to my supervisor about depression very much, just when it gets in the way. Every time it comes up she says something along the lines of “you look pretty good for someone who can’t sleep”. It makes me think she doesn’t quite believe me. I get the impression she is testing me. She wants to see where my breaking point is, when I finally start to fit the textbook definition of depression. Maybe I am paranoid, but she tests other people without telling them. She talks to me about it. If she does it to them, why wouldn’t she do it to me too.

I’m a little all over the place today. This is just what is rolling around in my head after another sleepless night. What does depression look like for you? Do you fit the Livestrong description above or are you like me and put what energy you have left into appearing normal? Do you feel like you are taken less seriously because you try to look normal? What do you think?

Attract:reflect quote

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. weebluebirdie
    Sep 04, 2014 @ 11:18:48

    I put a lot of store by appearances too. I can’t leave the house unless I’m showered, hair and make up done. If I look okay, then I must be okay…. I really struggled to get up today. I contemplated working from home, but knew I would achieve nothing. I knew I had to make the effort to come in to the office to be with people. It has helped, but I’ve also spent time reading blogs! But actually, that’s making me feel better too, so I reckon that’s a good thing. I agree with you, I don’t think your supervisor gets you either. But most people don’t get how you can be depressed and function at the same time. I do speak a little to the people I share an office with about how the frustrations of my work are affecting me. Not usually the Darker Stuff though. But every now and then I blurt out something a bit too telling!


    • somberscribbler
      Sep 06, 2014 @ 11:05:38

      It’s good that you pushed yourself to go in to work. Getting yourself to do something is the hardest part, I think. Once you are there, it’s not nearly as bad as you thought and maybe even helpful. I wish being functional and having depression weren’t viewed as mutually exclusive.


  2. Becci
    Sep 04, 2014 @ 13:57:43

    I too, agree with you. I put on a show. A doctor friend of mine said she can’t take people seriously if they visit her with depression yet they have taken the trouble to do their hair and make-up. She says they clearly are not depressed. I could not disagree with her more. If I have to go out, I put a monumental effort into being presentable. As you say, if I couldn’t do this, I’d stay in and nobody would see me. Isn’t it time we got rid of this ‘textbook’ fits all depression? Clearly it’s not correct but more to the point, it’s potentially dangerous.


    • somberscribbler
      Sep 06, 2014 @ 11:10:17

      It is dangerous! Especially when its doctors. Sometimes I wonder how far I would have to go before my docs took my illness seriously. I value looking and being functional, so that is where all my energy goes….to the appearance of normality and to the detriment of everything else.


  3. dramallama85
    Sep 06, 2014 @ 08:42:42

    I’m sorry you’ve been having such a difficult time, I know it feels as if the feeling of hope has been ‘lost’, but perhaps try to think of it as you had, it’s been temporarily misplaced and you will find it again?

    I rarely fit that description, occasionally when very unwell I do but for the majority of my life even when feeling very low I have maintained quite a groomed appearance. I do feel that this has made some difference to how I am perceived and how seriously my illness is taken. I think people struggle with invisible illnesses and desperately seek out physical indications and can become baffled when they don’t find them.

    There is a huge variety in the levels of functionality that people with depression have and those levels can vary in individual people too. It’s unfortunate that this isn’t more widely recognised.

    I hope you get a chance to do some of your creative projects, and that it helps you feel a little better.


    • somberscribbler
      Sep 06, 2014 @ 11:14:41

      Thanks for your comments, they are always appreciated. I think that’s what keeps me going….I know that hope being lost is not a permanent state. It will come again and it doesn’t matter how briefly, knowing that today could be the day I find hope again helps me get out of bed in the morning.
      I’m going to try to get the creative juices flowing between loads of laundry this morning! Happy Saturday 🙂


  4. rosewiltshire
    Sep 07, 2014 @ 18:05:04

    I look like sh*t at the moment but my depression has gotten a lot worse recently. I’m normally someone who places a lot of store in my appearance and I had been depressed probably for nearly three years now for this bout & for much of the time I looked immaculate, not a hair out of place. Now I barely leave the house as it’s too much of a shame walking round as I am right now.
    I went on a course on anxiety recently and they did a whole chunk on being assertive versus passive/aggressive etc. Never had a problem with being assertive.
    We all have our individual strengths & weaknesses – no one is 100% textbook. And also a lot of us vary from day to day, hour by hour.
    Sorry to hear you’re having a hard time with your supervisor. I had a few battles like that at uni as well. You can only do the best you can do & it’s not for her to try to make her own ill-informed diagnosis.


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