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.
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?