It’s a holiday picture of a young woman, her husband, and their grinning three-year old son. At first glance, the woman in the picture looks happy. Her hair is well groomed, her makeup expertly applied, her clothing stylish and flattering. And she wears a big smile.
But a close inspection of her blue eyes reveals a dull haze. A kind of fatigue or flatness.
Nearly everything about her belies her hidden grief.
But it’s the eyes that give away what’s going on in her mind and heart. Her eyes—the window to what’s going on in her soul.
A picture of depression—
I know that picture well. Twenty-five years ago, those eyes were mine. They stare out from a family picture of Chris, me, and our older son Parker taken around Thanksgiving.
But few people recognized my grief and depression. They thought I was doing just fine. At least the ones I didn’t expose my heart to did.
I evidently did a good job of hiding it. On one occasion, when I was sitting in the back of the room waiting to be called to the podium to speak to a cycling group on training and injury prevention, an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in several years approached me to say hi. He quickly looked me over and said, “Well, it looks as though life has been treating you well!”
I just smiled, nodded and engaged him in a brief chat before I spoke to the group, without saying a word about my recent loss. He left thinking life for me was pretty good and blessed.
I must have put on an exceptionally happy face. A camouflage.
The face of depression—
Mine was just one of the many faces of depression, which was kick-started by the grief I experienced after the death of my daughter.
So many think it must be easy to spot a depressed person. And sometimes it is. For many, their outward demeanor changes. They don’t want to go out, engage, be social. They prefer to sit around at home alone, binge watching television and snacking, or spending most of their time in bed, never changing out of their rumpled pajamas.
But don’t let yourself be fooled. Depression doesn’t always put on the face you expect.
While my outside might have been smiling and put together, my inside felt numb.
I struggled to find joy in anything. I felt trapped and pressured. And the more I tried to be “normal” the worse it got. Eventually I spiraled down into a state of such numbness that nothing gave me joy. And I became ineffective at life.
Thankfully, I had a doctor that recognized my symptoms and encouraged me to take a medical leave of absence from my technical school teaching position to wade through the psychological and emotional healing—the rest of the grief process—I had avoided for eight months. It wasn't the first time he'd suggested it. But now I knew I really didn't have a choice, if I wanted to heal.
But if my going-through-life-looking-normal depression had continued for another two years, I would have moved into the realm of what professionals call High Functioning Depression, also known as Chronic Depressive Disorder, Dysthmia, or Persistent Depressive Disorder.
Become familiar with Chronic Depressive Disorder—
With 350 million people worldwide and 3.3 million people in the United States suffering with this serious disorder, you’re bound to know someone—a family member, co-worker, or friends—who is chronically depressed. And trying to hide it.
Due to the recent suicides of high-profile people and younger and younger children, depression is gaining more attention these days, so discussing it no longer carries the stigma it once did.
Know the signs and symptoms of High Functioning Depression—
Because sufferers can look and act so normal, and even be successful and social, recognizing and diagnosing persistent depressive disorder can be difficult.
Be especially alert this time of year—
Christmas can be a challenging time of year for anyone, but for someone who suffers from
depression—any kind of depression—it can be particularly rough. They may be even more fragile than normal.
That’s why I’ve chosen now to provide you with this beautiful infograph my friends at BetterHelp have put together. In it they highlight:
- The definition of High Functioning Depression (HFD)
- The risk factors associated with HFD
- The 2 sides of HFD
- The signs of HFD
- The treatment options
I would encourage you to copy the infograph and post it at work, the gym, your club or any other area you think people might be helped by reading it. (For a larger version of this graphic, go to my author blog at andreaarthurowan.com.)
To learn more about depression, go to BetterHelp.
And if you think you or someone you know is suffering from persistent depressive disorder, or any kind of depression, don’t wait any longer to get help.
Until next week,
bring some hope to the hurting.
Andrea Arthur Owan is an award-winning freelance writer,
speaker, teacher and blogger. Her nonfiction and fiction works
have appeared in books, secular and religious magazines and newspapers, teaching manuals, devotionals and theater
productions. She is also a certified fitness pro and licensed,