When my first post on "perfectly-hidden depression" came out, I received more than 100 private emails.
I wasn't surprised by the messages I received.
"This is me."
"I was going to hurt myself. And then I read this. I am going to talk to my family tonight."
"I can't even put into words how much I cried on the inside when I read about the perfectly-hidden depressed person."
Why wasn't I surprised?
There are a myriad of ways that you can learn to hide.
Perhaps you were abused as a child. It was at that point you began hiding your pain. You were told to shut up. Keep the secret. You have simply continued the practice. You never talk about what is really going on with you. What hurts you, what angers you.
Or you were a child of alcoholics. You learned to be hyper-vigilant. You kept your feelings completely to yourself because it was far from safe to communicate them most of the time. Children react differently in this environment, but a PHDP might become invisible to their parents to protect themselves.
They stay invisible as adults. Morph themselves into who others need them to be.
Perhaps you are male and were told that it is unmanly to admit any kind of vulnerability. This is still extremely common in our culture, believe it or not. You put up a huge front of stoicism.
Perhaps you were reared in a family where the dominant belief was to always look perfect to the outside world. To never admit to anyone that there were painful problems on the inside. Any pain of any kind.
To keep up the pretense at all costs. Not a hair out of place. Ever.
"Don't air your dirty laundry in public."
Maybe your family never talked about anything much at all. Feelings just didn't exist.
It's a miserable way to live.
You don't have to be a victim to talk about your vulnerability. Your sadness. Your anger.
It doesn't discount your strength. Or your competence.
One of the things I hear almost on a daily basis? "I hate to cry." For some reason, we have associated tears with being fragile. With breaking down. With losing face.
"Tears are about intensity. Not weakness."
You might cry, or want to cry, when you feel something deeply. Anguish. Pride. Fear. Fatigue. Joy.
It's not innately about being weak.
Folks who cry all the time for attention? Okay. There is a problem there. But that's not the vast majority of the population.
Some people have so detached from their feelings, they don't allow themselves to cry. Or they are using substances that help them detach. Or they are addicted to work, to food, or some other activity that distracts them from whatever might cause them to feel.
Some of those folks are hiding.
If you are being treated for clinical depression, good for you. You have found the courage to talk about what is really going on. That is hard. Very hard.
If you are hiding your depression, all you have to do is find one person. One person to trust. One person that you believe has the capacity to hear your story. Will take the time to listen. Try to understand.
That's where you start. To let someone see the real you.
If you cry, it's okay.
It's not weakness. It's connection.
Have a story about depression that you'd like to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at (860) 348-3376, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
For more of Dr. Margaret, visit her website at http://drmargaretrutherford.com.