As a vocal mental health advocate, I’m always encouraging my followers to seek out support and to be honest with friends and family about what they’re going through — not to hide their condition or isolate themselves from others.
But I’ll be honest with you: I don’t always take my own advice. Nobody is perfect, and there are times when I fail at trying to do the right thing when it comes to managing my depression. Sometimes that comes in the form of hiding, or masking, my depression from others.
Here are some of the avoidance tactics I’ve used to hide my depression.
The most obvious way to hide your depression is, well, to hide. Isolation is one of the things that comes naturally to us when we are depressed. We can sit back in our homes and avoid social media, the telephone, and if you’re really good at it, even a knock at the door. It is difficult for me to isolate myself from certain people who are close to me, like my parents or my very best friends, because they know me well enough to know when something isn’t right — if I don’t talk to them for a while, they’ll come looking for me. Though it might feel good to have some space for a little while, the fact is that you can’t hide from your depression and self-isolating is only a temporary solution to a bigger issue.
Crankiness and sour mood
I like to think of crankiness as isolation’s cousin — if you’re in a foul mood all the time, no one will want to be around you. It’s a great way (sarcasm) to avoid accountability and self-isolate. There was a time when I was working on a really large and overwhelming project. Instead of recognizing that I was in a bad place and needed support, I acted miserably toward my boyfriend at the time. Being irritable with the people around you is unfair and doesn’t do anything but make you feel worse than you already do.
I’ve learned that a really good way to avoid processing my feelings is to never stop moving long enough to think about them (sarcasm again). Just a few months ago, I was in the midst of a particularly bad depressive episode, and I kept myself busy from the time I woke up in the morning until I went to bed at night. I didn’t want to think about my troubles, so I just buried them under more work. It wasn’t long before I felt totally burned out, frustrated, and even more depressed than I was to begin with. Being busy is like slapping a bandage on your issue without cleaning the wound first; you’re protecting it from the outside, but underneath it’s getting more and more infected.
There might be times when you will be asked to come out of the house when you just don’t feel like it. Or when you’ll feel like you need a break from being around other people. Or times when you need to escape from the people around you and decompress.
For all those times, you have smartphones to help you “check out” in any situation. Pulling out a phone or other electronic device is a way to disappear in plain sight.
I have spent entire holiday events scrolling through my phone. I told myself it was enough just to be in the room, but the truth is that I wasn’t present. I was there and not there at the same time.
You don’t always have to have your mental health on display in order to seem more “real,” and you don’t have to share personal information with people you don’t trust. There are many reasons why those of us with depression might feel that we need to keep our condition under wraps. We might fear potential criticism from friends or coworkers, or maybe we just don’t want to bring the mood down.
That said, don’t make masking your depression a habit — it can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms that only make your condition worse, and it makes it hard to ask for and receive help when you need it.
For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
DEPR-US-NP-00054 MARCH 2019