Let’s talk about it: The multitudes of depression

Ava Razavi

Content warning: The materials discussed within this article may evoke strong emotions as it discusses suicide, self-harm and mental illness. If this topic is sensitive to you, please proceed with caution and reference the mental health resources below.

It can happen anywhere: on the drive home, in the middle of the classroom or even in the midst of a lively conversation. The feeling of depression sets in and lodges itself sternly in the back of one’s mind. 

The media, especially antidepressant infomercials, paint depression in a homogenous way. They display a person, more often than not, female, in a state of disarray – unable to get out of bed, shower or socialize. Then, instantly, with the use of the advertised product, they are cured and return to their original state. They are back to laughing with their friends, exercising and spending time with their families.

With depression impacting over 300 million people a year worldwide, it’s probable that many have a similar experience to the one described. Nonetheless, that is not the only form of depression that exists – it’s one of many. So, let’s talk about it. 

Illustration by Carsen Goltz

Depression expresses itself in multitudes. Some people are able to hide their depression behind plastic smiles and fake laughter; others are not. It’s no surprise some feel they need to conceal their condition. While there is nothing shameful about having a sickness, our world is not kind to those with invisible illnesses. We have judged and invalidated those who can’t fully explain the darkness that exists in their minds. With this lack of empathy in conversations surrounding depression, it’s not surprising that many people are fearful of opening up about their depression when it doesn’t align with society’s view of it.

Depression isn’t a fixed and stagnant condition. It ebbs and flows depending on external factors. One of these levels is a more mild, yet persistent, form of depression called smiling depression. Medical professionals define the condition as a subsection of depression where people are able to hide their depression behind a happy, “healthy” exterior. 

Those with smiling depression do not fit into the mold of depression that the media loves to portray but still have a valid experience. The feelings of hopelessness and apathy exist in their minds but are hidden behind masks. Everyone experiences depression differently. For some, it hits quickly and strongly and then it passes. Others fall into depression slowly and remain in that dark hole for weeks on end before feeling any sort of relief. There is a lot in between and that’s okay. You don’t have to meet every one of the hundreds of WebMD-approved symptoms of depression for your condition to be validated. 

Depression hurts. Whether one hides their condition or not, it’s an illness that takes a toll with every breath taken. Chances are, you’re surrounded by people who are in pain. Your neighbor, best friend, significant other or even favorite Bark opinion columnist could be struggling internally and you could never know. 

In times like these – when you’re so in your head about your illness – it can be hard to see the support system that surrounds you. Rest assured, there are people who love and care for you. I’ve relished the empathy that my distant relatives, classmates and the occasional strangers have to offer just as much as I have in the empathy of my closest loved ones. 

I won’t tell you it gets better because, honestly, I don’t know if it will. But if you ever feel like it’s getting too much for you to be able to handle it on your own, please know that it’s okay for you to reach out for help.

If you are struggling with your mental health, reference the resources provided. Redwood’s Wellness Center is open during school hours and has counselors available. Outside of Redwood, The Greenlight Clinic is a short-term free therapy service for teens in the Bay Area. If you are more comfortable over the phone, the Suicide Hotline 988 and Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) are available 24/7. If you or someone you know has hurt themselves or others, please call 911 immediately.