I’ve wanted to write about this for a while now, but unsurprisingly it’s taken a long time for me to actually commit to writing this because it’s been difficult to motivate myself.
Despite what’s happening right now with Covid-19, I’ve been going to work every day (just with more mask-wearing and hand sanitising). Since I function at a pretty high stress level at work, when I am not at work I just don’t want to do anything at all. My mental and emotional batteries completely deplete and I turn into a couch potato with an attention span of a goldfish. It’s very hard to do anything that requires my active attention or concentration — things like puzzles, documentaries, serious drama/thriller movies have all become very unappealing to me. Even socialising has become problematic, and I say that as somebody who’s been an extrovert for most of her life! Obviously, I understand that I live a pretty privileged life in many regards, so I’m not complaining, but merely making observations about certain changes in my life. What people don’t seem to understand about high-functioning depression, is that just because we’re not constantly suicidal and can hold a job, it does not mean that we’re okay either.
Depression is not a mindset. It is not a choice. It is not something that you can “just get yourself out of”.
I used to love spending time with friends, having long, open conversations about life, relationships, parents, death and everything else. I used to be up for spontaneous hikes, trips to the cinema, gigs…you name it. But when you’re always exhausted, everything that used to be fun, that’s supposed to be fun, is no longer that way.
The most ridiculous thing I experienced recently, is when there was a day when I just wasn’t feeling it (in lack of better words to express myself). I didn’t want to smile at anybody. And when I met up with a client, he commented that I was very miserable looking.
“Why are you not smiling? Come on!”
What bothered me at the point was not only the expectation that everybody has to be jolly and positive all the time, but that women should always smile and be friendly. Okay, okay, maybe you think this came out of nowhere, so let me explain. Mood disorders impact individuals differently, such as the way in which different symptoms manifest or impact people’s lives and relationships. But they also create different problems based on the perceived gender of the person. For example, women are traditionally expected to be maternal, warm, more smiley and sentimental, whereas men are expected to be more rational, less expressive…etc. Of course, as the world and our societies progress, these expectations also change with it. However, just like the ‘brooding man’ is often seen as more attractive, women who have turbulent emotions or mood disorders are often seen in a more negative light. They are often described as ‘crazy’ or ‘attention-seeking’. Obviously, I’m only speaking from personal experience here, but when my client was displeased by the fact that I was not smiling, it kind of bothered me.
“I don’t owe you anything. I don’t need to smile for you.”
is what I thought at the time. I was being polite to the client and I saw no fault in what I was doing.
Anyway, I digress. I thought that there was an increased awareness and acceptance of people with mood (and other) disorders now around the world, but apparently it really depends on where you live and who you’re talking to. Many people still have a very limited understanding of mental health issues, and many people are still ignorant to these things. Like many other social issues, it’s no longer a matter of whether it exists, but how you understand and live with these people. You can’t expect everybody to live life the way you want them to, and we need to be more kind to each other.
Just because I’m not always bubbly, doesn’t mean I’m bitter. Just because I no longer enjoy coming out for a drink as much and as frequently as I did before, doesn’t mean I suddenly hate you. (I mean, there’s also the corona-virus).