Hiding Depression

Too many of us have gotten really good at hiding our emotions. I see a lot of folks who are bitter, resentful, cynical, sarcastic, and jaded. Strange though it may seem, many of them are depressed.

There’s no vulnerability in anger. We use it to cover our underlying emotions. What we hide from the world eats away at us from inside while the masks we wear prevent those who care from getting close enough to help.

No one is ever just angry. They’re angry and hurt, angry and disappointed, angry and scared. Folks tend to be uncomfortable dealing with anger and truth to tell, most don’t react to it in a healthy manner. They do, however, respond supportively when they understand that we’re hurt, sad, or disappointed.

We continue to hold a lot of misconceptions about mental health. We expect people to act sad, lethargic, and hopeless when they’re depressed. Plenty of folks do this because they’re unable and/or unwilling to hide their feelings. For many of us, (especially men) depression looks like irritability, low frustration tolerance, high stress and aggravation.

There are two main types of depression: Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Dysthymic Disorder.

Everyone has a baseline. It’s a range of functioning. Folks have good days and bad but overall they probably don’t change all that much from one day to the next. In the case of MDD, a person does show a dramatic change. They bottom out and it’s noticeable. There’s a decline in managing their responsibilities (work, school, home). Socializing is usually sharply reduced and even hygiene may suffer. MDD comes in three levels of severity: mild, moderate, and severe.

Dysthymia contrasts sharply to MDD. A person with Dysthymia does not deviate from baseline. They experience low level depression as part of their baseline. Most of these folks are hiding a sense of sadness that is always present. Some of us even manage to hide it from ourselves for weeks at a time. We stay busy, externalizing all of our energy so that there’s nothing left to look inward.

There are two main reasons why people experience depression: neuro chemical imbalances and unsatisfying lives.

If a person’s brain is not properly managing Dopamine and Serotonin, they are likely to experience times/feelings of depression regardless of their quality of life. For these folks medications are generally necessary. For the rest of us, they’re a short cut and half assed attempt to manage our mental and emotional health.

Depression is often episodic, meaning that it is of short duration and probably connected to specific life experiences. If a person is newly sober, lost a job, in the process of a divorce or experiencing some form of loss; I’d be worried about them if they weren’t feeling depressed.

If one’s life remains unsatisfying long term, it makes sense that they’d be depressed. I suggest that they evaluate their lives very pragmatically and make the changes they can. We can’t wait until we feel better to change. We must change our actions in order to evoke a different set of feelings.

As cheesy as it is, I like the expression that the best way to deal with Depression is to remove the first, second, and eighth letters from the word (leaving Press On). The longer we stay down, the harder it is to get back up. Resilience is the greatest form of strength. Get back up and surround yourself with good people. Make meaningful changes and decide what to remove from your life and what to add. Passive approaches to overcoming depression simply don’t work.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.