Just last month have I only opened up about the anxiety and depressive symptoms that I’ve been having publicly to friends and family. I mean, apart from the close ones that I’ve opened up to earlier. And I find something interesting. Since I first opened up to people about my symptoms, people who knew be back before I developed the symptoms would say something like, “What happened to our happy, fun Nadirah?” or “But you look so happy and normal.”
I smiled whenever I hear these. I guess I am reallyyy good at concealing my emotions. Before anything, let’s just clarify that much of anxiety and depressive symptoms overlap each other. It’s a matter of which symptoms are one dominant of. For me, it’s anxiety. And another disclaimer here — I’m not talking about situational anxiety or depression that mass experience in their daily lives.
Anxiety and depression often goes unseen, unrecognised, and undiagnosed. We tend to believe that hardship is worn openly upon one’s chest like a battle scar, but many of these wounds do not easily reveal themselves to those that do not take the time to look. Well, yes. Here I am talking about my experience of dealing with the symptoms. However, I’m only doing this to educate people and let them have little insights on what those with mental illnesses are dealing with. Heck, I never told anyone about my anxiety apart from my doctor for a little over three years!
So, back to why I’m writing this post (I get distracted easily 😂). People who have anxiety and depressive symptoms may intentionally make efforts to appear okay and maybe even seem exponentially happy and upbeat. I am one of those people. The idea that those with depression all have one similarly dreary personality is false. Depression is more than just a mood. Those who live with depression have learned to alter their apparent moods, and may even be some of the most seemingly “happy” people who you know. Personalities can vary. Often those with anxiety and depression try to stick with the positive and public parts of their demeanour regardless of what they’re going through on the inside. It a matter of “I don’t want to bring anyone else down, even if that means hiding how I am truly feeling.”
Secondly, they may have habitual remedies. There are serious ways to treat anxiety and depression, such as medications and therapies. However, in addition to these remedies. there are lifestyle habits that those affected use to treat their everyday state-of-mind. For me, it’s when I meditate, read books, and perform my prayers. It can be in the form of music, exercise, driving, walking, or basically anything they know can get themselves out of a sinking set of emotions.
Anyone who has experienced anxiety and depression understands the burden it can be. It can also be a burden for those closest to them. Sometimes when you let someone in enough to see the struggles you have, they walk the other way. Though it’s hard to blame these people from leaving, it creates a serious feeling of abandonment for those affected. It forges the need for secrecy, out of fear of the recession of those they love. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than finding out your ugliest layer of self is too ugly for someone you love to handle. 😞
Even a person who knows how to live with the burden of their own mind will need help. Outcries from people you aren’t expecting are easily overlooked. Sometimes it isn’t safe for people to be on their own with their anxiety and depression; as much as they say differently. Sometimes they will reach out. Sometimes they will open up. These moments are the most crucial, as they are especially powerful. They are what creates a closeness and trust among friends that isn’t always easy if some feel they have to camouflage their true selves.
Shading the world from one’s personal “demons” is not done for the sake of dishonesty. People who live with anxiety and depression in a private and undisclosed way do so for protection. It’s for the protection of their hearts. It’s for the protection of the people around them. It’s for the protection of the success of their dreams. We live in a world that encourages us to hide what is dark and unpleasant. We don’t have to, but we do.
The most important habit and motivation of those with camouflaged anxiety and depression to understand is that they search for love and acceptance. We all do. The only way to gain is to spread it. Please don’t turn away from a person who seems to be struggling. Love and care when it’s difficult. Reach out when someone closes the door.
p/s I’m feeling genuinely fine right now, promise. Just writing this post to address how I was before I opened up about my anxiety to the people around me. I still do mask my symptoms in front of people, but it’s because I feel like so, not because I have to. 😊