One brave young woman, Katelyn Marie Todd, is opening up on Facebook about what depression feels like and how — when one is in the midst of it — even the smallest things, like brushing your hair, can simply be too much to handle.
“I brushed my hair today. For the first time in four weeks,” Todd began her moving Facebook confessional on May 6. “It was matted and twisted together. It snapped and tore with every stroke. I cried while I washed and conditioned it because I forgot how it felt to run my fingers through it.”
“Depression isn’t beautiful,” she was quick to clarify. “Depression is bad hygiene, dirty dishes, and a sore body from sleeping too much. Depression is having 3 friends that are only still around because they have the patience and love of a saint. Depression is crying until there’s no more tears, just dry heaving and sobbing until you’re gasping for your next breath. Depression is staring at the ceiling until your eyes burn because you forget to blink. Depression is making your family cry because they think you don’t love them anymore when you’re distant and distracted. Depression is somatic as well as emotional, an emptiness you can physically feel.”
Deep depression, as Todd describes it, is also all too relatable: Since Todd shared her brave missive, her post has gone viral, receiving over 180,000 shares and more than 12,000 predominantly encouraging comments. “You are so beautiful. I send you blessings,” wrote one. “I am right there with you!” posted another. “That took guts, you’re not alone,” wrote another.
“Kudos to her for revealing what depression really looks like and feels like,” psychologist Barbara Greenberg tells Yahoo Beauty. “She really put it in its proper perspective, and I haven’t seen anybody make it so human and so relatable. She did a beautiful thing here because she didn’t glamorize it at all. She showed the deep, ugly side of it, and did a great public service.”
The type of depression Todd’s post describes is specifically a vegetative depression, Greenberg explains — one in which you have no energy, you become listless, and you don’t care about appearance or personal hygiene because you feel hopeless. “It sucks you dry, your body shuts down, you don’t get pleasure out of usual activities, you are exhausted,” Greenberg says. “Depression has no respect for the sanctity of human life. Depression is a biological illness and a very powerful one. And nobody is really protected against it.”
What is protective against depression? A social support system. “Having people you can talk to, who are tuned into you and who are available to you is crucial,” says Greenberg. “We want to be understood, we want to connect, and unfortunately when you’re depressed, you tend to push people away. But the most important thing is that people let others know that they’re falling into a rabbit hole, and to seek professional help.”
Most people aren’t trained as clinical psychologists and won’t know what to do if a friend or family member admits to being depressed, but Greenberg says that’s okay. The most important thing is to just hear them out — and then help them get the professional help they need. “Listen,” she advises, “but do not become the only person they confide in because then you will end up feeling powerless and helpless. Reach out to a person in their life that has the agency or ability to connect them with professional help immediately, because people suffering from depression can spiral downwards very quickly, and the sooner they get help, the more likely they are to come out of it alive and well.”
If you are the one suffering from depression, Greenberg encourages you to share your feelings with someone significant in your life who you trust — such as a close friend or a parent — because “there is no virtue to keeping it secret,” she says. “Run it by them, but then also run, don’t walk to a mental health clinic where you can get help. Nobody should have to live with that — depression is treatable.”
And don’t forget that while rates of depression are higher in women than in men, guys get depressed too; the illness often just manifests itself differently. “Men may present as sad when they are depressed, but oftentimes they might be more comfortable presenting as ‘bad,’ acting out via external behaviors like drinking or excessive anger,” explains Greenberg.
She adds: “Being a man is not protective against depression. It would be wonderful if a man would [pen a post like Todd’s] talking about how they are experiencing depression … but it’s much less likely.”
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