This Is What Depression Really Looks Like


Depression doesn’t just look like a Cymbalta commercial.

To be honest, I’ve always hated those stupid commercials. Every damn one with just slightly different versions of the same character: the unshaven lump of a man who can barely muster up the energy to get out of bed. He’s the epitome of lifeless, a shell of a human being.

But hold up, have no fear! He pops that glorious pill and cheery music begins to crescendo. Like magic, he remembers how to brush his hair! He shaves! He’s not wearing a stained sweatshirt! Oh happy day! He’s done it!!!

But that’s not how depression is. It can be. Sometimes, depression does look a lot like not being able to get out of bed or face the day. But it’s so much more. There isn’t one way depression is supposed to look, one identity you can pin to depression. It doesn’t hit only a certain demographic. Depression is like cancer, heart disease, addiction, etc. It’s a disease that doesn’t care who you are. It just doesn’t care.

I don’t know how to really describe depression. I really try. I’ve tried for most of my life to put it into words. Funny thing that happens when you’re a writer, you’re not sure how to write about the one thing you want to the most. Maybe that’s not very funny at all, actually.

Instead, I usually default to a joke. My anxiety and depression were always so much a part of my personality, I learned how to make it seem like part of my humor. It was this potentially lovable quirk, “Oh Ari, she gets so worried about things, but she’s also a goofball! What a kook!” Zooey Deschanel blew up and I gotta say, it just further helped cement my depression never seeming too serious. This kinda-nervous-awkward-but-still-obviously-functions-as-a-human-being type person was okay for me to embrace. I just had to keep joking. I had to keep it light and airy. Quirky, neurotic, but acceptably neurotic.

Because nobody wants to hear stories of 10 year old Ari, staring at her ceiling, fighting insomnia with this unshakable feeling of impending doom. That’s not fun. That’s not light and airy. Nobody wants a translation of the thoughts I don’t say out loud. Nobody wants to know my obsession with isolation. I crave solitude in a way that I’m not always sure is healthy.

Who wants to hear that shit? It’s suddenly not the joke anymore. I’m not the entertainer anymore, making people laugh and letting everyone off the hook. I do whatever I can to ease discomfort. I don’t want people to be burdened with my brain. So I’ll deflect, I’ll refer to Zoloft as my boyfriend but laugh after, so it’s okay. Right? It’s okay. I’m laughing, so I’m okay.

I don’t usually look like the characters in Cymbalta commercials. I laugh a lot. And nothing gives me the same kind of high as making others laugh too. I am the goofball. I am the neurotic-still-functioning person you all think. Most people who get to know me actually say I’m pretty much the same on the internet as I am in person. I really am actually happy quite often. I enjoy the fuck out of life so much of the time. But depression exists within me too. It’s there. It’s been there for so long, I can’t remember a time without it. And though it continues to be a journey, I’ve accepted it. I’ve come to terms with it.

Depression doesn’t look like one thing. So don’t expect it to. You aren’t supposed to be one thing.