I catch that look in their eyes. The disbelief as they register what I have said to them. I know to look for it.
I have seen it many times before.
You see I hide it well. The face I present to the world is not always how I feel. It rarely is. The bone aching tiredness, bleakness and emotions that live within me are not easy to share. It is easier to hide them away. To pretend that everything is okay. That my world is not falling apart around me. That I can’t breathe sometimes because of what the anxiety is doing to me.
That sometimes the depression overwhelms and sometimes it empties me of everything.
This is not something I do because I want it to appear like I have an awesome life. I fill up my Instagram and Facebook feed with happy things because it is easier. Because I don’t want to make people worry, feel awkward, walk away from me. Because I find it difficult to talk, to share.
And because sometimes I need reminding that I do have good things in my life.
From the outside I can see how it must look like I am okay, that I am happy with life. After all I get up every day. I shower, I brush my teeth. I talk to people and I go out. I laugh, I smile.
You don’t see me when I’m alone.
You don’t see is the effort it costs me. How I have to build myself up to do it all. How I have a social ‘hangover’ from spending time with people. How it drains me. The pretence of enjoyment when all I want is a quiet corner to myself. How I hide away in toilets sometimes steeling myself to rejoin the people outside. The physical need to be alone.
I still function.
Some days though that is all I can do. And it takes everything I have. Sometimes simply functioning exhausts me. Sometimes I can only do it because I feel I have to. Because not doing it is sometimes so inviting it scares me. Because I don’t want people to worry.
So yes I understand why I see that look in people’s eyes when I tell them I have anxiety and depression. I understand why people find it strange when I tell them I am struggling. I understand how I act around others makes it difficult to see. I can’t blame people for not seeing it when I do such a good job at acting like everything is okay.
High functioning anxiety and depression is cruel. No one can see what is going on. Unless you tell them. So if someone does tell you that they are struggling, try to control that reaction. You have no idea how much it has cost them to say that to you.
And don’t then slip back to believing them when they take up the role again that everything is okay.