She revealed what has been underneath her bright smile, infectious laugh and beautifully applied lipstick. She risked telling her truth – her entire story.
Thus far, her Facebook page, “The Young And The Rest Of Us,” which focuses on her 40-something life as a cosmetologist and hairdresser, has featured FB Lives of her getting botox, applying creams and gels, and demonstrating make-up voodoo to make the least confident woman more certain of her beauty selections and her technique. She’s talked openly about how her page is meant to be a boon for women 40 and above, who the advertising world ignores and demeans by using teenagers to sell anti-aging cream, and can cause any woman past child-bearing age to feel invisible and unimportant.
She’s attracted 12,000 followers in only a few months.
This time, her video wasn’t about outer beauty or confidence. This time it was about finding inner calm and purpose.
Shelby tells the story of her journey to confront and work through her own mental illness. She reveals she’s been to therapy, and has worked through a severe depressive episode, while still living with anxiety. She’s learning to manage it.
What’s the response been?
“I’d never have guessed!”
“You, of all people… you’re always smiling and happy!”
“I’ve experienced the same thing, but I’ve never told anyone.”
I don’t want to retell Shelby’s story. I’d invite you to watch and listen by checking out her FB page. It’s very moving.
There are so many people who come into therapy with this initial shame. Like Shelby, they don’t believe their problems are worth discussing, or their emotional pain warrants treatment, and they certainly don’t want anyone to know they’re struggling. Until, again like Shelby, the world becomes much darker and foreboding than they expected. Thoughts of hurting themselves, or realizing that they don’t really care if they live or not, start popping up.
“I can’t feel this way… my kids need me. I feel awful for thinking this.”
“I feel like the whole world looks at me as if I haven’t a care in the world. But I feel like I’m losing it. I try to be what they think I am. I’ve got so many blessings.”
“Where did the years go? I’m 42, and things are starting to happen that I’ve never thought would happen to me. I feel so out of control.”
What do less healthy people do who experience this shame?
They go on a crazy diet or have plastic surgery. They have an affair. They work, all the time. They volunteer, all the time. They drink or get a prescription for Xanax. They do extreme sports. They get way too involved in their children’s lives. For them, the answer to depression and feeling overwhelmed is looking more in control, adding edgy excitement to their life, or finding any way to escape the fear which is invading their psyche.
And they keep on hiding.
Perfectly Hidden Depression occurs when someone intentionally or even unconsciously lives out the strategy to hide pain from others, perhaps even themselves. There can be many reasons for it — its traits include perfectionism, avoiding conflict, not revealing your true self to others.
And it can be deadly.
You can do what Shelby did. You can realize that your depression is winning the battle and that you need to talk to someone with the experience of knowing what to do about it. You can see that your anxiety is causing you to isolate, to worry constantly and irrationally, or to dread what the future may bring.
But you have to ask for help.
I’m a therapist because I got really good therapy. I wanted to offer that same gift to others. I, like Shelby, have revealed by own panic disorder, and my history with an eating disorder (whose distorted thinking pattern still bedevils me).
There’s no shame in having a problem. There’s no shame in becoming depressed, or admitting anxiety.
And it’s so interesting what you receive from the world when you open up about what you experience. Many people will, in turn, tell you about themselves, and thank you. That’s what Shelby is experiencing now — women are approaching her in public, and showing her their gratitude.
Operations are frightening. Aging is hard to do well. Children can be little black holes of need. Depression is lonely. Anxiety feels awful.
Let’s talk openly about all of these things, both tangible and intangible.
Let’s help and support one another, for what’s actually our own truth.
Let’s tell the real story.
To identify your own possible Perfectly Hidden Depression, you can take this questionnaire.
You can hear more about Perfectly Hidden Depression and many other topics by listening to Dr. Margaret’s new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to this website and receive her weekly posts as well as her podcasts, plus Dr. Margaret’s eBook, “Seven Commandments of Good Therapy.”
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