Even though people with Perfectly Hidden Depression (PHD) are actively masking their pain, with enough stress, defenses start to break down.
The mask that you wear on a daily basis — the one that hides vulnerabilities and secrets that you keep — is slipping.
Pain starts leaking out from the recesses of your mind.
There’s a realization this is happening. What used to work isn’t working anymore. You’re feeling more and more out of control. Anxiety, or even panic, can feel like it’s gripping your chest. Simple breathing becomes difficult.
“I had stopped on the side of the road, on the way to work. I had a gun in my mouth when my wife texted me. She had sensed something that morning.”
“I was about to drive into a semi. But then I saw the driver’s eyes. I knew he would believe he had killed me. I couldn’t do that to another human being — I couldn’t hurt him like that.”
These people with PHD woke up. They had to admit that the way they were living their lives was too painful to bear.
But coming close to suicide can’t be the standard we have — to give someone permission to admit the loneliness and emptiness they feel.
One of the problems can be that someone with PHD, who is a master “giver,” has established relationship with people that are good “takers.” That’s what really good givers do — they attract really good takers. The relationship swirls around the problems or the feelings of the taker. It’s not necessarily the fault of the taker; they are enjoying the attention. They might not even realize that the giving skew is heavily weighted in their direction.
Or they might realize it, and not care. Or need someone taking care of them, in some way.
The one with PHD can safely hide, knowing that they’re won’t be too many questions coming their way.
But what happens when the person with PHD realizes that it’s time for them to allow someone in? They don’t want to become suicidal before doing something about their real pain.
Who do you count on — to be there for you? Who do you trust enough to let them discover who you really are?
I’ve asked this question of countless people. I ask them to look around in their lives, and let their instinct — their gut — lead them to one person in their world who might seem like they would listen. They would not only listen, but they’d support and understand.
Sometimes, there’s no one. I, at least for a while, as their therapist, will have to stand in that position.
Other times, when they really stop and think, there’s one person who comes to mind. Someone who seems to accept themselves well, can laugh about their vulnerabilities, or aren’t trying to be someone they’re not.
Find the one person who’s worthy of the risk of revealing yourself, and you’re on your way.
But what’s most important to remember?
[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#perfectlyhiddendepression”]You are worthy of the risk of being known for who you really are.[/tweetthis]
This potential confidante may or not be in your closest circle of friends. In fact, they’re probably not. A healthier person is aware of the percentage of giving and taking that belongs in a good relationship, and would do their best to ensure it’s fairly even. All your attention on others, all your giving (and not being able to receive) would have seemed strange to them — maybe even have been off-putting.
So how do you approach?
Ask them to meet somewhere privately with you. Tell them you have something to talk about that’s really difficult, and you’d like for them to listen. Set the meeting up for success.
It may feel like you’re breaking a thousand rules. You may hear your mother’s critical voice, “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public,” or your father’s screaming, “You don’t appreciate all I’ve done for you.” You may sound awkward to yourself. You may start out by saying, “I really feel funny talking to you. I have so many blessings in my life.” Stop yourself and start over, and don’t discount the importance of your own hurt and pain. It will be hard to be honest.
All of that is okay. The only rule you’re breaking is the one that’s kept you disconnected.
Unknown — and alone.
You can hear more about depression and many other topics by listening to Dr. Margaret’s podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to this website and receive her weekly blog posts and podcasts, as well as free downloadable ebook, “Seven Commandments of Good Therapy.”!
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My new book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression will be arriving November 1, 2019! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life. More to come.