Among the many misconceptions regarding depression, the most dangerous is the widely held belief that if someone looks fine, then they are fine.
The truth is - those who are battling depression are the greatest method actors of our time; living every second of every day via a persona created with the sole intention of fooling the entire world.
Their eyes peer through the mask, trying not to betray the pain and the loneliness that is burning inside. Occasionally the mask slips, and for a brief moment their true self appears - yet who is there to witness it?
This fleeting glimpse of sadness and despair disappears into the wind. Will there be another opening? Will anyone even notice if there is?
This is the virtual prison that many of us are locked within - we can look through the bars and even reach out from time to time but try as might, we cannot seem to grab anyone's attention.
We're a ghost without a chain to rattle; haunting our own minds, waiting for an exorcist of some form to release us from our own personal hell.
Yes, it may look like my life is in order but if only you knew how I really felt...
Lonely and alone are completely different
To most ordinary people, the word 'lonely' indicates that someone is devoid of human contact or is somehow strange or 'different'. Surely it's unfathomable for your best friend or partner to feel lonely, especially when they are surrounded by love and affection... but yet, the world isn't black and white.
The person with whom you feel closest to in life could be entering a darkness that is beyond your wildest comprehension.
This person could be extremely happy with their life. Alternatively, they could be on the verge of suicide.
This isn't scare mongering, this is reality. Of course, most people who truly feel alone don't think about harming themselves, but that doesn't reduce the seriousness of their plight. These people are so good at hiding their true feelings that it becomes impossible for anyone to read their emotions.
But there are always signs. The mask slips occasionally. You may not even consciously recognise them but over time there could be a nagging feeling that something isn't quite right.
Go with your instincts.
Ask someone if they feel ok. Tell them that you're always there should they require your help. Pride gets in the way, it always does - but this is a lifeline, an opportunity for them to reach out if they need you in the future.
In society, mental health is still seen as a taboo subject and millions of people refuse to acknowledge they even have a problem, let alone admitting it to someone else. But it doesn't matter, offer that support anyway, it could make a huge difference.
Being alone doesn't mean you're lonely. Likewise, and more importantly, you can feel lonely without being alone. The two can be mutually exclusive.
We all need to remember this.
What about you?
Are you part of a vibrant social circle and surround yourself with countless friends but still feel like an outsider?
Do you put on a brave face and pretend that your life is rosy when inside you are desperate for change?
Do you feel envious when you look at everyone else and how perfect their lives seem to be?
Are you desperate for someone to ask if you're ok just as an excuse to connect?
There's nothing more frustrating than being in a social situation yet feeling like you're completely disconnected from reality. I could sit here and reel off a million and one reasons as to why this may be the case but the truth is we are all different and no two bouts of depression or loneliness are the same
The glue that binds everything together is the overwhelming belief that we are in this alone. This is not the truth, this is a warped perception based on our response to the things we pick out to support our own belief system.
Human beings are abysmal at viewing the world with an unbiased eye. Once we have a theory, we will seek out evidence to support it and disregard everything else. For example, have you found yourself thinking about someone only for them to suddenly ring you? Of course, I'm sure this has happened to everyone at some point.
It's extremely common for people to attach some sort of significance to this event but what about the 500 other occasions when you have thought about someone and they haven't called?
Our perception of reality is like this. The religious will ignore the science that contradicts their faith. The jealous wife who believes her husband is cheating will attach significance to every late journey home or weekend away. The lonely individual will interpret every minute of silence as a lifetime of indifference.
This wall that you put in front of yourself is entirely self-imposed. A barrier to protect yourself from the pain, but in reality it just reinforces the negative opinions you already have about the world around you.
I'm just here to tell you that feeling depressed or lonely is natural and your negative perception of the world is just that, a perception. Everywhere you look there are people who give a damn, so allow them to do so. They aren't psychic and because you're so good at hiding your true feelings, they may never know without your help.
Say something, anything.
Stop reaching through those bars in a quest for attention and unlock that self-imposed door instead.
You're not lonely - you just think you are.
Take a chance on someone, they may just surprise you.
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Further reading - Depression is NOT a mental illness