Oct 10, 2012 - Psychology    9 Comments

Look At This

There’s no grey cloud over my head. There’s more color than black in my wardrobe. There are four playlists called “Happy Songs” on my iPod. I laugh a lot. I’m unfailingly friendly and polite with strangers. The boxes on my calendar empty out.

This is what depression looks like.

My hands clench hard, leaving an array of half-moons on the soft skin of my palm. My shoulders ratchet up. My Irish-pale skin blooms with uneven roses. My lips feel tight. I use shorter words, then no words at all.

This is what anxiety looks like.

I plunge my hands into racks of clothes. I can’t get enough of a certain song. I scan poll numbers for the troughs and crests that the patterns show me. I find a way to use specific words in every conversation, words that are stuck like burrs in my mind. I can’t stand cranberries. I close the door, turn off the lights, put on the fan for white noise, and wait for the world’s loudness brightness sharpness to subside. I click my mala beads through my fingers while I talk on the phone.  I remember everything.

This is what Asperger’s Syndrome looks like.

I snuggle and tickle my kids, and the other kids who think I’m the Cool Mom because I read them stories, and get down on the ground to play their games, and giggle at their goofy jokes. I work hard–harder than I should, sometimes–and I hold myself to exacting standards. I watch screwball comedies, costume dramas, and cerebral documentaries (or so NetFlix tells me). I make pretty things and give them all away. I send my energy to those who need warmth, healing, sympathy, celebration. I play with my phone too much. I read every day. I speak out against injustice. I do more than speak. I see characters and scenes in my head, but I can’t hear the dialogue. I love my husband and our millions of inside jokes. I check my blog hits all the time.

I take medicine three times a day, without fail. Some of them keep me heavier than I wish I were, but still I take them. I take my meds even though I feel great–maybe especially when I feel great. I pay attention to my moods. I talk to my doctors; I keep my appointments. I know what the inside of a psych ward looks like. I know it’s better to keep fighting than give up. I know how deep the hole goes. I try to be kind. I live every day in color.

This is what mental health looks like. It looks like everyone else. And it needs to be out in the clear light of day.


  • As someone else who lives with anxiety and depression and who’s seen the inside of “those places” and taken meds, all I can say is, “Well said.”

    • Thanks so much for sharing that. Every voice matters.

      • Do you mind if I share this on Facebook?

        • Not at all! Please do if you think it would be of help to anyone you know.

          • Thanks. 😀

  • /highfive

  • Thank you. I see a lot of people coming out and talking about mental health issues, but you put it succinctly and very very nicely. As someone who sometimes (often) struggles with these things, and with trying to get those close to me to understand, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • So beautiful!

  • As always, well said. Thanks, Jess.

    Depression has been a major part of my life. Despite not even being aware of it for most of the time.

    Over the summer I was going through some old writings and odds and ends and I came to a dramatic realization of just how much depression had impacted my life in subtle and not-so-subtle ways over the years. This was outside of my serious episode which started in ’01. It was kind of stunning seeing things in retrospect I couldn’t understand at the time.

    Acknowledging that it is real and looking out for its traps is key for me in managing it every day.

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