Friday, 2 May 2014

Depression: Behind the masked smile...

Alice, Drawing, Art, Pencil, Alice in Wonderland, My Life My Son My Way, Depression, chesire cat mask,
Depression is one of those things that people pigeon hole, stereotype and think they know all about.
Most would say they are great at spotting when someone's sadness is turning into that little bit more.
When asked who they would say had depression, these were the most common responses...

The sad, crying, miserable one in the corner of a busy room (who may have lost a loved one) who obviously doesn't want to be there but has to be.
The addict.
The one that is harsh, rude and cold hearted because they are clinging on to the pain inside, who doesn't leave the house, cuts off all communication to people and speaks very little.
Are you nodding? would you say these were stereotypical signs of a person with depression?
Well you're not wrong, all those stereotypical symptoms are in fact relevant and very real and can definitely be put down to depression in most cases (remember, some people who are rude, are just rude and only karma can help them). The reason these are your common responses is because these things can also be easily spotted by your average caring eye...

But depression is so much more sneaky and conniving than that...

Depression comes in so many silent, secret and 'unknown to others' ways and these can often be the most severe cases of this horrible disease because they don't get the help they need and often when people work it out, it's too late.
You see, depression comes in all shapes and sizes, in lots of different forms and with lots of triggers and coping mechanisms. 
It is just like us humans really, every one is different in their own way.
Depression is a huge problem in the lives of so many and, scarily, to the majority it will go unnoticed and fester until it becomes more than just a sad, empty feeling inside.

Alice, My Life My Son My Way, Depression, Eyelashes, Girl, Head in hands, Depression went unnoticed in me for years.

It still does. 
I'm the girl with so much to say, always laughing, joking and playing the fool. 
I'm the girl with a smile on her face, who loves to meet new people and make sure everyone is put at ease.
I'm the girl who will help others before she would help herself, give up something so someone else could benefit from it.
I'm the girl who to so many has so much and who has the ability to stick two fingers up at all that is thrown at her and deal with it in her stride.
I'm the girl with depression
I'm also the girl who when the door closes and when alone, loses the ability to smile at all.
In fact, I often lose the ability to even move, speak or look at anything other than the floor.
Until someone walks in the door, that is.
Then I smile, laugh, joke and go about like everything is normal, like everything is as they'd expect.
My ability to hide behind a mask of a smile is incredible and I often shock myself, I can go from crying to bright eyes and laughter within one deep breath.
That has come with years of practice and fear of people's attitude towards depression and the ability to parent a child with it. 
It has also come from years of practice worrying about losing the people around me by depressing them with my depression, lets face it, it can get boring for those on the outside if you are constantly crying, that is never fun for anyone even the best of friends. Sad but sometimes all so very true.
You see, for years I've pasted this mask of a smile on my face when around others. I've shrugged it off and lied when asked if all is okay, when really, I'm struggling inside.
Sometimes my smile is quite genuine though on these occasions, sometimes I just can't help it, you know, like when you watch a funny cat video on youtube or your child's first steps. Genuine happiness shines through.
But sometimes even those times are tainted by a genuine rock bottom empty feeling in your heart, head and stomach and not even Ninja Cat can crack a smile on your face. I can't actually pin point where that emptiness feeling actually exists but it's there and it's real and it often physically hurts as well as mentally.

Anyone can get depression.

Even the people who have the most in life, actually ESPECIALLY those who have everything in life, like celebrities and professionals.
Money does not get you out of this one.
In fact it can taint it to the point of disaster.

In the few days before the death of Peaches Geldof she was seen to be 'happy and loving life' by those who surrounded her. She, like me, had perfected the painted smile mask and knew how to use it. In her case she had much greater demons than myself and she used her mask to defeat the worlds media and trick them into thinking she was back on track. She had that little extra hurdle in which I think I'd hate, having to front the people who could make or break you all day everyday and knowing they can make your life and demons so much worse in one headline. She was happy and loving being a parent, or so she would have had us believe. She was in fact crying inside, fighting for the life that everyone thought she had but not quite getting there. I see it in so many. I see it in myself.
This makes her no less of a good mum to those children whilst she was alive. You could see the love for them was stronger than ever and it makes her love for those children no less than any other parent with or without depression. It doesn't mean she didn't appreciate her life and what she had any less than what we would if we had all her riches and fame. It doesn't mean she was selfish and/or self absorbed.
It means she was ill and screaming inside for the help and understanding of what had taken over her mind.
There aren't very many differences between myself, Peaches and many others (apart from the obvious fame, fortune and obviously the heroin addiction) I and many other people have been battling our own fight inside for years and we battle everyday to have, and live, the life so many think we already have...
It's hard and I often find myself staring in a mirror wandering what I bring to this world and whether I'd be missed. Yep, it gets that bad quite regularly and I know I'm not on my own, actually I'm in good company as some of the worlds most amazing people have depression and often have suicidal thoughts on a daily basis but have learnt to deal with them in their own way. They have learnt the hard way. Sadly some don't make it through and they find that their way out of this pain is by leaving the mask behind them and letting themselves succumb to their demons.
Depression isn't something you just get and then fix and it's gone. It is an underlying problem that even when you think you're free, you're not and at some point it will show it's ugly fat head and you'll start that fight all over again.

Depression, sign, this way, tree, dark, moody, pencil, art, drawing,

Learning the signs of depression...

If you're lucky you can fight it early and it can become the norm to work out when and where the pain begins to set in and then getting the help you need.
It is all about learning YOUR signs and triggers not what google says they should be.
It is all about learning what YOU respond to and what YOU need to do when it strikes.
It is all about seeking help and believing that you can make it through
(harder than it sounds).
Your depression may not add up to those stereotypical symptoms but it does not mean it is any less important. It just means that your battle has it's own individuality and will take it's own path...
Just like you!
 I've been shortlisted for this years Brilliance in Blogging awards alongside some amazing names and blogs.
If you like this post please vote for me, I'd really appreciate it and I may even share my gin if I get through to the final 6... *disclaimer* may, I said 'may share my gin' #justsaying


  1. Oh. Beautifully written, and I wish it didn't have to be written for you or for so many others. Just hoping you do get the help you need when you need it, and that it's never too late, like it was for Peaches. You describe this brilliantly, and of course we all see the outside, the beautiful, smiley, vibrant and caring you, but no-one can tell what it is like in someone else's house, or head, when the door is closed. Sending hugs x

  2. Very beautifully written.... I suffer from depression too, and had a terrible time with post natal illness. My depression comes in the guise of anxiety and anger - what a wonderful friend it is..... many congratulations on your shortlising in the BIBS - fingers crossed! :o)

  3. Jenny Soppet-Smith2 May 2014 at 20:23

    You have written this so well - clearly, eloquently and with passion. Love you Mrs - big hugs coming for you tomorrow xxx

  4. AlexanderResidence2 May 2014 at 21:02

    Alice this is a such an important and accurate description of what depression is actually like when you have to put a brave face on because you have people who depend on you. So many people sadly think they aren't depressed and don't seek help because as you rightly say, it is about your own signs and not what Google says. Beautifully written and illustrated, hope you feel as good as can be as soon as can be - you deserve too xxx

  5. A brilliant post Alice it really resonated with me.

  6. Such a great post, Alice. So brave and so honest and hopefully an eye opener for all the people out there who a) need help and b) suspect that a friend or family member might need help x

  7. Oh Alice you are so completely and utterly spot on with this post. I've suffered on and off for years and I always think of it as painting on a new face as I open the front door to the rest of the world and then when I come back home being able to take that face off and just be me again. No one really knows what people are like when they haven't got their "face" on. Huge hugs x

  8. Kirsty Hornblow2 May 2014 at 22:04

    There is so much wisdom in here Alice. I don't think many people know that people with depression can try and hide it from friends and loved ones. It is a terrible illness and one that I wish no-one had to live with. You are an inspiration and I have no doubt we will be seeing you in the final 6 xxx

  9. Oh my god you would be missed! You make such an impact on people, you have such vitality and such commitment to the things you believe in. You are special Alice. I know you don't always feel it, but take these words for the days when you can't quite see it. Brilliant lovely girl - wonderful post.

  10. So very well written and inspiring. I felt you get inside my head and help me out of it. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow x

  11. Becky Goddard-Hill3 May 2014 at 06:05

    Important to read posts like this and for people to remember that beautiful and firnedly women like you aren't necessarily feeling happy and light and need support and understanding too.

  12. AnnieMammasaurus3 May 2014 at 08:04

    Love to you Alice - so true it can go un-noticed and it's the flaring up and down over the years that can make it so hard to deal with too x

  13. Oh a post that i always wanted to write but you written it so lovely! Depression is tough and if you don't have somebody that understands around is even tougher. I hate when people ask..."How are you?" as i really don't know how to answer...

  14. beautifully written alice, think you have written what so many feel and paved the way for a new understanding of a shitty illness.

    Much love

  15. This is such an important message. Well done Alice for saying it so eloquently. x


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