Adapted for ProHealth.com and reprinted with kind permission of Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio from lymeroad.com.
The truth is that recovery from mental or physical illnesses is very tricky, with lots of twists and turns along the way. There’s a lot of trial and error involved in finding a treatment strategy that will yield even slight improvements. Although depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., many people may not share the true severity of their symptoms with friends and family on social media, hoping to shield them from the full spectrum of just how hard the illness can be.
Below, I share five truths about invisible illnesses, like depression, that you probably won’t see many people post about on social media. So, here ya go…
1. Many people struggle in silence.
Many people only choose to reveal the moments that are celebratory in nature; no one sees the moments where they are too weak, fatigued, or sad to get out of bed for days at a time. Although you aren’t seeing pics of your friends or family in the throes of depression, they may still be fighting depression and struggling in silence.
2. You probably can’t tell if someone is having a “good day” or a “bad day” by a photo.
Some of the best pics can be taken on the worst days. Often, makeup, a smile, and clothing can hide the internal struggles going on in someone’s mind. Not to mention, the average person likely takes several pics before they finally find one that they deem post-worthy. If you saw the images that didn’t make the cut, you might catch glimpses of how a friend or loved one struggling with depression was truly feeling on that particular day.
3. Depression is very isolating.
People struggling with depression may not feel like they fit in with their friends and family. They may decline invitations to social events—they don’t want to feel like a burden or disappointment because they haven’t made as much progress with the illness as others might have hoped. Feeling like they must live up to the expectations of others can seem like an impossible feat, so they may feel isolated from those closest to them.
If you know someone who’s struggling with depression, reach out to them from time to time. It doesn’t require much—just let them know they are still cared for and not forgotten.
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4. People with depression are capable of giving and receiving love.
People with depression routinely hear things like, “You’re lucky your spouse stays with you,” or, ”You’re lucky to have found a partner who can handle your mental illness.”
Certainly, depression can pose a challenge in relationships, but every relationship has to whether difficult storms (Really! Just ask any couple who’s been together for a long time.).
While there is truth in those statements, a person with depression is not less capable of giving or receiving love because of mental illness. They have a heart, passions, and interests. Simply put, they are more than just an invisible illness, and their partners are equally as lucky to have them in their lives.
5. The road to recovery is a bumpy one.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Some use medications, others can manage their depression symptoms by changing their lifestyle habits and working with a therapist, and some people require a combination of several treatment options. Nearly everyone with depression will see more than one doctor or therapist over the course of their illness and try various treatment approaches until, hopefully, they find one that puts them on healing path.
But symptoms can become exacerbated by many circumstances in life, and setbacks are inevitable. It may look like someone has their depression under control one day, but they may struggle the next. The road to recovery is a bumpy one, but you can be a big help by encouraging them to continue with treatment, even when progress has been temporarily interrupted.
The very essence of living with depression is that it’s probably going to rear its head from time to time. But people with depression are determined and persistent, and they can live a full and satisfying life despite the obstacles mental illness may throw at them
ProHealth Editor and Content Manager Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and certified Pilates instructor whose life was transformed by Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and interstitial cystitis. She is creator of the DVD, A New Dawn Pilates: pilates-inspired exercises adapted for people with pelvic pain. Jenny is a health journalist who writes about her journey on The Lyme Road as she continues to pursue her personal healing with the support of her husband and two rescue pups. You can find her on Instagram: @jenny_buttaccio or Twitter: @jennybuttaccio.