I’ve had a bad day. I went downstairs to make myself a cup of coffee, then suddenly realised that it was May already, which means I have been out of work for about six months now, and its creeping ever closer to a whole year since I left university in the hope that I would find a solid job.
I slumped down on the sofa clutching my coffee and tried to answer my mum as she spoke to me, but I found my energy slipping. She went to start dinner, and before I knew it I was completely paralysed by my lack of energy and hope, stuck in a position making my feet numb, feeling freezing cold, my eyes, nose and mouth streaming with fluids onto the cushions.
I stayed like this for about an hour and a half, quietly sobbing to myself and feeling pathetic. My mum assumed I was asleep, and didn’t notice I was crying until my dad walked into the room and asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t answer, and he got frustrated.
I was handed a tissue to wipe my nose, and felt cold so decided to go upstairs to bed. But for some reason, I decided to take a photograph of myself in my current state. I’m not sure why I thought to do that, considering I barely had the energy to walk up the stairs.
But here it is.
As I lay in bed attempting to calm down, I began to think about why I decided to take the photo. I spend a lot of time online so I see photos shared by friends, family and strangers constantly throughout my day, every day. I see lots of photos people take of themselves looking and feeling good, pulling silly faces, having fun with friends, showing off their purchases and travels - but no one ever shares photos of themselves when they are upset.
It can’t be because they are never sad, because everyone is once in a while. The only time we see photos of people crying are when someone else is in control of the camera, usually over a tragedy, or as part of an act.
I think I felt the need to show people that I am struggling, and I am overall incredibly envious of anyone doing more than I am with their lives currently. I know its easy to say “just ignore them” and “things will get better for you” when people share all these happy, exciting, successful photos of their lives, but when that’s all we ever see its easy to be convinced that their lives are never dull and they never experience crushing sadness and insecurities like I do on a regular basis.
I have only recently become more open to talking about my depression, though it still feels weird and scary a lot of the time, and I still have moments of backing out of conversation. There is a side to me that even my family and closest friends didn’t know about, even though it has always been pretty obvious to me, so to be met with disbelief and surprise when I finally started telling people that I am depressed I couldn’t understand how anyone else had not seen it in me before.
But we hide our sadness from others. When anyone asks “How are you?” not many people will bother saying how they really feel, and just opt for the easy small talk response because we’re ashamed to share our true feelings, whether its out of embarrassment, shame or apathy.
I know for me I was particularly embarrassed and ashamed about my emotions for a long time. In hindsight, I’ve clearly suffered from depression for about a decade, but didn’t seek professional help until only last year. Throughout high school I suffered silently, convincing myself that what I was feeling was purely typical teenage hormones, and that everyone else my age had the same thoughts and experiences.
While I was at high school emo culture, which romanticised death, mental illness, and hair straighteners was big, and depression soon became just the butt of a joke that no one wanted to be involved in. If you were depressed you were emo, and if you were emo you just did everything for attention so you weren’t really depressed. If you self harmed because you were being bullied relentlessly at school, you were obviously only doing it because you were in love with a guy from a popular band who sung a lyric about suicide in your favourite song. And if you ever took a photo of yourself to share online, you had to declare how ugly you looked or claim that someone else took it, because you couldn’t possibly show any signs of loving yourself because that would mean you’re not really depressed. Looking back it was all very weird and dumb, but overall this was one of the key (albeit very stupid) reasons that I refused to get any help for such a long time.
But now that I am seeking help, I thought I would magically feel better. I’ve tried a couple of medications, and will be seeing therapists and psychologists soon, but it has been a really long and drawn-out process, and I wish everything would happen when I need it the most. There’s no quick fix to this, and I’m really fed up having to wait around all the time.
I don’t know if seeing photos of my friends and family crying on Facebook would exactly make things any better or ever become a normality, but it would definitely make people come across as more human and take away some of the stigma of genuine sadness, so feel free to join me in the Sad Selfie sensation.
Words and Photo by Roseanna Hanson