The world of social media has connected our society on a global scale in a way that was never before thought to be possible. Simply turning on your computer can connect you with friends on the other side of the globe in only minutes.
While this can be a powerful tool in the growing effort to raise awareness about mental health, including depression, and the stigma that is associated with it, it has also become a way for many to mask their true struggles. There is a growing pressure in our society to always put our best foot forward online, filtering the truth in a way to create the impression of our ‘perfect’ lives.
Those who would like to reach out for help, posting with any form of honesty are often met with judgment, bad ‘advice’ and negative, hurtful comments that only push them further into isolation.
In an effort to help lift the curtain and reveal this double standard The Mighty decided to reach out to members of their mental health community on Facebook, asking them to share a photo that they wish they could share on their own social media revealing how they genuinely feel in regards to their own battle with depression. The photos and stories shared by each person were both powerful and revealing, allowing others to experience the reality of life with depression.
- “This picture is something I have wanted to post but don’t due to society — especially with my age group. The fear of being called an ‘attention seeker’ always sticks to the back of my head. I am someone who is extremely open [about] my depression, but struggle when it comes to bringing awareness and letting people know I understand. This picture was taken my second week [at the] hospital. The reason I want to post the picture is because I want to show people how far I have come. I was hospitalized three times in two years and can’t even name all the different medications I have tried. People say I am not my depression, but I have been depressed for so long. I don’t know who I am without it.”
- Michaela H.
- “This is a picture of me the morning after the day I stayed in bed all day because I had zero motivation and tons of doubt and pain. I’m trying to smile but it’s not reaching my eyes.”
- Jamie H.
- “I once thought none of my pictures on Facebook showed my daily internal struggle with depression. All of those pictures showed me with a smiling face, having fun, loving life. There was the odd occasion where it might even have been true. But my battle stayed hidden…Then I realized. Every single picture showed that struggle. Every. Single. One. Over the years I have managed to perfect the face I show the world. The shield I hide behind so no one has any idea… But one night, I let my mask slip. I caved. It all got [to be] too much. I was crying out for help. I needed to take a picture. A picture to show just a glimpse of what is behind the mask every day of my life. It is the first truly honest picture I’ve ever taken. In that moment, my soul was bared. No selfies showing how amazing my life is. No stories about what a wonderful day I’m having. It is a picture I wish I could make myself post on Facebook…”
- Scott T.
- “A year ago, I asked my best friend to sketch me a picture that resembled a photo of myself. I told her I wanted to look strong, and I wanted it to resemble beauty despite my scars. This past March of 2017, I reached my ‘one year’ since my inpatient hospitalization, and my ‘one year’ since I stopped self-harming. I am so proud of that. I am proud to still be here. I am afraid to share it on Facebook because I don’t want people to judge my story by a single picture. I wouldn’t want to trigger anyone. And I don’t want anyone to think I am posting for attention. I was most comfortable keeping it for me. Only I know best, what it means to me.”
- Haley T.
- “I took [this picture] right before my first dose of antidepressants. I wasn’t [going] to post it [because] I don’t want people to know I’m sick… I also don’t want my family and friends to think I’m ‘crazy’ or just ‘want attention.’ But the main reason I don’t post is the above reason. People will rush in to try and help, or they’ll shut me down or they’ll think I just want attention when in reality, I just want help to overcome this.”
- Rebecca T.
- “When I’m depressed, sometimes I play with Snapchat’s filters to feel better. Some of them make you look ‘pretty’ without the circles around the eyes, bright skin and with a ‘sparkle.’ All this is fake, but in my case, helps a little bit, I like the Harry Potter one because I always remember the fight between Harry and the Dementors. If you want to win you have to remember the happiest moments, and it’s really hard when you’re having a depression episode, but you have to try.”
- Francis S.
- “As a former photographer, I used to love portraits the most. Depression and anxiety have been living with me for more than 10 years. Every time, I try to find new ways to deal with the triggers. I write, I draw, I take pictures and more. This was [from] my new project from last month. I wanted to capture that emotion — [the] feeling of a [person with depression]. How they feel when happy, sad, empty, etc.”
- Angry A.
- “[This] is a self portrait I took and it’s a reenactment of the first time I sat home alone, at Christmas, trying to decide whether or not I’d live or die. It wasn’t a sudden epiphany, crystal clear mind, message from God or any kind of mental strength. Ultimately, it was a chance message from a dear friend who saved my life. Amy, who is working to overcome her own depression, reached out because she felt like something was amiss. If not for her gut feeling, it’s likely I wouldn’t be here today. Everything I accomplish, every life I touch and every difference I make is because she chose to reach through the darkness. I literally owe my life to her.”
- Shawn H.
- “I was very fortunate to work with the organization To Write Love on Her Arms for about four months as an intern. It was incredibly fulfilling to represent such a well-known organization, and provide hope and help to those struggling with mental health issues. I had to be strong for those who needed TWLOHA for support and guidance with their own issues. So, admitting I still struggle every day with depression/anxiety makes me feel weak. This picture represents the depth beyond my fake smiles and laughter. It makes me fully transparent to people who think my life is going well. And hopefully, acts as a reminder to everyone that reaching out for help is a strength, not a weakness. I’m restarting my medication tonight. I’m reaching out for help tonight. And I’m remembering I’m loved tonight.”
- Eric G.
- “This is my service dog in training. I have been having really bad days lately. She is one of the only things that keep me hanging on.”
- DeAnna C.
- “My wife and I ran a 8.92 mile race on the 4th of July. My fear in sharing photos like this is that people will assume because we look happy and healthy — that I couldn’t possibly still be depressed. Especially in Christian circles, people wrongly assume depression is either demonic or temporary, and that some magic Jesus pill can magically ‘fix’ us. I could have just as easily shared a picture of me, playing with my kids or standing behind the pulpit during a Sunday church service or any number of ‘normal’ things. My fear in showing these is that people forget I still have a mental illness. But I can never forget. Because, behind the smiling face, there’s a guy with a brain that’s wired just a little bit different.”
- Steven A.
- “I’m really proud of this painting and would love more of my friends to see it. But depression tells me there’s no point.”
- Thomas M.
- “I have dealt with depression for as long as I can remember: feeling empty, hopeless, alone and angry — just trying to make it through a day without having a panic attack cause my anxiety is ‘just a bit too high.’ I try my [hardest] to hide on the outside what is going on inside my head. I only ask for acceptance, forgiveness and a shoulder to cry and lean on when I need it most. I’ll do my best to return the favor for you. You are not alone. You are loved. You will survive. One day at a time.”
- Kayla H.
- “This is me when I’m at home all day every day and family and others think I’m lazing around drinking, smoking or having a great time not working [and] getting free money, when in my reality, I sit in my own head criticizing myself, hurting myself, hating myself, fearing every little thing, overthinking every little thing. [It has] forced to live in my worst memories over and over and over… I wouldn’t want anyone to feel what I feel, but I wish they understood how awful it feels to be me sometimes and that I don’t want this, I didn’t choose this — I hate this!”
- Karen C.
- “I took this picture three days ago. The overwhelming emotion I felt at the time was utter hopelessness. [I thought], nothing will ever be better no matter how hard I try to change things. I’ll always be this way. I’ll never be good enough. Life will never stop being an unbearable struggle. I don’t remember why I took the picture — I had no intention of showing it to anyone. I don’t like showing moments of despair to people. It might make them feel obligated to help in some way. More than that, it’s ugly and raw. It’s uncomfortably real. For me, depression isn’t a wistful look off into the distance or stroking a wall looking glum. For me it’s chest-crushing grief, it’s tsunamis of snot and tears on my puffy, red face. No one wants to look at that. Selfies are meant to say, ‘Look at me being all cute today!’ not, ‘Look at me. I can’t do this anymore.’”
- Lisa S.
- “This is a picture I’ve been wanting to post on Facebook to show what it’s like living with depression. I call it ‘when depression hits.’ It was taken one afternoon [when] I had to put on my face, do the ‘normal’ adult day-to-day things and then the afternoon comes around and I just can’t do it anymore. Sometimes I wish more people could understand what it’s like to [struggle] in such a way.”
- Dani C.
- “I like my persona online to be confident and reasonable and relaxed and strong and determined — basically all of the good parts of me I think. But like many other people, especially those struggling with mental health, I obsess over others after a while looking at profile [after] profile, wondering why I’m not like them. I begin self-loathing and I become extremely anxious thinking of all the possibilities that I could become something else but also all of the opportunities that I feel like pass me by or that I feel I was robbed of… At the end of the day, I still break down sometimes. I have explosive bouts of depression especially during times of high stress.”
- Mvtchi A.
- “It’s a simple representation of something we often hide from others. [These are] the things [I] do to make life worth it (medication and journaling). In a way, I don’t post this photo due to my fear of getting a poor reaction from others due to shame and stigma. And I really wish I was able to talk openly about it. But I’m not. Hopefully some day I am.”
- Wade C.
- “[This] is one of so many photos I can’t post on Facebook. This is months of mess cluttering my bed. Books I read recently, my wallet, sling bag, dolls, painting tools, meds and daily water. It’s been months since I’ve planned to tidy up [and] make my bed comfy, but depression got the better of me. I can’t post this photo on Facebook because it will be among photos of my friends’ accomplishments. My friends hanging out together, my friends getting married, my friends enjoying their vacation away from the city, my friends getting a proper job… And the mess on my bed speaks [to] the days I’m spending in isolation, job offers I had to decline, boys I chase away from my heart. [Posting] it would just make the depression feel more real and alive. If I post it on Facebook, people would just look at my laziness. No one would look at my depression.”
- Alva S.
- “In this picture, I was trying to front that life was fine. I was trying to trick everyone into believing that things were good and I was happy when the reality was every day was spent in fear and misery. I’m really glad those days are behind me for good. “
- Gina B.
If you are thinking about harming yourself or experiencing suicidal thoughts, tell someone who can help! Call your doctor, call 911 for emergency services, go straight to your nearest hospital emergency room, call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or text “START” to 741-741 to speak with a professional at the Crisis Text Line.