Monday, March 12, 2012

But You Look So Good!

A while ago, I sat in a room listening to one woman tell another that even though she was depressed, she looked so beautiful and professional and "together."

I know this woman was trying to make the other feel better; I mean, who doesn't want to hear they're beautiful?  But having been on the receiving end of the same kinds of compliments (not recently -- recently I look like I've been beaten by the ugly stick), I know that when you feel ugly and crappy on the inside, usually the last thing you want to hear is that you look good on the outside.  I don't speak for everyone; I know there are people that this kind of compliment would make them feel better, and more power to them.  But for me, this kind of compliment is not helpful.

I think there's something about someone saying, "But you look so good!" when you're depressed that can minimize your internal suffering, at least in my experience.  It's like the complimenter (is that a word?) is saying, "But you look so good -- you can't feel that bad!"  Unfortunately, you can look beautiful and feel like complete shit on the inside.  Look at all the celebrities with eating disorders, drug and alcohol problems, and horrible relationship trouble.  Of course they look beautiful.  That's what they do.  But they probably don't feel beautiful.

I had a doctor's appointment this morning, my fourth in three weeks.  I actually considered putting on mascara this morning, and then a little voice told me not to, because, while I've been feeling somewhat better, I still don't feel great -- and I didn't want her to see mascara and think, "Oh, she must be better."  I would think I could expect more from a doctor, but you never know.

It's just another example of how we can't judge a book by its cover.  I think a lot of people still have the mental picture of depression and mental illness as a disturbed person on the streetcorner raving about academic fraud (a nod to my UD friends) or the end of the world, a person you cross the street to avoid.  That woman in the three-inch-heeled boots at Starbucks, the woman pushing her baby in an expensive, pristine stroller, the woman in the office next to you that always has her hair done so nicely, they may all be suffering from various forms of depression or mental illness.  Just because they "look good" doesn't mean they feel good.  It also doesn't mean they don't rant about the end of the world, but that's a different issue.

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