I was recently profiled in an article about the January Blues and luckily they used a picture of someone staring out of a window rather than clutching their head. But still, I don't gaze out of windows all day, every day. And if you're my employer reading this, then, seriously, I don't do that all day, every day. Because I am working and getting on with things! The only time I look out of the window is to confirm that, yes, it is still January, still cold, still dark, still damp, and that it would be much better to stay inside where it's nice and cosy.
Appearances are deceptive though. I felt dreadfully ill recently when I went and met friends, and barely made it through the afternoon with the constant taste of metal and nausea that anxiety brings, coupled with the terrible lurch in my stomach of dread of being discovered or not discovered in my wretched state of un-wellness. I think all I want when I feel depressed is to not want to feel depressed. It's boring for one thing, but on the other hand, as @_sectioned and others have put it, once people know I'm depressed I don't know what to do with myself in their company.
The problem worsens in company where there is a need to make some sort of decision about how to be seen. I remember Alastair Campbell, again, recalling a colleague who told him something like "You're always laughing, you can't be depressed" or near enough. Gladly, Baroness Jolly (you've got to laugh at this, really, haven't you?) recently debated on behalf of the government on the issue mental health. But Parliament couldn't quite resist the opportunity to post its news alongside the above picture of a man who, in my opinion, is merely clutching his head to get away from the dreadful taste of whomever decided mustard was a good colour scheme for a room. And then Baroness went on her way back to being a character from the Mister Men.
If we apply this to other life experiences rather than illnesses, and, again I turn to the Good Wife, but you can choose your own example, what are people supposed to look like in a certain state? A woman whose husband has been unfaithful to her but has to stand in the public eye supporting him. What is that supposed to look like? Is she supposed to look stern / serious but well turned out? I suppose so. And I suppose that when she does the trash magazines will have headlines that call her 'Brave' and 'Putting on a Brave Face' whereas when she's taking the bins out and can't be bothered to change out of her pyjamas and slippers, or put makeup on she's 'Struggling' or 'In Crisis'.
So, what, does that mean that when I feel like laughing I should suppress it, and when I feel like crying I should be sure to go out into the world so everyone can see the tears running down my face? I don't think that's going to get me any promotions at work, but it's also not realistic. I am not crying all the time. (And when I am, no one sees me apart from my husband, because there's a part of my subconscious which radically co-opts every ounce of adrenaline within me to not cry in front of other people when I'm really feeling at my very worst.) I'm probably not smiling all the time, but who is, apart from clowns with painted faces (whom we all know are scary to most people!). What I am doing, as I've said before, is just going through the motions.
I participated in a Time to Change survey on whether people think #headclutcher images are helpful in presenting mental health sufferers accurately. You can probably guess what I thought. Read more about what they're doing here.
But I'm not clutching my head. How would I be typing this blog or going to work, washing my face, eating, dressing, if I had to do that all day? Really. I'm not clutching my head. I'm just feeling rubbish. Or not. You can't tell. No one can. And maybe I don't want you to know anyway.