Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Depression: When you look your best, but feel your worst

‘You look like you’re doing okay’. Those were the words of my psychiatrist, after I’d just told him I had had an awful two weeks and mentioned my antidepressants still weren’t working. I didn’t know how to respond. I remember being confused, because how could I look okay when I felt so depressed? Why was he minimizing how awful I’d been feeling? Only after I’d arrived home, did I start to understand why he’d said it. It was the way I’d presented myself, with the clothes, jewelry and makeup I was wearing. And yes, maybe it was confusing to him, because normally I look quite different. For one, I stopped wearing makeup around a year ago. But that day, I felt especially vulnerable and I wanted to look ‘put together’. And it worked. I could hardly blame the guy for falling for it. On the other hand, shouldn’t he have known better?

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Opening up to people is difficult for me. I don’t know how to find a way to not be too open or too closed off, to find a middle ground. And a couple of days before I went to the psychiatrist, I had sent an e-mail to my psychologist, which I regretted the moment it was sent. I gave her a peek into my psyche and I was afraid she would reject me because of it. People can’t really know what’s going on inside me, because if they do, they’ll inevitably leave me. Or so a voice in my head keeps telling me. So I decided then and there that I would never be this open again. The next time I would meet with my psychologist, I’d look like I had everything under control.

And so I thought about it for days. What would I wear? How did I want her to perceive me? When the day of my appointments with the psychologist and psychiatrist came, I searched my old jewelry box to try and find the right earrings and bracelet. I put on my high heels, and for some reason I wanted to wear short skirt. I knew the weather was probably too cold for that, but my mind was made up. I put on eye makeup and when I looked in the mirror, I felt relieved. The whole process grounded me. I felt less exposed (emotionally speaking).

Neither the psychologist nor the psychiatrist had noticed how badly I was feeling. And this made me feel especially lonely. I know I did this myself, but I somehow wanted them to see behind the facade I was putting on. And when they didn’t, I felt awful. I know that when you’re depressed, people expect you to not care about your appearance and that the worse you feel, the worse you look. In my case, it was the other way around. I just wish mental health professionals wouldn’t assume how you’re doing by the way you present yourself. Depression can look different from person to person.

Written by: Fenna Vlekke
Country: The Netherlands
Social media:
Twitter: @FennaVlekke
Facebook: www.facebook.com/fvlekke


  1. Thought it was just me that did this

  2. In psychotherapy one respects the clients' opinion as important to them, i would think? And listen to them as we would any opinion, being valid outright and start from there. The day we start telling others how they should feel regardless of what they shared with us is the day they stop sharing.