Depression: on the facade

Sometimes I have a conscious facade that I maintain, other times not.  I think it depends on what age I was, which is a reflection of the degree to which I was aware of social conventions, the degree to which I cared, and how much energy I had to maintain a facade if I even wanted to.   Another driving force for having the front correlates to the degree of societal pressure put on you (or not) to appear a certain way.  For example, if you have some cubicle job or are a student, your mood and wearing your emotions on your sleeve might not really matter; with the former, you work with too few people, perhaps, to notice and with the latter, there can be freer rein to act or dress more aligned with your personality in a non-job setting.  The opposite is true when the occupation involves the general public, and further more, an occupation that necessitates a cheery disposition.  For example, working in retail.  Your appearance of friendliness is a criteria for evaluation of your job performance, as quantified by customer surveys linked to on receipts.

And these are only job-related pressures to create a facade.  To say nothing of general social pressures.  And then there’s varying degrees of personal reasons as well, such as not wanting your closest friends and loved ones to worry.  There’s the stigma against depression, too.  Or maybe, you just don’t want to talk about it.  have nothing to say about it.  have grown tired of talking about it.  It can be easier to lie and say, “I’m fine,” when most people just want to hear that anyway.

“how are you?” more akin to “hello,” rather than an actual question, with people earnestly anticipating an actual response.  For some time, the dishonesty of this social convention confused and bothered me.  and, when you think about it, all the (little white) lies ubiquitous in society… What was so wrong with being honest anyway? No, I’m not feeling fine today.  No, the weather isn’t lovely.  Actually, …  But I’ve eased up on this over time.  After all, someone saying, “how are you?” to you, even if insincere and just said in passing as a kind of common courtesy, is exactly that – someone trying to be nice, someone who acknowledges your existence.  They could not.

And besides, as Levni Yilmaz puts it, people have a meter of how much they are willing to hear, how much they are willing to handle.  It can be none, as would be likely from strangers, to what seems like almost infinite from your closest of closest loved one(s).  But people do have a limit.  It may take a long while, but, and here’s one way where I think depressed people are akin to addicts, eventually, and unintentionally, they grate on every single last nerve, every last ounce of empathy, because they’re not getting better, because it’s too much… and the people in their lives, and rightly so, can’t take any more, it’s too infuriating, it’s too stressful, it’s too frustrating, it’s too much…love turns to dismay to resentment, even to hate….

Maybe it’s because depressed people (or addicts) have been dealing with this for years.  This idea that people can (to some extent) live with their own demons, because they have lived with their own demons, but an outsider isn’t equipped to handle someone else’s demons.  They can be as empathetic as saints, but, at the end of the day, they can’t make someone else their problem, nor should they, nor does the depressed person want that either.  No one wants to be somebody’s burden, somebody’s project, etc.  so, long story short, it’s another reason not to open up, not to talk, another reason to create and maintain a front.  Not only to protect a job, to avoid stigma, to maintain privacy, to avoid retreaded discussion, but to protect the relationships you do have, to keep your friends from worry and keep yourself from becoming an issue.

The downside is that facades are tiring, and depression drains people of energy to begin with.  And facades are isolating, and depression creates isolation and alienation to begin with.  And facades are dishonest, disingenuous, a real problem if it matters to you to be true to yourself and honest in general.  However, they are protective.  in multiple ways.  Society doesn’t take kindly to people who are incredibly honest, which can be mistaken for or blurred with naivete or lacking in social skills, nor to people who wear their emotions on their sleeve.  That kind of …lack of a wall…with people allows people to get taken advantage of.  Or just publicly displaying negative emotion could get you at least mocked.

“don’t be so sensitive”

And there are gender double standards here, probably damaging to everyone.  Females “cry like a little girl” and “men don’t cry” – in short, being openly sad is seen as being feminine and therefore bad (or bad and therefore feminine).

The best answers are likely somewhere in the middle – don’t be so closed off that you appear cold and don’t let anyone through, but don’t be a quivering mass of raw nerves either.  Unless, I guess the situation calls for being a quivering mass of raw nerves – a funeral, a bar, channeling that into…well, nearly anything…a good run, a blues song, lousy poetry…

So, I guess, unless you are an artist/musician, most people need some kind of mask to function.  The more depressed you are, the greater the gap between how you feel and the facade you have to create.  It requires energy you might not have.  and it has pros and cons.  just as there are pros and cons to being honest with people.

In any case, here’s more Tales of Mere Existence:

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