Look at her. She is decorated head to toe in skills and success stories. Having triumphed over the embarrassing mistakes of her youth, negations of her worth, and a host of other challenges. She walks in pride with a sparkling smile and glow in her eyes. Who could challenge her wit, grace, and professionalism? Who is this go-to goddess of the industry? She is here right before you as a reflection on the screen. But…underneath this gilded shell of magnitude she trembles in the fear of not being enough. She whimpers at the thought that she is going at it alone. She wails at the thought of being unloved. Because an enemy known as darkness, sometimes sadness, sometimes overthinking, or perhaps a simple needle that pokes a hole in her gilded shell is unrelenting. An enemy others would call depression.
Depression is not as simple as sadness. Nor is it only a chemical imbalance. Sometimes it is circumstantial. Other times it is all three. As women, we can be chastised for being too dramatic in our reactions to things by both men and women. If a normally strong woman has an emotional breakdown due to stress, some would ignore her cry for help and call her a victim. When you have gotten use to the toxic trait of “I got it” syndrome and refuse or never ask for help it is easy to get to the point of a nervous breakdown. Additionally if you already suffer from a mental illness like depression or anxiety stress only makes it worse. A woman could have everything together and going well, but if they do not have a method to release their emotional state will implode and they will sink into the darkness of depression.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
I am not a medical professional, however after a few conversations with friends and some research I was able to conclude that a lot of “Superwomen” suffer from high functioning depression. Some of the common traits of HFD can easily be experienced by a Businesswoman, Mothers, and College Students. People who need to keep going no matter what. It can be a combination of all three factors in depression (chemical imbalance, sadness, and circumstantial), but because they keep smiling through it, who would suspect otherwise.
According to Healthline these are some of these traits and actions I have witnessed in Superwomen:
Feeling like you’re “faking it”: A mother must keep her children happy and try to set the mood for their days as she smiles in their face. Deep down she is feeling unappreciated, unloved, and unfulfilled. Whether or not the environmental factors affect how she feels, it does not matter. She must stitch a smile across her face when she wants to cry as if she is putting on the greatest show on earth; it is agonizing.
Needing help and no one believes you: When everything is going swimmingly at work or business and it appears that everything is perfectly organized and completed no one would believe that deep down you want to scream. Of course no one likes a consistently sappy person at work. So why show signs of weakness? In order for someone to believe the agony you want to release, you have to be ill or driven to drastic measures before they believe you. And the thought of resorting to such extreme measures makes the depression seep deeper into your psyche.
Good days, Bad Days, and Exhausting days: If you are a student doing well or failing there can be days you throw caution to the wind, some days you sink low, and some where it is in between but you are exhausted. You feel like no matter what you do in school or in life that you are worthless. Even at the end of a victorious day there may be a sense of sadness that someone did not see the wonderful moment or the daunting thought of carrying a winning streak at school. Having to be a million different people from one day to the next and none of them reflect how you feel is exhausting, because it is not about your happiness it is about how other people see you.
IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK
I’m not really sure when we were taught that we must always wear a smile on our face to be socially accepted. That type of thinking is an illness within itself. Some people have a genuine happy walk and look about them. Others appear to have…well let’s just say an unwelcoming face for a woman. Women need to allow themselves to not feel great every once in a while.
Much like a virus, depression and anxiety must run it’s course sometimes and that is OK. I hate getting sick and at the first sign of a cold I rush to get whatever vitamin C tablet, echinacea, or DayQuil I can get my hands on to avoid the sickness so I can keep functioning. But sometimes the virus beats out everything that should stop it. It is time for my body to process it on it’s own and let it run it’s course for the next 2-3 days.
After a discussion with a friend who has suffered through this I realized not owning your emotions can create an internal toxic environment where depression can grow. If you are stressed out and no drink, massage, or expensive excursion can fix it, just take a moment a be in your stress/depression. That moment could be an hour or a day. When you allow it to sit for that moment and start to process then slowly begin your healthy coping mechanisms. Whether that is counseling, something active, prayer, or just talking with a friend.
It is ok to not be ok, but do not allow the “virus” to stay past it’s expiration date.
CLIMBING OUT THE WELL
It is ok to not be ok. It is ok to ask for help. It is ok to fake it when you need to. It is not ok to always go at it alone. Being a woman in business, college, marriage, motherhood, just being a woman can be difficult…and that is OK. Speak your affirmations, say your prayers if that is your thing, go for that run, read that book. Do whatever you need to do to get yourself out of the darkness fully knowing that it is acceptable for you to feel low. If you can not climb out of the well of depression reach out for help to your inner circle, your resident sage in your life, or try one of the resources below to let you know that the woman staring at her screen right now is allowed to be vulnerable and powerful simultaneously!