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My Depression Doesn't Look Like a Commercial

Find the original post of this article at Daddy Phat's Blog.

You know what it looks like. An apathetic or forlorn parent struggles to get out of bed, to put on clothes, to play with their children. Maybe the kids notice and slink away from them. Maybe their significant other tries to pat them on the shoulder and just walks away as if they’ve given up, but they still care. Then the name of the antidepressant flashes across the screen and suddenly it’s all smiles, kisses, and sunshine days with a clean house and excited puppy by the protagonist’s side.

Check the video out on YouTube here.

This isn’t the only look for depression. It’s the traditional, it’s the most obvious, and it’s something I experienced as a kid with my parents and loved ones who suffered similar symptoms of depression.

I’m an adult now and I had a hard time justifying my depression for the longest time because it doesn’t always look like the commercials. Sometimes my depression lasts for months, but on the outside, everything’s going well for me and I look okay. So, today, I’m going to describe to you what my depression looks like more often than not. 

  1. Lots of showers. Warm, cold, long, short, it doesn’t matter. I just like the feeling of the water and being alone and free. I get to sing and imagine and be a goof if I want. That’s my space. And a lot of off-key renditions of showtunes erupt from the shower when I’m not feeling so good.

  2. Lots of smiles. I don’t want to bring others down and I make a concerted effort to do the exact opposite. I feel gross, but maybe if I can do good things and lift others up, I’ll start to do well again myself. Your brain starts to believe it, by the way, if you’re always smiling. Your brain will start to be happier slowly as you smile more and more. This trick has gotten harder with COVID, where I have to wear a mask at work and in public. It doesn’t quite have the same effect. But that just means I have to try a little harder to put some happy into others’ days; it’s in my voice, in my actions, and in what I say to those around me. Authentic compliments have been a pretty solid alternative to the smiles.

  3. Watching stand-up comedy and kids movies on repeat. I’ve seen John Mulaney’s 3 specials and The Sack Lunch Bunch on Netflix too many times to count. It sounds goofy and pathetic, but I lay around and listen to those familiar jokes and find the little ways to make myself smile. Sometimes it takes longer than others. But I just keep watching or listening until I can be grateful for the world again. And this isn’t wasted time. Even when I’m not furiously multitasking whilst listening to John talk about Detective J. J. Bittenbinder for the 80th time, it’s mental health time, and we all need some of that. Our brains are bombarded with so much information every day, it’s no wonder they need some mindless content time on a semi-regular basis. 

  4. Cooking meals from scratch. Believe it or not, my diet improves drastically when I’m depressed. I stay away from caffeine and carbonated drinks, I button down my food budget, and I get used to snacking on vegetables and fruits. I’ll even take a crack at a recipe or two before I give up and go back to PB&J’s and grilled cheeses at night. I start eating salads for lunch. I do this because I know I can’t climb out of my depression if I’m not feeding my body right. Even if it’s been hanging on for weeks or months, I have to give myself a chance. And honestly, my depression is a little more bearable when I know I’m doing right by myself. It’s one less thing to guilt myself about, even if my cooking skills are really, really, REALLY bad.

  5. Leaning on my friends. It’s ironic because the leading cause of my depression is a feeling of intense loneliness, but I’m very blessed to have a handful of amazing friends who will let me vent, hold me, cry with me, or distract me if I need it. I try to spread the load more or less evenly on the friends who are available, since that’s a heavy weight to bear, but they’re honestly champions. Even the ones I haven’t talked to in a long time. I don’t have any one “rock” to lean on, but my wide variety of friends in-person and online over the years have given me somewhere to anchor myself in my own life. Even as they’ve come and gone, they’ve helped and for that, I am forever grateful.

  6. Creating. I draw, I sew, I freelance, I edit some videos, I clean the apartment… anything to keep my hands busy. That’s probably my comorbid anxiety kicking in, but I feel like I can work through a problem in my head if I’m working on a project with my hands. I actually get a lot done when I’m depressed, and sometimes I’ll even burn myself out trying to do too many things at once. I have to pace myself or I’m in a worse boat than when I started.

  7. Snuggling. I’m a tactile person, so even if it’s really hot out, I put on a onesie and snuggle under my weighted blanket. Sometimes a stuffed animal gets involved, too. It feels less lonely when the senses are activated, and my favorite sense just happens to be touch. When I’m really lucky, a friend will be around to snuggle me, but if I’m all by myself, my blankets and onesies do the trick.

  8. Feeling really guilty. I don’t want to feel this way, and worse yet, I don’t want the ones I love to feel bad because I feel this way. Usually, it isn’t their fault. I was genetically predisposed to depression and life isn’t going to pause so I can recuperate. All I can do is be patient with those around me and hope that they’re patient with me in return when I’m struggling. I’m also learning to be patient with myself, to think about what I’m saying before I say it, and to take the time I need to get something done right when I’m tasked with a project – big or small.

  9. Handling physical symptoms. For those who don’t experience long-term or intense bouts of depression and anxiety, I’m here to tell you that it takes a toll on your body. Some obviously debilitating symptoms can range from insomnia, night terrors or nightmares, diarrhea or constipation, and lack of ability to focus. Other symptoms I personally experience include generally slower body movements and thought processes, sudden and sometimes unexplained panic attacks, flashbacks, intense sweating from one side of my body (yeah, that’s a bizarre one), and tremors. I can also experience huge blood sugar fluctuations because the hormones in my body are changing with my depression and anxiety levels. I have a lot of little tips and tricks up my sleeve that I’m willing to share if you want to DM me or leave a comment.

  10. Treating myself. Adulting is hard and if all I got done that day was my bare minimum, but I worked really hard to get that far, I’ll treat myself with something cheap and easy. Sometimes that’s an extra hour of sleep, time to color a page in my adult coloring books, YouTube time, or reading time. Yes, non-screen time counts as a reward for me because I work on screens all day, every day. My favorite reward right now is going on walks. It’s good for my brain and I get some non-screen time while also listening to music or a podcast. Or I can enjoy the silence. 

I don’t expect everyone to share what their depression looks like. I did want to share my triumphs and struggles as I’m mid-stream in my life’s mental health journey, though. Maybe you relate to some of these coping mechanisms or maybe one or two will get stashed in your survival toolkit. That’s all I can ask for. The struggle with depression never stops, but we can make the best out of it. By trying your best, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Now, go out there and keep trying, because I’m fighting the good fight with you out there! I’m proud of you.

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