Hiding Behind a Smiling Mask


Depression takes various forms and manifests itself in different ways. Some people get to the point where they feel the best way to deal with the pain is to take their own lives. All suicides are tragic, just last year I wrote about suicide and depression in light of the death of social media guru Trey Pennington. Though all suicides are all sad, there are certain ones that surprise us for the very reason that we never see them coming. When Junior Seau took his own life it shocked us because he did not fit the mold of someone struggling with depression. People who seem to have it all, have a good family, always seem to be happy, and seem to have it together. These are the ones who leave us bewildered and wondering why.

I keep going over in my mind all the reactions that I heard from people over Seau taking his own life. Some comments are an expression of the pain that people are going through wondering how someone who had meant so much to them could do such a thing. Other comments I feel express a misunderstanding of depression and what it is like to struggle with this dark pain. Cowardice, easy way out, selfishness are a few of the accusations leveled at such an act. These types of comments, I believe, show that this person is (at very best) not informed on how depression truly affects people and they are not thinking about what is really going on in the heart and mind of a person who is in a battle with depression.

I will not attempt to diagnose the root causes of depression in people. Those who fight against the dark pain of depression do so for many different reasons. Seau and other football players it seems could have issues with concussions contributing to it or even with the loss of the high of being a super star. Whatever the trigger may be in someone’s life, it is still a very real and misunderstood pain, and that is why I chose to write about it.


Can I tell you what it’s like? It’s a pain that grips you and takes control. Your brain may know the truth that you have a great job, loving family and friends, seemingly everything is going well for you but your heart is aching. Sorrow overwhelms you.  The more you think about all the good things that you do have the more it hurts because you feel like you have no right to hurt this way. After all, there are other people who have it worse than you do, right? So for as much as your mind tells you that you should be happy your heart struggles to feel the joy. The pain that comes from depression actually overshadows what your mind knows to be true.

You find it hard to seek help. Maybe it’s because you don’t want to appear week or because you are the one who’s always helping others and you don’t want to burden them. You don’t want to be a burden to others, even though you would never pass up the opportunity to help someone else in need. It’s much easier to put on a smile, pull the mask down and hide the pain that is inside than it is to face the awful truth that at each turn your heart feels like it’s being torn apart.

Sometimes you do want to tell someone how you feel but you just can’t find the words to explain what’s inside. Each time you try the thought comes to you that it’s just not that important, so you just say “I’m fine”. You want to talk about it and yet, somehow you don’t. You need the contact with another person because the deeper into the darkness you go alone the harder it is to want to stay alive. You need someone who will just be there for you with out judging your motives or reasons for feeling depressed.


It is a very difficult trial to battle alone. For as hard as it is to admit that you struggle, hurt and need help, it is a step that needs to be taken. And how do I know this to be true? It’s because I’ve been there, it’s easier to put on a smile than it is to admit I am hurting. Not long ago I came across one of those e-postcards that expressed it well; “Sometimes when I say I’m OK, I want someone to look me in the eyes, hug me tight and say ‘I know you’re not’”. But for as nice as it would be for someone to come along side and “just know” that you’re hurting, the reality is that it requires that you speak up.

Even as I write this post I find it very therapeutic to get this out and talk about it. At the same time I know that just getting it out there in writing is not enough. It takes having real life or face to face interaction to have true healing. I can’t tell you that it will be easy and the pain will not go away with one quick conversation, but talking it out is a start and does help. Even when the pain seems to overwhelm me and I feel all alone, I remember the words of the Psalmist who clearly battled as well;

My tears have been my food day and night,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
(Psalm 42:3-5 ESV)

You’re not alone in this struggle. You can again find joy and happiness. My greatest hope for you is that you would find refuge in God through Christ as your ultimate solution. If this is where you are struggling, please find help, I am willing to bet that there is someone in your life who really does care for you and will be there for you to listen to you. Someone who will get you the help that you need. Ending your life is no solution either for you or for those around you.


The easy way out? Cowardly? Selfish? I know those accusations come from a place of hurt and misunderstanding. I hope that this sheds some light on what people who battle with depression are really dealing with. Do you know someone who’s hurting? Be there for them, listen to them and help them get the counsel that they need. That friendly ear, shoulder to cry on, loving hug, can go a long way to getting someone out of the deep dark depression of the soul and into seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.


About newsphotojournalist

The day in the life of a photojournalist. Actually more like the week in the life. This Vlog is the week in review of the stories I did through the last week, using the sound bites and video that ... well ... didn't make the cut. View all posts by newsphotojournalist

One response to “Hiding Behind a Smiling Mask

  • Jen Arend

    Real, raw, honest assessment. We’ve prayed for you, brother, through your trial and love that you can be an encouragement to others who lack understanding. This is good stuff! “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation…” – Jen A.

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