The Perfectly Hidden Depressed Person

The Perfectly Hidden Depressed Person - Are YOU One?You have seen her.

She looks great.  Smiling.  Not overly done up.  Has what looks like a good marriage, maybe a couple of kids. Maybe she has her own career outside of being a mom; maybe not.  If she does, her life looks balanced. Still close with her parents. Involved with the school; knows what’s going on with her children. She’s in organizations that help others. Maybe church-based, maybe not.

She’s in a book club. Goes out with the girls. Talks about needing to lose a little weight.

She looks like she’s got it all together.

Maybe you are her.  Or some version of her.  Know someone like her.

Her friends will tell you, “She’s a fantastic friend,  Always there for you when you need her“. Strangely enough, they don’t seem to know what kind of deeper issues she might have.

No one really sees her.

There’s nothing innately unhealthy with the picture I have just painted.  A woman who is devoted to being a mom.   A daughter. A wife. A friend. A professional. Maybe someone who is more introspective. Less likely than others to be vulnerable.

If it’s a choice. Or is she trapped?

She might be a Perfectly Hidden Depressed Person. PHDP. Or almost perfectly hidden.

We all develop a persona of how we handle ourselves in public. I myself have the persona of “jokester”. I try to make people laugh to ease my own anxiety. People do other things. There are “wall-huggers”. “Big talkers”.

The PHDP is more likely to be the “hostess”. To take care of everyone’s needs. She doesn’t make anything about her at all.

Perfectly hidden depressed people feel trapped by their own secrets.

They finally may end in my office. “I don’t know why I am here.  My life is so blessed! I think I am just whining“.

Then the tears begin to flow.

You can have blessings in your life. And feel their weight. Just because you are admitting that doesn’t mean you are not grateful for those same blessings.

That’s ludicrous.

If I won the lottery, that would seem to be huge blessing. Would I also feel fear? Anxiety about that? Sure. If you are a great beauty, our culture would deem that a stupendous blessing. But would it be hard to garnish all that attention? Yep. Doesn’t mean you’re not grateful.

“I have many close good friends”. “I have 4 wonderful kids”. “I am extremely involved in my career”.  “I survived breast cancer“. All great things.

They can involve anxiety at the same time.

There is another extremely important aspect of PHDP.  Frequently, something has happened before all these “blessings” occurred. Something painful that has never been healed or even addressed. That, coupled with the energy it takes to maintain the perfect-looking life? It’s a set-up for someone trying to look fantastic on the outside – and feeling quite another way on the inside.

The PHDP needs understanding, coping and self-care strategies as much as the next guy.

It’s learning to balance. To accept. To admit vulnerability. To talk.

If not to a therapist, to one another.

So please, count your blessings. But know that you don’t have to hide.

This post was made extremely poignant in the last months. A well-known woman took her life in our community that apparently no one, or few, knew was struggling. I didn’t write this post in response – it was already written. My thoughts and prayers are with those who loved her and were loved by her.

If you experience these feelings, please talk to someone. Send the post on if you know others who struggle with admitting fatigue or anxiety, or who are beginning to have even darker thoughts. As always, my gratitude for taking your time to read. Please comment below or send me a private message at askdrmargaret@drmargaretrutherford.com. I will answer!

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford has practiced clinical psychology for over 20 years in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Blogging since 2012, her work can be found on her own website, http://drmargaretrutherford.com, and is now featured on the Huffington Post, Midlife Boulevard, BlogHer, Boomeon and Arkansas Women Bloggers. 

  6 comments for “The Perfectly Hidden Depressed Person

  1. Lynne
    August 12, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Thank you, Margaret, for bringing this the attention it deserves. With Robin Williams passing also shedding light on the subject of depression, hopefully people won’t be ashamed to get the help they so desperately need. I hate that there’s still a stigma around mental health issues–it should be no different than getting help for a physical ailment and yet people judge. Your post is great as is your offer to help. Bless you!

    • Dr. Margaret Rutherford
      August 12, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      You are so welcome Lynne. I wish I had a huge cultural “blower” that would blow stigma away. If people got more help and sooner, then perhaps the effect of that would be very powerful. Both for those individuals and our society. Thank you so much reading and commenting.

  2. M
    August 13, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I am suffering gwith extreme depression. I am at the point where life has no meaning to me I have failed in my jobs. My relationship is ending. I feel alone and empty and not sure where to turn. My other half won’t listen and doesn’t understand or see that I am unhappy and dying inside. I hide it all quite well. I am not the person I once was and don’t believe I ever will be again. I’m tired

    • Dr. Margaret Rutherford
      August 13, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      You have to fight your fatigue and fight for yourself. If you have failed in your jobs, then your depression is showing more than you might like to admit to yourself. You sound as if you need professional help – now. Please don’t wait. Part of depression is the irrational belief that things can’t and won’t change. But they can. Again. Please reach out. To a therapist. To a friend. To someone.

  3. T. Charlotte
    August 15, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Thank you for you post. I am a person who has battled depression for fourteen years. I have had some good periods and some hard times. I can say that many times I don’t share what I am going through. There are some people who know me who have no clue. Reason being, I have been consistently mishandled when I’ve tried to share in the past. The effects of being mishandled, only add to the depression. Now, I only share with those that I feel are safe people. I have sought a lot of therapy and I have to say that only a few were helpful. Also, it can be very challenging for an already tired and despondent person to search hi-and-low for the right therapist. Even this week, in the wake of the death of Robin Williams’ death, I have heard comments that seemed very uneducated. In defense of those who “mishandle”, it not easy to no what to do or say to a depressed person. I think this is because there is so little real conversation and education about depression. I am currently, writing a book about depression from the perspective of the person who is in the battle. I hope to be one person who can educate others and help those who are suffering -even if just a little bit.
    M, my prayers are with you. I agree with Dr. Rutherford. Find someone to talk to and make sure they handle you with compassion. This is key. Also, do whatever you can to help yourself. Get a good book on depression, journal or join a support group.Try whatever you can. I know it’s hard. but hang in there. It can get better.

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