What depression looks like (for me) #ThisIsDepression

In light of all the news surrounding the death of Robin Williams this week, I thought I’d share a little bit about my own story of suicide and depression.


If you have written a post about the topic, I encourage you to
link it up below & help provide awareness of what depression really looks like.  

Many of you already know that in 2002, I was the victim of sexual assault. As a result of that experience, I was diagnosed with PTSD, which has gotten better over time, but never really goes away completely.

While it’s no secret that I’ve attempted suicide in the past, it isn’t exactly something I shout from the rooftops, either. There are a few reasons why:

  • It’s embarrassing.
  • It’s hard to admit.
  • I don’t want sympathy.
  • I did a crappy job of it (I’m still here, right?)
  • It’s a downer.
  • I’m not in that dark place anymore.

Come to think of it, there’s not a whole lot of opportunity to talk about depression openly. It’s not like I meet people and say “Hi, I’m Jen. I’m a Minneapolis blogger and I’ve tried to kill myself in the past” or “Hey, cute shoes. Did you get those at Nordstrom’s? I would totally shop there, but I’m so depressed lately I can barely function. In fact, just saying that out loud was a huge effort.”

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed more people opening up about their experiences thanks to the awesome world of social media. There’s a shift taking place, removing some of the stigma associated with depression and mental illness.

Here’s my contribution to the conversation:



This is depression. More specifically, it’s a photo from my senior prom. It was taken exactly one week after I was assaulted, and it took every ounce of my being to smile for the cameras and pretend that everything was ok that night. Inside, I was barely holding it together. I didn’t want to eat, didn’t want to drink; I just wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I had been violated and didn’t think my life was worth living anymore.

You can totally tell all that from the picture, right?

That’s the thing about depression. It’s often invisible. On the outside, everything can look ok. You can’t tell that the girl smiling for the camera felt broken and damaged. That she was tired of faking it to get through the day. That she recoiled from touch and wanted to escape from her own body.

You can’t tell that she wanted to give up. That she thought she could never feel safe again. That the nightmare of feelings she was swimming in felt like they would never end. That she just wanted to shut everything off.

You can’t tell that a few weeks after that picture was taken, she’d swallow a whole bottle of pills, rationalizing that she wasn’t really trying to end it all, she was just trying to escape the pain for a little while. And if that escape turned out to be permanent, that wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen.


Through support from my friends and mental health professionals, I was able to get past that dark place. Even now, I’m not home free, since I still have flashbacks and periods of milder anxiety and depression, but I’ve moved on. I’ve found coping techniques and support systems that work for me.


This was my story. It’s what depression and suicide looked like for me. It’s different for everyone, and I encourage you to read through some of the other posts below, or even link up your own to spread awareness of the different ways depression can manifest for people.

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  1. Beautifully honest post. So sad about Robin Williams. It is hard to grasp depression when you have never experienced it and raising awareness is the first step.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. It is really hard for people to understand since depressed people look normal. I have lived with it for more than half my life but only recently realized it myself since I didn’t feel *sad*.

  3. You said everything perfectly. You explained exactly how depression is for me. You can’t tell on the outside with the “masks” I put on when I’m feeling hopeless, alone, and sad on the inside. You know I’ve battled it for years but only due to the fact that I have a mental illness. I have had a few suicidal attempts including one most recent a month and a half ago.

    I applaud you for sharing your story-you are braver than I am. I don’t share openly for most of all the same reasons you listed above. The stigmas.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story so openly Jen. Your picture speaks a thousand words when you add #ThisIsDepression to it. It’s interesting how funny, funny, fun, outgoing people such as Robin Williams are actually dealing with major depression and we can’t see that. Part of the funny and fun masks the deep sorrow and sadness.

    I have seen a dramatic shift over the years in how depression is talked about and perceived, I agree social media has helped with that. But depression still carries a stigma that can make it hard to talk about. It’s like you are admitting weakness or somehow admitting you are not as strong or capable as others because you are depressed. So people hide it and you’re right it’s also not so fun to say to someone “I love those shoes, I would go buy some but I can barely brush my teeth so that’s not happening” right!?!

    Yet depression is a disease and if it was cancer or diabetes or some other life threatening disease everyone would surround you and wish you well, make you meals and check in on you. People would be there to support you, but depression is silent and often hidden and even if you talk about it to your close friends, it’s hard for them to know how to support you. It’s also hard for friends to know how bad it is. Because if we were to let it all out we would wipe them out emotionally. I speak from experience as I have battled depression much of my adult life. I have had darker periods and lighter periods and recently what I think may be “normal” periods – it’s hard to know what normal is after awhile – it’s a lonely thing to deal with and so hard to talk about. I rarely talk about it to anyone except my closest friends and never online…except right here and right now and a tweet yesterday with a friend who shared her own depression issues and occasionally in the past when someone else talks about their depression I will chime in with an offer of support. It’s hard to talk about – but if you are going to be brave and put it out there Jen, I will in my own small way here as well.

  5. Thank you for this. So beautiful and painful and yes, often so very invisible.

    After learning about Robin William’s death, I struggled to find the right words to articulate what I was feeling, but I tried, via both Facebook on my blog. I think, overall I’m struggling in general. His death and the constant commentary in the wake has left me overwhelmed and feeling like I need to do a self-check. It’s scary . . . it’s scary because I feel like there’s never an end to this and you can never really kill the monster under the bed (in my head, as is the case when it comes to depression), and I’m afraid I’m going to get tired of fighting or that the medication and therapy are going to stop working.

    Again, thank you for this.

  6. I love you, Jen! Thank you for sharing your story. I too tend to hide my depression and my story because it is embarrassing and frankly if you’ve not had depression it’s not easy to understand. We need to stop the stereotypes and we need to let others know it’s okay to say you’re depressed, that you want to end things, that you have no hope. It’s okay and there’s nothing wrong with you. I hope that in light of the tragedy of Robin Williams there will be more honest and open communication on mental illness.

  7. Thank you Jen for sharing your story and everyone here sharing their links. This is what we need more of in terms of any mental illness. Talking about it and education. We need to not live in the darkness and think that’s the only place we are suppose to be, but in the light.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story, Jen.

  9. Thank you for your words. I have had my struggles with depression and anxiety, too, especially after my babies were born, but that wasn’t the only time. It’s scary and hard to understand and you can’t really wrap your finger around something tangible. Even for the person going through it.

    I think that our country has a mental illness epidemic. Where as in other parts of the world they have ebola and other epidemics, the US is filled with mental illness. There is nothing wrong with it, but it can’t be ignored or it will just get worse!

  10. Elizabeth Brueseke says:

    Thank you. I really appreciate how honest, open, and willing you are to talk about difficult issues.

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