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We Sometimes Feel Like We Are Pretending, But We Aren’t


When we have depression, we develop narratives to justify a belief that we are faking it. But we're not. We must debunk these.

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Many of us feel this sense that we are somehow faking our depression and should just be able to ‘snap out of it’. This is a common but damaging way of thinking when we are suffering from depression. It is very important to not allow these feelings of doubt to stop us from seeking the support we deserve.

The question ‘Am I faking it?’ arises often when we are suffering from mental illness. We ask ourselves this for a variety of reasons. Perhaps we have moments of happiness, and we use this to argue that, if we can feel happy, then we must not be depressed. 

We can act as if we are okay, and if we are capable of this then we must be fine. We convince ourselves that we are just being lazy, and this is what is stopping us from completing normal tasks and socialising or getting involved in activities. 

We become convinced that we are just feeling sorry for ourselves and should be able to just push ourselves enough to feel better again. We even experience guilt, a symptom of depression, when we recognise that other people’s circumstances are far worse than our own, yet they appear to be mentally healthy. 

Newsflash: We Are Not Faking It

Here are some of the reasons we use to convince ourselves that we are, and how we can debunk them. 

We Have Happy Moments

Just as it is normal for people who are well to experience moments of feeling down, it is also possible for people with depression to experience moments of happiness, or to be able to enjoy certain activities for a short period of time. It is the default experience that is a true reflection of where our mental health is lying. 

It is also important to remember that recovering from depression isn’t linear, and doesn’t happen instantaneously. It may be helpful to consider recovery as a rollercoaster ride rather than climbing a mountain. If we imagine ourselves scaling a mountain, we visualise climbing upwards, in one straight incline.

A rollercoaster, in comparison, has many ups and downs, loop-the-loops, and small periods of calm before we finally stop and dismount. As we begin to recover from depression, we will start to notice an improvement in our mood, but it is important to remember the process will continue to have a lot of ups and downs as we go, and not beat ourselves up or question ourselves when we notice symptoms of depression reappear. Having moments of joy or happiness does not mean that we are faking it. 

We Can Act As If We’re Fine When We Need To

We might feel like we’re faking it…But we’re not
Be kind to the person below the mask. Remember depression is not always visible. Photo: Team Design

When we feel like our ability to act normally in certain circumstances means we are well, it can be helpful to consider an actor. Once an actor’s job is done, they get off the stage and return to what is considered their ‘status quo’. It is not who we are in the times when we are facing the public gallery that is a testament to how we are feeling, it is who we are when the doors are closed. 

This act can be particularly draining, and we need to remind ourselves to protect our mental health by getting plenty of rest and not putting ourselves in situations that are going to push us backwards in our recovery. 

Perhaps We Are Just Being Lazy

When we are feeling this form of doubt, it is important to consider who we were before depression. If we had hobbies that we enjoyed doing, and there has now been a shift where we don’t have the energy or we feel overwhelmed by the thought of engaging in those same hobbies, then this can be a symptom of depression.

If we find that we are sleeping a lot, or needing to rest in some form, but before depression, we were able to take on the world each day, then this can be a symptom of depression.

If we would previously have cooked for ourselves, and now no longer have the energy or the desire, this too could be a symptom of depression. 

It is important to have a clear picture of who we were before we became ill. This allows us to recognise symptoms properly and not misinterpret them as ‘laziness’. We can speak to friends, family, a trusted work colleague or a professional who knows us well to help us create a good picture of who we are when we are well and can help us alleviate this feeling of laziness. 

We are not faking it. Our lack of energy, interest, and feelings of being completely overwhelmed can all be recognised as symptoms of depression. 

We Are Just Feeling Sorry For Ourselves

This often comes from the adage that we can just ‘snap out of it’ or we need to ‘get over ourselves’. Depression is a recognised illness. Just with any other illness, we cannot simply convince ourselves to get better. We must make sure we get the support we need to restore our mental health.

If we have not done so already, the first step should be to consult our doctor. They might suggest medication, certain therapies, and encourage changes in diet and exercise depending on our personal circumstances. It is also vital that we confide in people we trust who can support us through the process. Depression is not something we ought to feel ashamed of. It is an illness, and those closest to us will often want to provide as much support as possible to enable us to get better.

We Feel Like We Have No Reason To Have Depression, Other People Have It So Much Worse

We might feel like we’re faking it…But we’re not
But there’s no single reason for depression. Photo: Team Design

Feeling guilt-ridden is a recognised symptom of depression. We may feel like we don’t have any reason to be depressed, and therefore we must be faking it. In these circumstances, a helpful analogy could be to consider a plate. 

Everybody at every point in time has a ‘plate’ symbolising the emotional burden they can take. The size of our plate changes depending on our mental health. When we are mentally unwell our plates are smaller, therefore we can take less of the burden. When we are mentally well, we can take more of a burden.

It is important for us to seek the help we need to ensure we can improve our mental health and increase the size of our plate. There are some useful links below that can help to direct us to the support we need to improve our mental health. 

We Can’t ‘Snap Out’ Of It

Our depression is not something we have chosen for ourselves, it is not something we can just ‘snap out’ of, nor is it anything to feel guilty about. We can suffer from depression regardless of how well and active we previously were, and how well we can mask what we are feeling or what our circumstances might be.  

We are not faking it; depression is an illness just like any other, and it needs to be treated as such. 

We Deserve Support

We should never let a fake narrative be the reason that we do not seek the support we deserve to improve our mental health. We deserve the support needed to get better, and the support is out there. 

There are some helpful resources and sources of advice that can assist us as we take the initial steps towards recovery. Here are a few suggestions:

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Resource

Blurtitout employs stringent sourcing standards, using only peer-reviewed studies and academic research to ensure the accuracy of its content. For details on their editorial process, you can visit their website. This commitment to reliable sources is crucial in the health and medical fields. If you need help finding or interpreting these sources

  1. Mindingyourhead.info. (2022). Minding Your Head. [online] Available at: https://www.mindingyourhead.info/.
  2. Mind.org.uk. (2022). Home. [online] Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/.
  3. Rethink Mental Illness. (2023). No matter how bad things are, we can help. [online] Available at: https://www.rethink.org/.

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