So much is communicated with a smile. But not enough to judge a person’s mental health.
At my last job, I tried to smile more, hoping it would make me happier. Much of my personality was communicated through personas and body language rather than authentic emotion. You can lead and laugh through a wonderful class while still feeling an overwhelming disappointment in yourself. No simple mistake, no factual error, no awkward gaffe escapes your ever-present self-loathing. It provides ammunition, evidence to support the thesis that you are woefully unqualified and unworthy.
You wonder whether your mind even wants you to enjoy this, whether that’s a possibility at all. Your mind is too preoccupied with its escapist visions of the future to be satisfied with the present. You remember the ones who enjoyed what you did for them. Compliments bounce off your outer shell, heard and appreciated but not internalized enough to make a difference. You remember the ones who dreaded you more clearly. They left a more indelible impression in your brain, and every little piece of those memories is brought back to the surface when you think about it long enough.
And yet I still smiled all day. I left meetings alone with a weight on my chest. I remember hearing about community-building exercises, networking opportunities, icebreaker activities. Every word worsened the sting. I remember pitching these opportunities to others, hoping someone would like them, even though I had no interest in them myself. It was an obligation. What I really wanted was to feel listened to, or heard in some way.
My heart nearly burst through me the first time I had to explode at someone. I could still feel my chest pain hours later. But that’s another story for another time.
I will continue to smile for no reason at all, even if it changes nothing. My depression does not mean I cannot find enjoyment in simple things. In fact, it’s the simple things that keep me falling off the deep end. It’s when I finally discover an outlet for my creativity that I realize I can beat this back. Thanks for reading.