March 12, 2017 at 05:23PM
I’ve read a lot about the “Imposter Syndrome” that people
feel when they have depression or another mental illness. It’s literally
feeling like an impostor – worried the façade
of having it all together will slip and fall if anyone looks too closely. It
sends chills up your spine when someone asks you how you are and for a moment
you hesitate to figure out if you want to answer normally or honestly. It’s the
panic that presses on your chest when you miss a deadline or are late to work,
terrified that somehow someone will put the pieces together and see the illness
you work so hard to hide.
Sometimes I can relate to that, but other times, I have a
different type of imposter syndrome.
My imposter syndrome tells me that I don’t belong here, in
this forum. It says that my depression is actually fairly mild. When I can
function well enough and I don’t necessarily relate to the experience of others,
or I don’t show the classic symptoms of depression, the imposter syndrome tells
me that I’m exaggerating how bad I feel. It tells me I’m making a mountain out
of a molehill and I have no business being in therapy every other week or on
antidepressants. It suggests to me that since I’m not in the middle of a depressive
episode, I no longer have depression.
When I’m talking to a friend, the imposter syndrome sneaks
up and catches the words in my throat before I can relay how I’ve been coping.
It corrals my thoughts and stuffs them in a bag, pointing to my seemingly
normal actions instead. Using friends of mine who have depression as examples,
the imposter syndrome encourages me to compare the severity of my symptoms to
theirs, always concluding that I’m not so bad off as to need help or support.
And when I laugh and enjoy time with friends and family, the imposter syndrome
calls me out- saying that having fun is evidence that I’m so much better than I
believe myself to be.
It is so hard to fight this type of imposter syndrome. Trying
to prove to myself that my depression is real leads me down one of two roads:
the first being not fighting my inclination to do nothing, to leave dishes unwashed
and bathroom uncleaned – if my apartment is a mess and I’m behind on my
schoolwork, seeing that manifestation of my depression outside of myself, that
imposter’s voice is quiet for a few minutes. At the end of this path, though, it’s
The second rabbit trail I will follow involves me believing
that I am an imposter and everything
that the small voice tells me is true. I can handle doing everything I used to before
I was diagnosed (housework, schoolwork, errands, etc.). Which, in turn, means
that anything not getting done is due to my own laziness. If my depression is
mild, or even non-existent, then I have no plausible reason for procrastinating
on deadlines or struggling to keep up with my laundry. Striving to stay on top
of everything in my life quiets the imposter’s voice, until another takes its
place when I inevitably drop all the balls I’m trying to juggle at once. At the
end of this path is self-abuse.
I am still working to find the middle ground between
these two roads- sometimes it involves listening to my therapist and trusting
what she says over what I think. Sometimes it requires me to step back and
assess how I’m really doing, even if that means admitting that yes, I am doing
well and I could be working towards recovery, not just faking it. And other
days, I just shove the imposter syndrome and all its baggage out the window,
ignoring it telling that what I’m feeling is somehow wrong. On these occasions
I’m strong enough to push back, asserting my thoughts and validating my
feelings, accepting that this is my life this is where I am right now, in this
via The Mighty