When Dmitry Golubnichy created the social media phenomenon #100happydays earlier this year, he was not feeling happy. He was in a slump, despite having a fulfilling job, supportive friends, and a loving family. He decided to post pictures of #happy things on his Instagram, from french fries to friends to dogs, using the tag #100happydays, to remind himself of all that he had to be grateful for. Millions joined him, vowing to appreciate the positive in their lives, on 100happydays.com.
Fifty days into the project, Golubnichy's life had changed for the happier. "I was feeling so much better," he told TODAY. "In the beginning I struggled to find even one picture a day, but by the end I was finding 10 pictures a day — it was so much easier to find the things to make me happy."
This is an incredibly sweet concept. Yet for sufferers of chronic depression, whose bad days aren't isolated slumps that can be overcome with a cheery social media push, this is an impossible concept.
I've suffered from major depressive disorder, which is characterized by prolonged periods of sadness, dread, anxiety, low self-esteem, and depleted energy, since I was 13. I do OK, thanks to SSRI medication and a solid support system of psychiatry and fast-food. I change my sheets every couple of months. I earn a mostly livable wage doing something I love. I have friends, family, and a fluffy dog, all of whom respect and appreciate me. But acknowledging my blessings, whether on Instagram with a #100happydays post or privately in the journal I'm not organized enough to have, will not transform me into a happy person, even though gratitude is a healthy and therapeutic practice. I can’t cure my depression with #happy proclamations. Unlike Golubnichy, publicizing the happy things in my life, I know for certain, could never lift me out of my "slump" — which, by the way, has been lifelong. That’s why his project wasn’t for me, and that’s why I needed to create a special, safe space for my depression where I wouldn’t be ashamed of who I am, of what I’ve felt I always had to hide or qualify or laugh off.
I started my blog project, 100 Depressed Days, on August 16th of this year because I was exhausted by hiding my depression amid a social media climate that demands and expects we present our best selves. I was sick of pretending to be #happy, and I was even sicker of explaining my illness to those who think depression equals sadness, when that's only part of the equation. A depressed person does not have to be perpetually moping, crying, or breaking down to be a legitimate depressed person. I, for one, smile a lot — at little things, too, like dogs in sweaters and promos for Kourtney and Khloe Take the Hamptons. I also mope, cry, and breakdown with relative frequency. Both of these statements can be true at once.
My aim was to document 100 average days living with depression; each day would be commemorated with a selfie, in bed or on a bus or in any number of the other mundane places I find myself, along with a short, mostly thoughtless caption about my day. After a week, I decided to also post submissions from real-life friends and anonymous Internet friends brave enough to tell me bits and pieces of their stories. 100 Depressed Days was about my specific story, yes, but it didn't make sense alone. After a few days of the blog, I found that people were eager to share tidbits of their days with me, too, from the tragic to the mundane.
In part, the blog was a response to #100HappyDays. I felt strongly that depressed people should be allowed to unabashedly show their faces in a medium that demands we present the sparkliest facade of our daily lives. Depressed people can and should take selfies as frequently and shamelessly as happy people, as if to say, “We’re here, too! We’re your neighbors and your friends and your family!” So while the project was initially designed to illuminate the experience of one Specific Depressed Woman, me, I was happy to give depression a little piece of property on the Internet.
After weeks of posting pictures of depressed days, good and bad, this Specific Depressed Woman is slightly less ashamed of admitting that she suffers from depression. Hopefully others reading will feel the same. By getting in the habit of acknowledging and one-notch-below-celebrating my depression, I got in the habit of accepting myself. I'm depressed. I'm depressed. I'm depressed. I don't know if I could have written those words before starting the project, which normalized my depression and made me comfortable acknowledging it publicly. I'm depressed! I'd scream it from a mountain if I had the energy to climb one. Maybe a staircase. Actually, meh.
Depression looks like a lot of things besides meltdowns and burrito binges, though meltdowns and burrito binges are definitely part of it. Depressed people can smile. Depressed people can dress up and look foineeee. Depressed people can win. I needed for people to understand the multiplicity of depression, to understand that just because I smile and tell jokes and look put-together, I could still struggle, every moment of every day, with depression.
Here's a look at a few of my depressed days taken directly from my blog.
AUGUST 17, DAY 2
"I bought a doughnut sweater. My arms are lil chunk monsters. I really do put the “frequent” in 'I’ve been frequenting my local doughnut shop way too much.'”
AUGUST 19, DAY 4
"Highlight of today: This morning, I laughed out loud thinking about dogs with human names, like Jeffrey or Dylan or Jacob."
AUGUST 25, DAY 10
"I ate delicious-ass, Indian-style lamb shanks today. Which reminds me: we need to start using the word “shank” outside of the context of food. It’s a phenomenal word. I get sad thinking about the fact that most of us don’t say “shank” each and every day. And now I’m downward-spiraling, thinking about how many great words we just don’t have the time or opportunity or courage to say. I hate that I didn’t say “refurbished” today. I actually haven’t in weeks."
AUGUST 28, DAY 13
"Bout to get some pap smeared up in here."
SEPTEMBER 3, DAY 19
"I worry that I'm a bad friend."
SEPTEMBER 18, DAY 34
"SNUGGIE SEASON IS UPON US. SNUGGIE SEASON IS UPON US."
SEPTEMBER 24, DAY 40
"What do you do when you’re inexplicably nervous? You can’t really reason with the nervousness if there’s no reason for it. Tonight, I elect gummy candy and Netflix."
SEPTEMBER 26, DAY 42
"The thing about depression is that you can have a really magical afternoon with a pug — his cute lil tongue might be out the whole God damn time — but the depression is still there, lurking. It’s always there lurking, or worse (…attacking, sabotaging, groping). Depression can execute all of the action verbs. Even frolic."
OCTOBER 1, DAY 47
"My hair has been falling out. Anxiety or old age or heat damage? No way of knowing, except there is, and it’s pretty clear to me. Is it clear to you?"
OCTOBER 2, DAY 48
"In a past life I was a cheerleader. My name was Becky and I believed in the importance of pedicured feet, the elliptical, showering, smiling, and green tea."
OCTOBER 8, DAY 54
"I now eat upwards of two meals at Dunkin Donuts a day."
OCTOBER 20, DAY 66
"Haiku about today:
Never not sweaty,
Boobs out, always, whatever
Where are the Cheez-Its??"
NOVEMBER 3, DAY 80
"I feel fresh as hell in my new glasses! Take that, depression. Take that."
NOVEMBER 5, DAY 82
"Gross day. Very gross day. Today I noticed it was a gross day."
Images: 100 Depressed Days