Depression is an incredibly debilitating mental illness. It can make it difficult for us to get up in the morning, exercise, and even shower. So, naturally, when my fit friend, who goes to the gym five times a week, told me she was depressed I initially found it a tough pill to swallow. Here is how I accepted that my friend Rebecca’s depression is in fact just as serious as mine, even though she has a solid six-pack.
For some context, Rebecca wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning and goes to the gym. She runs a mile, lifts weights, and swims some laps. Then, she comes home and eats a healthy breakfast while reading a book. So when Rebecca told me that she couldn’t hang out one day because she had therapy, I was initially annoyed. I felt like she was appropriating something that I struggle with daily. You could grate cheese on her abs for Christ’s sake. But then I learned better – people with visible abs can be depressed, too.
I used to think that if someone was able to function as a human being, let alone have solid, functional core strength, they could not possibly have debilitating mental illness. My depression makes me unproductive and extremely lethargic. I can barely send an email without needing to immediately take a three-hour nap afterward. Not everyone is like that, apparently. Some of us can work out for hours and still think life is pretty meaningless and dull.
I still struggle to understand how Rebecca’s depression looks different from mine sometimes. However, after she showed me her sertraline prescription and a transcribed copy of her meeting with her therapist, I decided to take her word for it. It’s important to trust people and not gatekeep, even people who could probably just climb over the gate themselves with their toned, depressed bodies.
Although it can be difficult to empathize with people who seem to have their lives together, it is important to remember that depression manifests in many forms. So, remember it’s not polite to invalidate someone’s struggles even if your heart tells you there’s no possible way that someone with flawless, washboard abs could have a serotonin deficit.