CORRINE BARRACLOUGH: “This is what depression looks like.”

Video by Mamamia Women's Network.

Content warning: This article deals with depression and suicide. If you or someone you know is suffering, reach out. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

Most of us wish we could do more to understand what depression looks like.

This week, Talinda Bennington, wife of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, shared footage of him laughing with his family. Chester, 41, took his own life on July 20.

The footage, filmed just hours before his death, shows him testing strange flavoured jellybeans with his son.

Talinda posted the 40-second video on Twitter, writing, “This is what depression looked like to us just 36 hours b4 his death. He loved us SO much & we loved him.”

Chester’s 15-year-old son, Draven Bennington, released three videos for National Suicide Prevention Week. In one he says, “I want to make a commitment that I will talk to someone before I hurt myself when I’m feeling depressed, sad or going through a hard week, month or year.” He adds, “I want to challenge you to do the same – to help yourself, not hurt yourself.”

Listen: Psychologist Kirsten Bouse talks to Holly Wainwright and Christie Hayes about what post-natal depression really looks like, and strategies for coping. (Post continues after audio.)

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There are several strands here that are really important to anyone wanting to peek inside a depressed mind.

Crucially, what does depression look like? Anything. There is no checklist that ensures someone is safe.

At my absolute lowest I was my most successful. I often woke up with tears on my cheeks, having cried myself to sleep. I showered, put on layers of a makeup mask, chose a pretty dress, took a deep breath and walked into the office.

My smiles weren’t real.

I was filled with dread and wanted out of life. I couldn’t see a way forward.

I was playing a part.

It was no reflection of how much I love my friends and family. In fact, the guilt of wrestling with what they would be left to deal with is often part of the overwhelming building torment.

Depression can lurk underneath the most sunny, seemingly sparkly success stories in our lives. Just because on paper it looks like someone’s kicking goals, does not mean they’re not secretly struggling.

Self-loathing and self-harm, in many forms, often hides behind smiles.

Corrine was depressed, but if you asked her she'd say she was okay.(Image supplied.)

Of course, there are crucial signs to look out for. Sometimes it’s clear to see the symptoms of someone battling depression. Yes, we should all swiftly rally round when friends hit life hurdles such as relationship breakdown, not being able to see their kids, losing a job, or the death of a friend or family member.

However, the darkest demons don’t always come clearly labelled.

I didn’t even realise at the time how dark my depression had become. I poured my energy into high functioning at work and tried to drown suicidal thoughts after dark. If someone had asked me if I was ok, I would have said yes. In fact, I did exactly that.

I laughed, I was flying high at work, but I’d left it too late to trust anyone enough to be honest and say I was drifting away.

I started playing a role. I became an actress by day. I lost my connection with the world and everyone in it. I lost the ability to begin to try and explain the tangled threads that were dragging me under.

The longer I am out of addiction, the more clearly I see how deeply I was in it. Two years later, I can see the layers and complicated causational factors that all added to the spiral’s momentum.

The more I pretended, the easier that became. The more I betrayed myself, the more isolated I became.

And so it spun. I confided silently in chardonnay and that became my only confidant. The feedback was never productive. I drifted even more.

I hurtled along gathering success to stick like Band-Aids over unresolved problems.

I didn’t deal with breakups, I drank.

I didn’t process criticism; I smiled and drank away the pain at night.

Draven Bennington’s words are so spot on: “I will talk to someone before I hurt myself when I’m feeling depressed, sad or going through a hard week, month or year.”

Catch it in the week. Don’t wait for a month or a year.

I let the years build up and drifted away from my will to live. Honestly, I feel lucky to be here.

They say the opposite of addiction is connection; I wholeheartedly agree. Connection is also central to hope; without connection we can lose fresh eyes and input on our reality.

A person can have all the glittering success in the world, but if they’ve lost hope inside, no money, fame or accolades can Band-Aid that gapping wound.

What does depression look like? It can look like anything.

We all need the freedom to speak and the ability to listen without judgement. These two things may not fix everything, but they’re a damn good start.

Speak even if your voice shakes.

Check in, even if you might not like the reply.

Corrine Barraclough is a journalist with 20 years' experience on national magazines and newspapers. She started her career as a real life writer on women’s magazines before getting swept up in a whirlwind of entertainment journalism. She worked in London, New York and was editor of celebrity weekly NW in Sydney.
She now lives on the Gold Coast, writes freelance and has her work/life balance in check. She’s very proud of to be two years sober, and believes passionately in alcohol education and personal responsibility. Find Corrine on Facebook here.

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