When You’re Pretending to Be Fine: 9 Tips to Deal and Heal

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“Our strength grows out of our weaknesses.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I never thought I’d want to kill myself.

All my life, I’d been a strong, independent woman, building a business from home, raising two wonderful sons, and staying happy and positive throughout.

If you’d told me I’d one day consider taking my own life, I’d have laughed and said, “You’ve got me confused with someone else!”

But after twenty years and two sons together, my husband and I decided to split up.

So what? Separation and divorce are commonplace. You just cope with it like everyone else. I was strong, so not coping would mean I was weak.

But it hurt and hurt and hurt. And eventually I just wanted to stop. I couldn’t put my boys through that, but I couldn’t see another way out. So, while pretending to everyone that I was fine, I thought about it. Seriously.

What Do You Pretend?

Coping with everything life throws at you is tough. 

Juggling all your different roles, trying to be all things to all people, and “shoehorning” so much into every day.

You and your needs aren’t even worth a mention on your very long to-do list.

You feel guilty and inadequate and worry that someday all those plates you’re spinning will come crashing down. You’re an amazing “somebody” who often feels like an invisible and overwhelmed “nobody.” Feeling lost and alone, living in silent despair.

Not always much fun being a grown-up, is it? 

You’re not alone, you know.

From the outside, others seem to be holding it all together. Just like you. Just like me.

Have you thought that perhaps sometimes they’re not coping either? That maybe, just like you, they’re not perfect?

Pretending to cope comes at a price.

I’d also fallen out of love with my first home-based business, so my marriage to my best friend was over, and my future was gone.

Our joint, shameful debt took me months to resolve, was a debilitating hell, and meant we had to live a lie under the same roof for eight months, sharing our bed in cold silence for the first four as we pretended to our young teenage sons that all was normal.

I felt sick when I awoke to the conversation we’d been dreading: telling the boys that Mom and Dad were splitting up. A parent’s supposed to make things better, not worse. As I tore their world apart, it broke my heart.

When we did separate, my expenses escalated while my income sank. And when my boys went to stay at their father’s, nothing could stop the overwhelming loneliness from driving me into the ground. So I put my head down and worked. It kept me sane a little longer.

Something had died, but instead of grieving, I pretended I was coping. 

My even busier life was now a nightmare, yet I was barely functioning and I didn’t recognize myself anymore: lethargic, hollow, lost, ashamed, and desperately lonely. Feeling weak and pathetic because I couldn’t cope on my own without a man around. A failure.

I started to unravel.

I wanted to run away rather than face the misery ahead, so I escaped to bed to shorten the days. Cooking for one underlined my loneliness, so I didn’t bother, and for a while I comforted myself with alcohol, as the health implications were no longer important.

And that’s when I thought of making it all stop. To stop feeling miserably unhappy. To stop crying every day. I wasn’t miserable when I slept, so why not just keep sleeping? It made perfect sense.

But the damage to my boys forced me to keep my comforting escape route a secret.

Then came the anxiety attacks, and twelve months after our painful decision, I was diagnosed with a stress-related facial skin disease and depression.

When all seems lost, there’s still a way forward.

If you are, or feel you might be, depressed, take comfort and pride from Dr. Tim Cantopher’s words from his book Depressive Illness: The Curse of The Strong:

“You are wrong in thinking you are weak and should be ashamed of having this illness, you have got it because you are strong  … a weak, cynical or lazy person faced with difficulties will quickly give up, so would never get depressed enough to become ill.”

I can’t solve your issues here, but if you’re struggling and pretending, I’d like to help you take that all-important first step so you can start to look after you.

1. Be honest.

Pretend and, at some point, the problem and the pain will surface ten-fold. If you’re not coping, admit to yourself that you’re not. This shows great strength.

2. Ask for help.

This isn’t a sign of weakness. Are others weak for coming to you for help? Why should you be different? Tell those who care about you that you’re not coping. Don’t struggle in silence.

3. Talk openly.

When you‘ve asked for help, share your feelings with someone you know and love who will listen without judgement or advice, or with a trained counselor.

Talking about how you feel and having someone listen can feel self-indulgent at first, but it’s a huge part of the healing process.

4. Learn to say no more often.

Maybe saying yes to everything and everyone makes you feel superhuman. But superheroes are works of fiction, and you don’t possess special powers.

When you’re saying yes to everything, who and what are you saying no to?

Try to do less things better rather than taking on so much that you beat yourself up for what you don’t achieve.

5. Rejoice and reward yourself for your achievements.

If you berate yourself for what you get wrong, then surely you have to take responsibility and take credit when you do something well.

6. Accept that perfection is impossible.

In a world of self-help and personal development, we’re bombarded with advice about always being positive and successful, and striving to be the best.

Strive to be the best that you can be, and be a realist. Just like me, you’re imperfect, you’re weak sometimes, you make mistakes, and you’re a work in progress.

Strive to be happy. Accept your weaknesses and you’ll be stronger for it.

7. Make time for you.

You fulfill many roles: parent, partner, businessperson, child, sibling, friend. Don’t lose sight of your needs and being you.

Give yourself permission to take time out for you and put you back on your to-do list.  You’ll be more effective and happier in your other roles.

8. Start putting yourself first.

It’s not selfish. You’re important and you deserve better. So once you’re back on that list, work on moving yourself further up.

To look after others, you first have to look after yourself. The in-flight emergency procedure tells you to put on your own oxygen mask first, before you help others with theirs.

9. Stop comparing yourself to others.

I’d wager that most people feel inadequate and overwhelmed.

Just as others have no idea what’s going on in your life, you have no idea what’s really going on in theirs, so it serves no positive purpose to compare yourself and worry about what others are doing. You’re unique. You can only be you. Chances are they’re probably comparing themselves to you!

Moving Forward

Over time the medication helped lighten my mood, and I could look a little beyond my despair. If I was going to keep living, I didn’t want to spend it wishing I were dead. The counseling gave me time and space to stop pretending, talk honestly, and grieve.

While still battling depression, I’m now cooking healthy meals again and laughing far more than I have in years. I’ve enrolled at a gym and am taking time for me. I’ve qualified as a Life Coach and set up a blog and online business.

I’m still here to love and look after my boys.

I’ve learned to stop comparing myself to others who I don’t even know, and that’s it’s okay—no, it’s necessary—to express rather than bury my feelings, to admit when I’m not coping, and to embrace my weaknesses.

Every day, the baby steps I’m taking for me, just me, add up. I’m miles away from where I was.

You can move ahead too.

You’re not weak for wanting to run away. You’re strong for having the guts to admit it.

Decide to stop the unhealthy pretenses. Be proud of who you are and what you achieve each day. Set time aside for you. Everything and everyone else can wait a while.

Photo by Victor Bekrukov

About Chris Lappin

Chris Lappin is a blogger and qualified Life Coach with a passion for supporting women who work from home to balance their work and home life so they’re more productive and happier. Her free Improve How You Work From Home E-course will help you do that and more.

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  • Rick

    This meant much to me. Thank you for writing it.

  • Chris Lappin

    Rick thank you for reading it and for commenting. I hope it helps you in some way.

  • lilmissmoonshine

    I really needed to read something like this today! In the past couple months, I’ve spent many a night wishing I was dead and pretending everything is ok. Last night happened to be one of those nights. I feel a little better this morning thanks to your blog. I will refer back to it every time I feel like I need something to motivate me to move forward and not get derailed by my thoughts.

  • katie

    brave. powerful. moving. thank you.

  • Kelly

    All I can say is thank you. You are extremely amazing for sharing your story. It has helped me realize its ok to take care of me first.

  • katie

    brave. moving. powerful. thank you.

  • Louise

    Thank you for this powerful piece. After the birth of my son I did everything I could to prove tot the world (and myself) that I could cope and was coping. But I wasn’t. It is exhausting pretending you are okay when you are not. I am now focused on doing all that you mention on your list and I am learning how to look after myself and not worry that I am a failure or selfish for having to do so. Thanks again

  • Wow. Just wow. This is amazing and I have often felt similar but it’s nice that I’m not alone and it’s a sign of strength not weakness when I feel less than myself. Lots and lots of love to you Chris!

  • When were you eavesdropping on my life to be able to write this!!! You just described my life a few months ago!

  • Charli Kerr

    ~ Thank you so much ! It’s hard to remember to be good to yourself, and take care of yourself, especially when you are doing so for others…put the mask on you first, then help others ♥

  • Lorelei

    Dear Chris, I read this last night on Tiny Buddha as I was having a difficult time coping with some of difficulties I have been faced with over the past 8 months. You gave me strength to stop crying, journal a bit and realize that I am a strong person who will make it through the challenges I am faced with. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to share. Thank you so much! It was what I needed at just the right time!

  • Amanda

    Thank you Chris for writing this post. I cried throughout reading it (to the point I could barely see the words). This is exactly what I am going through and the pain is seering.

  • k j

    I’m encouraged by your writing. I felt like have a little more grip, like I could see a little more daylight. It’s hard as hell wearing that smile sometimes. I’m glad you’re here for all of us.

  • Thanks for your sharing your powerful story! I feel a strong connection to it. In the last year, I hit emotional bottom at work and sought help of a life coach. My coach has worked with me to “right size” my expectations of myself and others. This has helped me along the road to healing.

  • Tizalee

    I found this when I needed it most. Widowed after 25 yrs, kids grew up and left, alone, depressed, hating myself for being weak-you opened my eyes and gave me hope & quite possibly saved my life-I am printing this out and putting it on my wall-oh how I love you for this post.

  • I’ve done #1 through #4 on this list and still came up empty. When I attempted #6 and #7 once, my mother called the police, just because I was unreachable via telephone for one day….ONE day! Its hard to take time for yourself and put yourself first when the people around you don’t even respect that space.

    The part where you said “If I was going to keep living, I didn’t want to spend it wishing I were dead” drives it all home for me. Its great that you were able to get through your darkness, and be able to be there for your sons. I wish you all well.

  • navy

    I was in such a dark, depressive phase in my life, to the point where I would cry constantly alone in pain. I was alive but not living and comparing myself to others and thinking I was a loser and a failure. After I learned to accept a few life situations I was ready to cope. Now I’m smiling more and crying less, and putting myself first knowing that I’m only human. This was a great article which has only further encouraged me to keep my head up and move on forward. Thanks for sharing your personal story 🙂

  • Lisa

    I suffered severe depression for many years, and the most important thing I learnt was not to underestimate my friends. I don’t feel burdened when a friend comes to me for help, nor do they when I go to them. I also realised that it’s unfair of us to not allow friends the opportunity to help – that’s what they’re there for, and each and every one would rather I call them hysterical at 2am, than get a phone call notifying them of my death the next morning.

  • Chris Lappin

    Lilmissmoonshine let go of the pretense and do keep reading it if it helps. Be kind to yourself – sometimes there’ll be a little progress and sometimes there’ll be none. And that’s ok. Baby steps.

  • Chris Lappin

    For me Kelli expectations are so important. I’ve learnt to manage mine so I still strive for things but don’t push myself too much and to be more aware and accepting of the negative things. I always tried to look on the bright side and now I am more aware that just as there is Summer, there is Winter and it’s not negative to acknowledge there are negatives!

  • Chris Lappin

    Just be you and feel those emotions kj. My counsellor helped me see it’s ok to be sad and upset. To accept it and to embrace it rather than push it away and bury it. So it’s ok to not wear that smile.
    I’m glad you’re here too. You can see there are lots of us and that’s a comfort in itself.

  • Chris Lappin

    Amanda nothing I say in these comments will help you because that would be flippant as it’s not easy.

    I’m so sorry for that pain you’re feeling and there isn’t a shortcut. If it’s any consolation it would be to say to accept it and don’t feel bad about feeling it. It’s easy for me to say it now as I’m further through that process. Before I’d have apologized for making you cry but I’m not going to. I will just repeat to ask for help if you haven’t already

  • Chris Lappin

    Thanks Katie, your comment means a lot.

  • Chris Lappin

    Absolutely Kelly! I would just add that it’s not just ok but necessary! I think we’re indoctrinated to feel it’s selfish to think of ourselves first.
    Now you’re aware, you can do something about it!

  • Chris Lappin

    Wow what can I add to that Louise? Nothing except I totally agree that it’s exhausting. What a waste of our energy! I too am a failure, I don’t cope and I’m trying to be selfish. Thank you.

  • Chris Lappin

    And lots of love to you Jessica. And you’re definitely not alone. There are lots of us around. How refreshing!!

  • Chris Lappin

    Hahaha! Well I’m glad I described how it was months ago. You’ve obviously been moving forward no matter how quickly or slowly.
    Thanks Linda, I love your quote. I’m pinching it!

  • Chris Lappin

    I agree Charli ann maybe we should make a pact to look after ourselves. Taking Linda’s quote and adding to it by deciding to treat ourselves as we treat those we love.

  • Chris Lappin

    Thank you – you’ve no idea how much this comment and the others here mean to me.

    Yes you’re strong Lorelei and you’re also weak. And both of those are ok.

  • Chris Lappin

    I’m pleased to hear your depression is in the past Lisa.
    You’re so right – “it’s unfair of us to not allow friends the opportunity to help”. I’d be really cross if a friend didn’t come to me for help so it has to work both ways!

  • Chris Lappin

    Tizalee I want to hug you. I think everyone else here can relate to what you’re saying even if our situations aren’t the same and the pain is different.

    Can I just ask that you think about finding some professional help so you can talk openly and you can find where that hope is so it’s more than a word.

    I’ve been to weekly counselling sessions for 18 weeks and it’s been incredible. I went to grieve. I wanted to be the ‘old me’ again rather than the pathetic, weak, dependent, lonely ‘me’ I’d become. But now I don’t want to be the ‘old me’ anymore. I want to stop pleasing others, to stop pretending, to ask for help, to stop trying to over-achieve, to accept that I’m weak. What happened is part of me. Not sure that makes sense to anyone else but me!!

    Like you I hated myself for being weak. I want to start a campaign that we all rejoice in our weaknesses!

    Sending you a big virtual hug and am thinking of you.

  • Chris Lappin

    Thanks for sharing your story Navy. The comments here are part of the post and have brought it alive with everyone sharing so openly.

    So pleased to hear you’re smiling more and that you can be honest and say you’re ‘crying less’. The sadness and pain hasn’t gone but it’s better than it was.

  • Chris Lappin

    Wow Nicole that’s hard. That isn’t something I’ve experienced. My pressure is brought about by daily life and the pressures I put upon myself.

    I’m pleased that it resonated with you. It sounds so simple but I had to make a choice, no half-way.
    I hope you find that space to be you.

  • Olivia

    That was really moving. I wish you so well.

  • Chris Lappin

    Thank you for your kind words Olivia.

  • Binder Saini

    Pretending to be fine is even more painful when you get so good at it that you think it’s normal behaviour until due to critical mass something happens and you realise your not really who you thought you were. Undiagnosed depression is misunderstood and effects many areas of life leaving a trail of misinterpreted incidents, weak foundations and support where uneducated friends, family and culture is concerned. This only furthers your decent into darkness especially when you are intelligent enough to know you are a cash cow for psychiatrists peddling psychotropic drugs as a means to fulfil their career aspirations relative to their relationships with pharmaceutical agencies.

  • willow

    Thank you for writing this and for being so honest in sharing your story. Reading it makes me realise how far I have come as I went through a similar depression which I thought would never end and nobody around me seemed to understand or sympathise which made it even harder. But with counselling I learnt that it was ok to be weak sometimes, nobody is always strong, that being sad or lonely is a natural reaction to some life events and it does not make me a lesser person. Life looks much brighter now and it is thanks to people like you reaching out to others. Your words really help a lot.

  • Nana

    Dear Chris and all precious ladies, who left their comments, thank you!

    How surprising is to find out that I am not alone in my darkness… After two and a half very unfortunate years I found myself in abyss. For past 7-8 months I am tired of living. In early October I almost had a stroke and while waiting in hospital for all kinds of tests and treatments, I was praying to God to make that the final point – I had no urge to live. The most exhausting part is keeping up the appearances – for my two wonderful boys,for relatives who live on the other side of the globe, for friends who turned out to be just acquaintances when things stopped working fine for me. That famous light at the end of a tunnel seemed turned off in my case. But one very dear lady told me: “Fake it till you make it!”

    Now, after turning 50, i am learning to love myself and taking baby steps on that new path. Although, sometimes I am just laying down and thinking of the best scenario of leaving this world, then realizing how insane is that!

    Thank you once again for your post, and all comments – so enlightening!

  • Denise

    This is a beautifully-written article and, believe it or not, came at JUST the exact right moment! I cried tears of both joy and pain while reading it. It reminded me of things I already know but are sometimes extremely difficult to implement while in the midst of a trial. Chris, may you, your family and everyone reading be blessed!

  • moongoggle

    Your story brought tears of recognition. Thank you so much for sharing and for your excellent suggestions. May those awful feelings never come back!

  • Janice Brodowsky

    Thank you so much for writing this. Your words have helped me to realize that in taking care of myself, I can more effectively take care of others. Your words are very wise. Thank you for posting this.

  • sem

    Thank you! I greatly needed this post!

  • Tizalee

    Thanks for the hug! I have a counseling appt week after next and a friend of mine gave me a ph# for a life coach. I’ve been widowed for nearly 9 yrs and thought I was through all this hitting bottom stuff-this really snuck up on me. Generally I am so thankful for what I did have and what I do have (grown kids & grandkids)but just haven’t been able to find my way through this. I really want to put all this behind me and continue on the path to finding myself. Most of the time it’s been an interesting journey, just lately not. It just feels crummy right now and none of us like feeling this way-but this too shall pass and the sun will rise tomorrow. Thanks for caring.

  • Dear Chris, thanks so much for having the courage to post this.

    For about a year I woke up every morning picturing my own death in my head. Always violent, always the blood splattering on the walls of my dining room as I would take my own life with a gun to the head (even though I don’t even own a gun). And, no one would even care…I don’t have a husband or children, I really think that worrying about who would care for my dog was the only thing keeping me alive at the timeI was so depressed that I thought that I was beyond help…that I needed to get a bit better before I could even go to get help…and then, I finally did.

    I didn’t last long in therapy – apparently that wasn’t the route for me – but therapy brought me to buddhism and mindfulness training and from this, my suffering started to be relieved. And, I found sangha, actually many of them…groups of people on the same path, wanting to learn the same things and wanting to lead a more fulfilling life. For anyone out there feeling alone, I’d definitely recommend checking out or even starting your own meetup group. I belong to several sanghas now. I wake up in the morning to a morning meditation telesangha, have a monthly buddhist book club (which is how I discovered “Tiny Buddha”) and have started Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Yoga Teacher Training.

    It’s been a little over a year now since I’ve felt that I wanted to take me life – and really haven’t thought of it again until reading this post and am so thankful to my sangha for helping me lift out of it!

    Thanks again for your honest and heartfelt post. We are all here together, brothers and sisters on this path.

  • Chris Lappin

    I’m so pleased to hear you have a counselling appt. I’m a life coach and would actually recommend that initially you just go to the counsellor and leave the life coaching for now as it may overwhelm you rather than help. The counselling will help with the crumminess, your healing and a way forward that fits you. The life coaching can wait for now imo. If the counsellor doesn’t ‘fit’ you then ask to see someone else. That’s really important. Please keep in touch.

  • Chris Lappin

    Thanks for sharing Angelique. It’s wonderful to hear you found your way forward and well done for not giving up. It’s a reminder for me that though the problem may be similar, the solution is often very different as we’re different. I remember that as a life coach but sometimes forget it in daily life!

    I love the fact that, because of what you went through, you’ve now got a new direction. Thanks for the recommendation.

    And I’d like to thank Lori for creating this amazing, supportive community.

  • Chris Lappin

    Hope it helps you Sem.

  • Chris Lappin

    My pleasure Janice. It took me months to write and for a couple of months I couldn’t even bring myself to continue with it as it was too painful.

    It’s strange to sometimes admit to ourselves that we are worth being at the top of our own list. It will take time and it’s not selfish.

  • Chris Lappin

    Thank you for your kind comment. I wanted this to touch and to help. I hope you find your way forward whatever your pain is

  • Chris Lappin

    Denise your comment has made me cry! Thank you.
    While you’re going through that trial it can be impossible to think straight sometimes as overwhelm sets in. Baby steps. Reminders of what we already know are always good 🙂

  • Chris Lappin

    Thank you Nana! It is so exhausting and for me faking it made things worse. I can completely relate to your thoughts and feelings. I didn’t want to kill myself. I just didn’t want to be alive. That’s why I didn’t look after myself as I wanted the decision to be taken away from me.

    Thanks for sharing what you went through and it’s wonderful to hear you’re moving forward with your baby steps.

  • Chris Lappin

    What you’ve written has made me tingle all over Willow. It’s almost like reading my own words and thoughts.
    Sounds like you found a fabulous counsellor and so pleased your life is brighter.

  • Chris Lappin

    Wise words Binder, thank you. It’s strange how our definition of ‘normal’ can change isn’t it?

  • Sumitha

    Chris, You almost made me cry. I wanted to say something yesterday, but didn’t know what. After reading it again today, I just *had to* say something. So…. Thank You!

  • Chris Lappin

    Hi Sumitha and thanks for commenting second time around! Please pass it on if you know of someone it can help.

  • Denise

    Very well said, Lisa! My family always tells me, after the fact: “why didn’t you TELL me! I would have BEEN HERE for you, you KNOW that!” and I always reply: “yeah yeah…I know….” Why do we do that to ourselves? Wishing you all the best!

  • Denise

    I would probably agree, Chris. If you think of the depression as the holes in the wall, you want to “patch those up” before painting and putting up wallpaper. (I love coming up with these types of analogies, they’ve really helped me over the years). Best wishes and wellness to you, Tizalee! I do believe you’re going to be OK!

  • Denise

    Angelique, I do believe that wellness is wellness, no matter what the journey! Best wishes to you always!

  • Denise

    Chris, just look at the blessings you’ve brought to so many! I would never wish ill will on anyone, but I must admit reading all of these stories is bringing peace to my heart in that I know I’m not alone, I know there’s nothing “wrong with me”, and that sometimes words from a stranger can make all the difference in the world. Thank you all so much for sharing your pain and your feelings of the sun coming out slowly through the clouds. It is said that one of the best ways to help ourselves is by helping others, and each of you have done that for me. May we all continue to find our way and, most importantly, to do the work!

  • Chris Lappin

    What a fabulous analogy Denise. Pinching that one too!!

  • Chris Lappin

    The post was the start but here in the comments was where the conversation started and people reached out and supported each other. Thank you for your part in that Denise. When we’re in a dark place it’s incredibly lonely. You’re right we’re not alone.

    I’ve been so overwhelmed by the comments I’ve received here and on FB and in the emails people have sent. This took me four months to write and the whole object was to help others.

    If it’s ok with everyone I’d like to thank my counsellor, Anna, for kindly walking with me.

  • Rachel

    This is what I’ve been doing with myself. There should be a #10: It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. There is so much pressure to pretend.

  • Chris Lappin

    Love your #10 Rachel!

  • Bethany

    WOW-I swear to goodness it as if this article was written directly to me. I have been struggling with the same exact issues/feelings since my divorce the end of October. While I am not happy others experience the same thing I am glad I am not alone even though I feel like I am. Thank you very much.

  • zyg

    Thank you for this. I continue to struggle with my own battle for depression and even as I still doubt very much that I’m strong – amazing how these negative thoughts keep on coming – it is so reassuring just to read and reflect upon another’s pain and difficulties and recognise them as my own. It is a struggle, at times, to live and to live well, but your strength and positivity shines through and gives just a little hope. One thing I have been struggling with, and it feels like I am now failing in a career that is perhaps ill-suited to me. It also helps to know that you have found the strength to move on and develop another different career from your first business. I only hope that I can do the same, if it comes to it. Thank you.

  • Chris Lappin

    Sorry to hear what you’re going through Bethany. Yes, you’re in good company! I think we all have to go through the process rather than fighting it.
    Not easy, just necessary.

  • Darlene

    Hi Chris,
    Loved reading your story because there are so so many of us stuck in
    depression and we can’t seem to get out of it . On top of the depression is the feeling that we are alone.

    Most of my life has been clouded with Depression but the last six years have been the hardest. Medication helped but then last summer I had an emotional break down and had to take time off work. I couldn’t stop crying. Everyday I woke with the thought, ” I hate my life.”

    I am starting to feel better now. I attribute it to a few of the points you made. I was honest with myself and the important people in my life. I reached out for help. I say no more often and I make time for myself.

    Every evening I write in my blog. It is me time. I get the chance to write about how I feel and what helps me find happiness. When I start to feel down I use gratitude to lift my spirits. It helps every time.

    Thanks for sharing and inspiring others to come forward!

  • Chris Lappin

    Zyg it’s really hard to be able to deal with a job/career change when there are so many other emotions to deal with. I felt overwhelmed, paralysed and just went around in circles for a very long time. Take it slowly.

    I’m 48 and I feel that it’s never too late. You’ll be amazed at where your strength will come from if you look after you first and then work from there. Hold on to that hope and think about what you’d like to leave behind or what you’d like to move towards. You don’t have to do anything with it, you can just start to become aware.

  • Bethany

    Not easy for sure. Would not wish these feelings and roller coaster of emotions on any human being. Thank you for your positive words!!!

  • zyg

    Thank you again – tremendously good advice; I recognise completely everything you’ve written – I’m 43 and have been thinking now its just too late. Hope doesn’t just ‘spring eternal’: it comes, for me, from reading and learning from others like you who I realise are just like me. I only hope I can become as wise and kind!

  • Tracy

    Strong and inspiring. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • lv2terp

    Thank you for being so vulnerable, honest, and sharing this message! 🙂 Congrats on making it to this place! 🙂 GREAT tips of wisdom!

  • tilly

    What a heartfelt post, thank you for posting this and the positives that have come out of this very painful and deeply sad situation. I am experiencing my own grief about an end a relationship to a man who I loved but is an addict. Trust is difficult, I cannot visualise a future, I do not like being single, I am full of fear and the fear of being alone. I tell myself to ride this wave, I tell myself this shall pass, I need to trust myself,, trust in life, trust that change will be positive. Someone said to me once ‘we compare our insides with other peoples outsides’. I think this is very true. Reaching out when we are feeling most vulnerable is a difficult thing to do, it takes strength and courage but we do need to share our pain, not only can we find comfort but we offer our friends and family the real us, we give permission for them to open up to us and when they wish

  • Tilly

    Wow, no way are you weak, you are so very human in your grief. Bless your heart., really hope you can start to be gentle with yourself, you will find your feet in time and you will smile again X

  • Tilly

    Just wondering if you had thought about another approach of therapeutic work? It may be helpful for you to look at your thoughts and beliefs about yourself, find tools to move forward with more certainty. Just a thought,Counselling can be helpful but we can only go so far with dealing with the past stuff when there is a future to be had. Be kind and gentle to yourself, 25 years of loving someone shows such strength of character, and the fact you still love your husband shows you that you care deeply, you are enough, you must be because you have such capacity for love. X

  • Dear Chris, thanks so much for sharing your story. Both my husband and I have suffered depression for different reasons. What has touched me the most is the responses you have received, there are so many people suffering depression, struggling with life, struggling to cope, and at the same time pretending to the world that everything is OK. I am 45 years old, and for the first time have realised that I am not the only one who struggles to cope at time, and that it is OK just to be me. Thank you. PS – the quote about the weak people giving up and not getting depression did make me laugh.

  • Robert Tyszko

    Pretty amazing to read this post. I am currently going through a fearful panic episode in my life…for the past 8 months. Different side of the same coin as depression. The worst of both is not believing that there is an end to it. Hold on everyone. Believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for us all. It is okay to be weak. Believe me, it is OK.

  • dawn

    You wrote my story. how could i tell people i was in so much pain? every word, every experience staying in bed when the girls where not with me drinking drinking only those sisters who have been to the dark side know that yes, it can really get that bad. I so hope I dont miss someone feeling invisible . I hope I see it and reach out and hold her hand tight and tell her let help you thru this like others helped me.
    look at how many of us are out there !! pay it forward sisters, and have a nice CRUNCHY CARROT when you feel drawn to unhealthy things

  • Elora N

    Thank you for the beautiful post. I have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts too, and I am slowly moving out of those places into happiness. Your words have shown me that I am not alone and that everyone sturggles. Thank you so much for your honesty and your hope. You are a wonderfully strong person and an inspiration. <3

  • This was such a beautiful and heart rending article, this is why I love coming to this site … it hits you so deeply every time you come. Chris, thanks for your honesty, openness and willingness to help others by sharing the insights you have. The points you make in this article about taking it one step at a time, and remembering to say no and think of yourself seem so simple, but are so profoundly true. I’m rarely affected by an article like this, perhaps because my mind jumps to extremes as well, and sometimes there seems to be no way out, except the ‘easy’ way. Many thanks~

  • Chris Lappin

    It’s an incredible site isn’t it?
    You’re right Luna – sometimes it’s the simple stuff that we know we should do, that we don’t do. We just need a little nudge now and then!

  • Chris Lappin

    Thank you for your kind words Elora and I’m so pleased you’re moving into happiness, no matter how slowly. I’ve learnt to acknowledge and embrace the fact that there will still be hard times and struggles. Then I’m more prepared emotionally and can deal with them better.
    Keep moving 🙂

  • Chris Lappin

    Dawn I completely agree with you and what a wonderful sentiment and a great reminder to be more mindful of others and their difficulties. When everyone’s so busy, with so many things to juggle it’s hard to reach out and either ask, or offer, help. Thanks.

  • Chris Lappin

    I’m sorry to hear about your grief Tilly.
    I really had no idea how hard it would be to be single, and alone, after 20 years of being a couple. We decided mutually to split up and, at first, I was excited about what was ahead, a new adventure and a happier life. The terrible loneliness really shook and shocked me. It’s taken a long time but I’m learning to be alone and trying to not be lonely when I am.

    Look after yourself, don’t rush that change and, as you say, trust in you. ‘This shall pass.’

  • Chris Lappin

    Thank you. It was hard to write but worth it if it’s helped.

  • Chris Lappin

    Thank you for reading it and taking the time to comment Tracy.

  • Chris Lappin

    What an inspiring comment! And what an incredibly long way you’ve come!

    I also cried every day. It became normal. That was my new life. I dreaded the day ahead and in particular the weekends when the boys weren’t with me and everyone else was busy with their families.

    When my counsellor asked me what I’d done that was enjoyable with my free time I drew a blank. That was a sad, but necessary wake-up-call.

    Well done for creating some Me Time!

  • Chris Lappin

    43 – no way too late if it’s what you want to do!! It’s just a number. You may be better equipped now than you were 10 years ago.
    And from your words i think you are wise and kind. It’s just hard for you to admit it to yourself.

    I hope Lori doesn’t mind me leaving a link here. It’s a blog I follow about possible career change and, like with Tiny Buddha, has wonderfully supportive readers. It’s at It may help.

  • Chris Lappin

    Beautifully said Robert and I hope you keep moving forward.

  • Chris Lappin

    I’m pleased you like the quote Janine. It’s a fabulous book.
    I think so many people pretend so that’s why we feel alone. Everyone’s suffering in silence!

    The response here has been overwhelming and it’s been so supportive. I’ve been trying to think of a way we can keep it going in some way. Anyone have any thoughts?

  • Heather Rogers

    God bless you Chris for writing this and for sharing. I needed to read it. I’m printing it out to reread as necessary.

  • Chris Lappin

    Comments like yours have made it worthwhile Heather. Keep checking back in here as the comments from others are inspiring.

  • Denise

    Of course (whatever “pinching” means…lol)!

  • Denise

    I think that’s a great idea! I’m overwhelmed right now personally and I’m afraid my brain isn’t as clear as I’d like for it to be, so i can’t think of anything else besides FB. The problem with that is I’m not on there as much as I used to be, and maybe others here aren’t on there at all.

  • boadicea

    Oh lord that quote really brought tears to my eyes. I have just spent the weekend in and out of crying because I have so much going on re job and family, and now I have a pile of debt to sort out too. Somehow it’s just got too much again – September 2011 I got myself taken to hospital so I wouldn’t kill myself. I survived then but I know I haven’t really addressed the problems and they are still there. So I’m on Step 1 and saying to myself, you have to admit you are NOT FINE. Last night I said something to my O.H. but only a little. I know I need to open up more, and with more people, but let’s take it one step at a time.

  • Sarah

    I’ve found that I often have to KEEP repeating steps 1-4 in order to get near the last five. Depression doesn’t just go away once you’ve addressed it once, and the people who can help you should know that it’s a constant and revolving struggle. Reading this helped remind me that I CAN achieve 1-4, and deserve to get to the rest of them! Thank you, Chris.

  • Chris Lappin

    1-4 seem so simple and often what’s simple gets forgotten. You used a really important word Sarah ‘deserve’. You Can and you do Deserve 🙂

  • Chris Lappin

    You sound overwhelmed which is a tough place to be when there are difficult and important things to deal with as you have right now. Try and take one thing at a time.

    I know that’s easier to say than to do and often they’re connected. At one point I didn’t know what the questions were, never mind my answers! Personally I had to deal with the debt first and then move on to dealing with the separation.

    That book may help you Boadicea. Take it slowly, one step at a time and think about who you can open up to, to get the help you need. Wishing you well.

  • Chris Lappin

    Thanks Denise. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. This whole experience has been very supportive, useful and inspiring for me and clearly a lot of people gain comfort from sharing their stories and knowing others are in a similar situation.

    I got the OK from Lori to mention it here. I may set up a blog where we, and others, can come together as a group to support each other. Like an online support group discussing various aspects of separation/divorce/depression. I’m not very technical so have no idea how to create a forum but I could set up a blog.

  • Lorelei

    Thank you for your encouragement. I am learning that being both strong and weak is part of life and ok. The willingness to honor both is what I am working on.

  • Barb M.

    Hello Chris,

    So much of your article resonates with me…several parallels to the point of being rather uncanny and comforting at the same time. One mention you make is of a stress related facial skin disease. In the last two years, while enduring a life changing experience similar to what you described experiencing in your own live, I too developed a facial skin condition, which has yet to be diagnosed or treated successfully. After a life of an absolutely flawless complexion, I am now plagues with constant breakouts that lead to sores that take many weeks to begin healing, and leave scars. If you have any information you’d be willing to share on treatment you may have received, and the outcome, I would be truly grateful. My medical doctor and dermatologist have, to this point, been of very little help. Thank you for your consideration, and for helping so many recognize that they are not alone in how they are feeling!

  • Chris Lappin

    Barb I may not be able to help but email me at and we can ‘chat’ further.

  • Chris Lappin

    Barb, email me at chris(at)improvehowyouworkfromhome(dot)com

  • Chris Lappin

    Hello Barb and thanks for your message. I’ve tried to leave you my contact details here but it’s not possible for obvious reasons.

    If you go to my site by typing in improve how you work from home and there’s a contact form where you can email me. I don’t know if it’s the same thing and if I can help but we can always try!

  • J

    Dear Chris, one of my love one always pretend that she is fine for she didn’t want others to think about her, sad for her or get emotionally for her….she never ask for help, never want to or will to.

    hopefully she will someday realize that she’s not alone and people surround her love her so much..

  • janah

    i had the first experience of feeling suicidal today, as a result of the ongoing divorce, mounting debt and my children’s loneliness. Your honesty made me smile and maybe hate myself a little bit less today. Thank you.

  • Ty

    I just read this. I always lie to myself to get through things but the lies aren’t cutting it. I need to put me first a little more.

  • lily

    I definitely needed to read this. Thank you. It’s such a struggle some days, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  • confused

    ive tried talking things out but the one person i thought would listen insted of making me feel worse did just that and it just made me feel more guilty about the way i was feeling they get mad when i tell them whats bothering me so i hold it in till its noticable and then they get mad that i dont tell them what can i do pls help

  • gloriousmesses


    Just lovely. I, too, have wanted to not be here. To sleep permanently. I think Steps 1 – 3 are as life-saving as “stop, drop, and role”; probably more so. I wish you good love and strength on your journey.

  • Oh god oh god YES YES YES. And I don’t have the kids to keep me trying to seem together some of the time. I’m a grad student and am writing my dissertation, so I’m writing alone from my house, and am rather isolated. I was dependent on my husband’s income while finishing this degree, so now I am relying on my parents to support me. I am ashamed of taking their money at age 35, when I never took it before…. I’ve been financially self-sufficient since I graduated from college.

    I feel like I’m in a race against time- can I finish this degree before my sanity runs out?
    Without anyone else in my house to judge me, I’m sleeping until 11 every day. I toss and turn until the wee hours in a panic about my life and my loneliness.

  • Jason Holborn

    Well, I befriended a sweet lady at a seminar intro last year and over coffee, she told me that I was pretending to be okay. The words really impacted me, and we discussed her own experience pretending to be fine. It was a helpful conversation and has made an impact lasting far beyond our coffee. Thanks for this. PS Your hairdo is top-notch!

  • Roxanne

    Hello everyone,

    I am 23 years old and I also find myself in a situation of depression (or at least I think it is.) In fact, it’s not new, I’ve had for many years, because over the years I’ve had periods of time where i was always tired, always crying, always feeling weak and worthless, and most of the time even wanting to die (I don’t have the courage to do that, though). I started dating my boyfriend about 1 and a half years ago, and I was so in love, and I completely forgot about anything negative in my life. I wanted to live again, I felt confident, I felt happy and secure. Until about 5 months ago, when everything started again, even worse, actually. Ever since then, I deal with my life day by day. As in, I hope to go through the day well. He is my first serious and long relationship, so i’ve never had my phases happening when I was with someone else. It always happened when I was alone, with no boyfriend. Therefore, I knew what’s happening to me. I cried for weeks, felt worthless for weeks, and then went on with my life. But now, going through this with a boyfriend next to me (with whom I have plans of getting married) it scared me. Poor guy goes through so much with me. I have to tell you he’s been so patient. So understandable. So supportive. But it’s like I’m still in my world. I don’t feel worthy of him, and ever since this started again, I’ve also developed a crazy jealousy (no real reasons based on), and really, every day, is a mess in my head. I’m in a circle. I am so irritated all the time, I feel like he irritates me, my parents irritate me. I have no desire for sex because it hurts and I don’t feel much pleasure (it’s something that I’ve been going to many doctors about, for a very long time and no one knows what it is, of course), and then I feel frustrated that not even our sex life isn’t working well. Before, when I used to be so in love, I didn’t care about not feeling so much pleasure, it was more important the fact of being with him in intimacy, and so close. But now, it’s become so frustrating, that I don’t even want to do it. So then I wonder if i still love him. And then I look at all these issues that we have, and the way I behave, and how jealous I am, and then I know he will get tired of me and go to someone else. And then I have no strength to get up. I feel like I am going down, like sort of drowning, and I can’t come back up. And most of the time, I also think he’s better off with someone else. because I think in my head that any other woman is way better than me for him.
    I just feel so unworthy of him, because I can describe to you how good of a man he is. Any other man, doing everything I’ve done, would have left me looong time ago. And would have been mean about it.

    I feel like I’m going crazy.

  • kerri

    This is one of the best articles I have read. Everyone should read this. Sometimes I think what makes up a large part of our problem is we feel alone, different, when we are not honest and reach out. When we do start to get honest and open up to people, we realize we are not alone, quite the contrary likely quite “normal!” The pretenses don’t protect us and until we become aware of this we are keeping ourselves from the fulfilling life we want. I have been in that “no man’s land” for years, a lot of confusion and disillusionment but finally seeing some light. Like we see right here on this site, when you help yourself you are helping others to do the same. Thank you for your honesty Chris!

  • kerri

    I know, for a while I just wanted to go back to when I felt “comfortable” and I finally realized and accepted I would never feel that way again. But now I see it differently, I wasn’t really happy before, just deriving my well being from outside factors or conditions like you, striving, achieving, trying to fix what I had always perceived as my inadequacies, all the while missing my life. Now I know that it is not necessary and for a while I was very angry, almost felt betrayed – I had put a lot of effort and energy into doing what I thought I was “supposed” to and my true needs, the real me took a backseat to my fear driven ego directed life. Now though I realize, rather than looking back with contempt for myself or wincing with regret that it could not have been any different based on my awareness at the time. This understanding really helped me detach and start to forgive and have compassion for myself and so for others where they may be in this process. Ironically I now believe that vulnerability can be the greatest strength. I stubbornly hung onto my old coping patterns for so long, kicking and screaming in resistance to change. In my fear I had cut myself off from life. I finally have a grasp on what those hellish depressions were trying to teach me. As I become “disidentified” from the ego I finally am inching forward feeling more freedom than fear. Slowly. Thanks!

  • kerri

    No, selfish is what I was running around pandering to the ego’s “needs” and demands. It is exhausting. Putting ourselves first is actually imo self”less.” Anything that is truly right or good for you is at the same time good for everyone around you and ultimately the whole world, as we are all interconnected; ironically I find the more I let go of the more connected and better I feel. I think of that Lao-Tzu quote often about the greatest gift you can give to the world is your own transformation. Totally understand that now having had experiential “knowing” of the truth of this.

  • kerri

    Absof***inglutely. I am sure that many people who go to psychiatrists really have nothing “wrong” with them they are just waking up but don’t know it as such! For myself I had to realize I was simply changing, growing, evolving. But what hell for so long, thinking I was going nuts, being ungrateful and on and on. This is why it’s so important for honesty like this, to know we are a lot more like others than we realized! This alone is so healing. I found the best help I ever got was not from psychiatrists, doctors or drugs it was by finding people honest enough to share what they were going through!

  • kerri

    So true! Normal from what perspective? Ego? Well I don’t want to be that kind of “normal” anymore! I once read this thing that was getting into all this and it said “Your life is in all probability likely quite normal” – it was helpful at the time and I found it to be true when I started getting honest and hearing from others about their similar struggles. I really believe that often the only thing that is “wrong” with us is that we think that there is. In a world that valued each person’s unique and equally valuable contributions, we would not have the problems that fear based comparison and competition with others creates. It feels great to finally be becoming “me.” Capital M me, not fear driven neurotic controlling me.

  • kerri

    yes no half way right? You cannot serve 2 masters kind of thing. I have had to commit to ultimately total surrender of my old crap to become open to change and growth. As has been said, the balance began to tip where I was finding it more painful to stay stuck than the fear of change.

  • kerri

    Roxanne, how are you today I see this was a year or so ago. I really relate with many parts of your story. Hope you are doing better.

  • kerri

    lisbet how is it going??

  • I’m hanging in here… things are still tough, but I’m surviving so far. I’m doing as many different things as I can to keep myself afloat- group therapy, acupuncture, yoga, meditation. I had to increase my medication as well, unfortunately. But still plodding along.

  • kerri

    Well I’m glad you are trying those things, I did all of those too, it took me a long time to finally (I think) find the RIGHT kind of help, for me ie. not gov’t employed psy’s and anti-depressants. I also go to I call her my “intuitive girl” she is phenomenal and ‘gets me’ and I take plant based natural stuff from her. You never really know to what degree something is helping you when you are trying many things, but wow compared to a year and a half ago, ug I was a real case. Yoga and meditation are such a help although I still (!!) resist meditation sometimes. But slowly I am learning to live the other way around, the hardest thing I have done after becoming increasingly aware of what the hell my problems really was to accept all I was seeing outside of me was just a mirror of me. This helped me in realizing how I had created my life, albeit unconsciously, and so learn consciously to do it. Let me know how you are doing or you just want to talk or whatever I’m here. 🙂

  • boo

    Thank you

  • david

    I’m currently balling my eyes out and have no real idea why. It comes and goes like the wind. I feel so useless and alone and like I’m just waiting for time to take me away. When I’m down i feel utterly terrible words cannot describe, when I’m well these feeling become a distant memory and seem trivial. Seriously, I know no one gives a crap. I’m always having to chase company from friends, if i don’t contact i’d never see them but i need to at least pretend i’ve got a social group. I dunno if I’m gonna post this or not, it’s been nice just writing this down. I just want to go away somewhere chilled and relaxing and forget that i was ever me.

  • Michelle

    I just read your article. Reading that is ok to be weak kind of hit me. I cry alot. I really don’t know what is it that I really want to say because right now I really don’t know how I even feel. I went to search the Internet to find out how to pretend to be happy when your not. Because as a bar tender,no, so far I don’t drink myself to death, I don’t even take a drink. But as a bar tender it really affects your tipping with the aura you bring. I make more when I smile, should I say. So I wanted to know how to pretend to smile when I’m not happy. And this is the first article I came across. Reading it’s ok to be weak, made me cry, but with relief tho. I hope to heal, as I really want to. But I don’t like our believe in therapists. I will NEVER talk to them. And going to friends is very difficult for me. So I don’t know what to do to heal. Was trying to do this on my own,as I’m very good at self disciplining myself. I have been doing that in my own since in a child and had no one to listen to me. As in, I self disciplined myself to deal with adhd being there was no help for that when I was little. And I couldn’t go to my parents for I wasn’t liked at all by my mom. So if there is some steps I could do to help myself without medication esp. Im all ears. I don’t have much money, the most I usually have spared after paying way of living is 5 dollars but I’m willing to do what I can. Killing myself isn’t an option for me, but living doesn’t seem to be one either.

  • Michelle

    Excuse misspelling and wrongful Grammer, as I was nervous writing that

  • richmond moore

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