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Lindsay Woods
Mrs. Thomas
UWRT 1104
12 November 2016
I believe my paper shows my topic from multiple standpoints. It provides a clear insight
for the reader on what it is like to view life through the eyes of someone who is clinically
depressed. It is written with passion while laced with findings from well known psychologists.
What I struggled with most was citations, which could use some work. I would give my draft a
3.5 out of 4.
A Tribute to The Woman In Black
Asylum, psychiatric ward, mental hospital. All places which inhabit nightmares, horror
movies, and mystery novels. These locations are most frequently known stereotypically in our
minds as the homes of only psychopaths, serial killers, and overall maniacs. But what if you

were told that these places also once housed people like you and I? What if you were told that
they are still the homes of some like us? Impossible is what some would exclaim, but the truth
behind the matter is truly astonishing.
When we hear the word depression, we picture someone with sallow eyes downcast to
their dark shoes accompanied by their plain black or neutral clothing. We see someone holding
their wrist in front of them while walking down the hall. We hear nothing but sighs of

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helplessness and silence coming from the body just taking up space within the room. We taste
nothing but the staleness of the air they are sharing with us, which we assume is less valuable in
their eyes. We feel nothing but awkwardness and a shameful disdain towards the colorless blob
of the room. This is what we experience upon imagining being in the presence of someone with
depression.
I was once her, the woman in black. I did not actually sloth around in only plain black
clothing. I was not actually essentially a mute. I did not cast my eyes down upon every
encounter. Yet I had depression, so by stereotypes I was the woman in black. I dressed in color. I
applied outlandish makeup. I had friends. I was social. On the surface, I appeared to be someone
who had her life together and was perfectly content with its outcome. So how did I have
depression and why?
Those were the questions I most frequently received when the whereabouts of my mental
state became apparent to my senior class upon beginning to attend school again. There was no
rhyme or reason behind my mental illness. I could not pinpoint the exact moment I became
mentally ill, and I felt outraged that I was supposed to have some elaborate and dramatic reason
of why I had the mental illness I did. Yes, I had some bad memories. Not only that, but I
experienced severe bullying and stalking for over seven years. I was also wrapped up in an
emotionally and physically abusive relationship for nearly four years, but to be completely
honest none of that was a direct link to why I had been depressed.

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The depression started early on and blossomed throughout the years until there was a full
blown war being waged between my true self and my mental illness within my body. I stopped
attending all my classes at school, because I was petrified of my classmates and teachers. I
stopped talking to all my friends, because my mind told me I was burdening them. I began
picking fights with my family at home just to be able to feel something in my completely numb
state of mind. This carried on for quite some time, but when I would attend school I would be
nothing but smiles and giggles. I felt like a miserable actress putting on a show. Yet when the
curtain would close at the end of the day and I was all alone, the mask would come off and the
woman in black would resurface.
When I reached rock bottom was when I realized I was not myself anymore. That was
my lowest point. I finally admitted to myself that I had an illness and began to research
depression. Oddly enough, learning about my illness helped me cope. I was still not the slightest
bit close to being out of the woods yet, but I had found one way to cope. I eventually found
solace in someone I knew I could trust as well, and was able to disclose my thoughts and
emotions to without judgement or scrutiny. Someone who was immune to the stereotypes of
depression, because they could see the version of me without my illness.
With these tools under my belt, I began to emerge myself back into my old life slowly,
like gradually walking into an ice cold lake. The statement I absolutely hated to hear most upon
my return to school was, but you dont look depressed. That was when the revelation smacked

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me upside the head that there were so many stereotypes and generalizations towards a very
serious mental illness. Since that revelation, my research on depression has been fueled by my
drive to educate others on the illness and has been the topic of every paper or project I have had
the opportunity of creating since that moment.
One vital piece of information is, there is a difference between having depression and
just feeling depressed (Farrell). Upon someone mustering up the courage to express that they
have depression to someone else, all too often the response is either, I know exactly how you
feel or you just have to look at the bright side and keep going. These kinds of responses are
what make the depressed lose courage and begin to develop an even stronger sense of
helplessness and being misunderstood.
If someone was to express to you that they have depression, how would you react?
Would you try to relate? Would you treat them like they were crazy? Would you simply nod and
allow the person to open up on their own while you just provide a listening ear? Oddly enough,
the last option is what most people with depression subconsciously desire. Someone with
depression does not wish to be treated like a wounded puppy or a crazy person, but simply
desires a listening ear as an outlet for thoughts and emotions.
Strangely, women are more likely to develop depression than men out of subconscious
vulnerability. George W. Brown and Tirril Harris say in their book Social Origins of Depression:
A Study of Psychiatric Disorder in Women, but we have also shown that vulnerability factors
play a role in the presence of a provoking agent in determining whether a woman develops a case

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or borderline case condition and here vulnerability factors could be said in some sense to play a
role in the determining severity (Brown and Harris 203). There are many factors which can
account for the severity of depression within an individual, but vulnerability seems the most
oddly intriguing.
Some see certain levels of depression more along the lines of extreme self-deprecation.
Doctor P. Gilbert expresses in his book Depression: The Evolution of Powerlessness, in a
major review of social comparison in depression, Swallow and Kuiper (1988) found that
depression was associated with strategies and targets for self-other comparison that tended to
produce more negative self-evaluation (Gilbert 201). This is understandable, considering
depression can eat away at self-confidence to change one into a self-deprecating being. In fact,
most people with depression have a very low standard set for themselves due to their incredibly
low self esteem.
Although someone with depression does have a very poor vision of oneself, they can not
take a compliment either. The complement will either be brushed off as an underhanded insult or
a blatant lie told to make one feel better about oneself. The average person tends to enjoy just
blending in rather than attracting excessive, unnecessary attention. Aaron T. Beck says in his
book Cognitive Therapy of Depression, paradoxically, although the depressed persons
capacity to resonate with positive feelings is dulled, he experiences extreme violations of
unpleasant emotions (Beck 34).

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Imagine feeling nothing besides helplessness, abandonment, loneliness, and


sadness. You become numb. You do the same thing every day, and begin to fall into a dull,
dreary routine. You wake up, make your coffee. You drive to school, where you sit in your car
in the parking lot for 30 minutes before entering the building while having a panic attack,
causing you to pass out from hyperventilating. You wake up, but you are late.
You walk in and are granted a smug look from the secretary who begrudgingly gives you
yet another late slip. You walk into class and feel the eyes of everyone on you, making their own
assumptions as to why you are always late. You endure the day and drive home as quickly as
possible in your silent car. You immediately climb back into bed upon your arrival and argue
with your parents when they try to get you to interact. You have another panic attack once they
leave the room until you pass out. You wake up, make your coffee.
This is depression, while the opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality. And it
was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment (TEDTalks). That was my life
in a nutshell for four years. Imagine feeling numb every single day, and the only form of
emotions that can be elicited from you are involuntary negative ones. Life is colorless when
depression plagues you. Food tastes bland. Scenery that once encaptured you now just seems to
blend together in a blur. Your favorite music just sounds like any other song drolling on. Even

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colors that were once vibrant and bright seem dull and plain. That was my life for four years.
That was the life of the woman in black.
Although I managed to tame my depression for the most part during my last
semester of high school, that does not mean it is gone or that I am cured. I am still plagued with
the mental illness known as depression. Although now I can honestly be genuinely happy for
months on end, certain months can strike me down until I regain control of the rains of my
mental state.
I use other coping mechanisms to escape my own mind such as reading, d rawing,
painting, or listening to music. My favorite way to cope is still by using my one steady listening
ear when I need to voice my loud thoughts or overflowing emotions. A helpful hand is always
the best option, despite not always being the easiest option in the beginning.
One thing to constantly remember is that clinical depression is, in fact, very serious

(Desai). Although clinical depression will no longer throw you into an asylum or mental ward
upon diagnosis, it can result in close medical observance along with therapy when thoughts of
self-harm or suicide are at hand. This does not make the depressed crazy or mentally insane.
They just need some backup to help end the war.
After debunking multiple stereotypes on depression, the result is essentially to not judge
a book by its cover. Swarms of people dressed in black lingering in corners will nine times out of

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ten not be the case when you are around people who are depressed. They will look like you and
I. They will put on their mask for the day and walk around like everything is fine and that they
are perfectly capable of handling what life throws at them as it comes propelling forwards all on
their own.
This is why assumptions are so lethal. Assumptions can lead to ignorance, and can result
in further progression of depression. If you assume that someone is perfectly fine and is just lazy
and grumpy instead of genuinely inquiring about their wellbeing, the assumptions can get under
the skin of the depressed and further strengthen the sense of hopelessness and desire to avoid
society as to avoid burdening others.
I have learned over time how to block out the voices and opinions of others in order to
strengthen myself while weakening my illness. Slowly but surely, my illness is crippling away.
Although I do still have clinical depression, I can honestly say I am the happiest I have ever
been. While I still do not consistently represent the stereotype for someone who is depressed, in
the stereotypical minds of society I will always be the woman in black.

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Works Cited
Beck, Aaron T., Cognitive Therapy of Depression. Guilford Press, 1979. Print.
Brown, George W., and Tirril O. Harris. Social Origins of Depression: A Study of Psychiatric
Disorder in Women. New York: Free, 1978. Print.
Gilbert, Dr P. Depression: The Evolution of Powerlessness. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014.
Print.
Perf. Helen M. Farrell. What Is Depression? TED-Ed, 15 Dec. 2015. Web.
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-IR48Mb3W0&t=80s>.
Perf. Tanner Marshall and Rishi Desai. Clinical Depression - Major, Post-partum, Atypical,
Melancholic, Persistent. Osmosis, 9 Mar. 2016. Web.
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhukM33VLgo&t=50s>.
Perf. Andrew Solomon. Depression, the Secret We Share. TEDTalks, 18 Dec. 2013. Web.
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eBUcBfkVCo>.