Mental illness can certainly feel like it ages you, but is the combination of aging and mental illness something that’s visible from the outside? Does mental illness make you look older than you actually are?
Changes over the years
For a good chunk of my adult life, I looked youngish for my age. Not as in babyface, but youngish. When I finished university and started working, most people were a fair bit older than me, which made me look younger by contrast.
In my mid-30s, I didn’t feel like I looked that much different than I did in my 20s. While people say I look like my mom, my features are actually more like my dad. My mom’s hair went grey fairly young, although she dyed it, but my dad didn’t get substantially grey until later in his 60s. My brother, who’s three years younger than I am, started greying and his hairline started receding before I had any grey hairs.
Five years ago, the depression bus ran over me, and I’ve remained trapped under its wheels ever since. It’s made for a bit of a weird intersection of events; natural aging starting to kick in, and treatment-resistant depression sucking the life out of me.
I have grey hairs now. Not a lot, but they’re there. There are more lines on my face. That’s to be expected of someone who’s 41.
The heaviness of depression
But it’s not just that. The light and life is gone from my face; depression stole that. I used to smile a lot, but not now. Partly because there isn’t much to smile about, and partly because psychomotor slowing doesn’t allow for much facial expression. I’ve also given up on doing any of those things that make a person look a little more put together, because I just couldn’t care less.
When I look in the mirror, it’s a different person staring back at me than I remember. The fact that aging has been happening at the same time just amplifies that. I sort of feel like I’m 41 going on 100.
Facing the future
I suppose it’s not surprising that the heaviness of depression weighs on the exterior. It’s weird to think that the length of time theoretically remaining in my life doesn’t match with what I feel. I’ve lived my life, I’m at least 95, and it’s time for this nonsense to be over sometime within the foreseeable future. But yet when I calculate my age (because I don’t know it offhand anymore), 41 doesn’t feel right.
I wonder what face will be looking back at me in 5 years, or 10. Will it be someone I recognize? Or maybe not so much? Hard to say. To be perfectly honest, I would prefer not to be around to find out. No, I’m not suicidal, I just don’t want to do that much more living. Thanks, but no thanks!
Do you feel like circumstances or mental illness have made you look older than you really are?