The Walking Zombie

(Depression, & the toll it plays on everyday life)

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 6-7-2022

       “Are you okay?”

       “Are you sick?”

       “What time did you get to bed?”

        “Be positive!”

        These are the terms that plague my daily life, as someone that works full time while struggling with major depression and childhood traumas. The side effects of depression can translate so much to our physical symptoms, appearance and affect that many will perceive us as people with attitudes that simply ‘do not take care of ourselves’. And, since depressed mood and negative feelings are so stigmatized, we simultaneously must ‘act’ in order to properly get through day to day life in ‘normal society’. Rest assured, we cannot ‘will away’ or ‘wish away’ depression. We can manage it, but it will still be there, always. If you know someone that is high functioning with major depression, they have learned how to navigate life with very difficult symptoms, and there is a lot of strength in having the courage to do so.

         Age 6:

-I displayed: Irritability upon waking up, morning sleepiness, quiet, shyness, crying spells, isolating, hiding from people, Overachieving abilities.

-I felt: Angry because I was sleepy, confused about being abandoned, sad about not having my parents around me, annoyed about my living situation, a distrust of people due to being hurt, I had to do good to win approval.

-How I was perceived: Shy child, a goody good, dork, annoying in my household, whiny, intelligent.

-Worst thing I was told: Your mom cannot be with you because of drugs.  (Then silence)

        Age 11:

-I displayed:  Inflated confidence, otherwise quiet & shy, crying spells, repressed feelings, insecurities, difficulty waking up, skipping breakfast, sedentary, overconsumption of food by afternoon timeframes

-I felt:  Sad, bored, confused about my living situation, lonely, pleasure only when eating, insecure, fat, ‘ugly’

-How I was perceived:    Lazy, “Know it all” kid, ungrateful, gluttonous, grumpy, and hormonal.

-Worst thing I was told:   Let what people say ‘go in one ear and out the other’, ‘don’t react’

        Age 16:

-I displayed:   Isolative behavior, Shyness, insecurities, overcompensating behaviors w/ grades and sports, crying outbursts, nervous, freezing during confrontational situations, forgetfulness, and compulsive eating.

-I felt:  Terrified of getting in trouble again, worthless, ‘ugly’, tired of waking up, tired of work and sports, obsessed with escaping my life, like no one understood me, food was the only thing to look forward to, dreadful of most days.

-How I was perceived:    Misbehaving, ungrateful, secretive, hiding things, shy, “Goody good” (in school), smart, overachieving, but, not working hard enough.

-Worst thing I was told:   ‘You don’t feel that way’, ‘you’re lazy’, ‘don’t get fat’

Age 22:  

-I displayed:   Angry or depressed upon waking up, isolative, closed off/ guarded, shyness, freeze response (confused look) when confronted, crying after work when I was finally alone. Confusion and slow learning, compulsive work & gym habits.

-I felt:    Terrified of confrontation, annoyed with daily life, tired/ sleepy, sad, insecure about how I appeared to others, distrustful, offended by most things, confused by most social interactions, like I needed approval/ compliments to feel better.

-How I was perceived:  Shy, stuck up, weird, intrusive, secretive. Overachieving, show off, an extremely hard worker, obsessive.  Dismissive at times. Too nice; ‘fake’.

-Worst thing I was told: ‘You eat too much’, ‘you’re not attractive at this weight.’ ‘you’re one upping people’

Age 28:

-I displayed:    Moodiness upon waking up, fatigue for the first few hours of most days, lack of gratitude, questioning everything about life, talking back a lot, an aversion to authority, compulsive drug use, compulsive work habits, numbed out.

-I felt:    Desperate for a different life, sad, bitter about the past, like I needed to be high to function, confused about my life trajectory, grief, and emptiness.

-How I was perceived:     Compulsive, ‘too nice’, ‘mad’ about small things, exhausted, bad health habits, tired, grumpy, negative, isolative, lazy.

-Worst thing I was told: “Your life is easy”, “you’re just lazy”, “Stop being a bitch”

        The danger of perception, is how easy it is to internalize how other’s perceive you and what they tell you about yourself. The perception part of this mental health journey had me feeling more shame and guilt about the symptoms that were often out of my control. Then all of a sudden, I’m a depressed person that is ‘ungrateful’ and ‘lazy’ while struggling with depression. The important part of the “Display” category of my list is coming to an understanding of why I was actually mislabeled, the depression created this affect for the world to see; I couldn’t always hide it. Then, lastly, the “I felt” category is the most crucial. This is what helps me (us) sort through what was actually going on; the reality of our depressive symptoms and how it hindered daily life.

       We, zombies, have to be actors

One of the hardest parts of suffering through mental illness is the acting that comes with it. The world cannot handle these depressive emotions, they’re contagious. Due to public perception and judgements, most mentally ill people put on ‘an act’ overtime, just so that they do not continue being subjected to false perceptions. Because of what I displayed and how I was perceived (in the above lists), I developed strategies to mask my depression, but the symptoms bled over into other realms of life. The act forces us to over internalize, sometimes chronically. We may numb out or lose touch of our emotions all together for some time (when it becomes too overwhelming). But, due to the debilitating nature of chronic depression, physical side effects may still be worn on our facial expression, bodily movements and more. Ironically, through many accomplishments in my military career (up to TSgt rank as well as OEF deployment), academic career (Master’s degree and LCSW before reaching age 31), as well as my hard work and dedication to the sport of martial arts (Purple belt in BJJ in 2020), I was still often called lazy. This set me into a chronic overworking/ burnout mode cycle, which further Zombified my body/ mind overtime.


     If you happen to be a “walking zombie’ due to your depression, it’s helpful to start learning effective ways to communicate this issue, while also, filtering out the harm other’s try to subject onto you with their judgements. This is no simple task. It takes practice, repetition, boundaries and filtering. The alternative to this, is continuing to be an actor, which is more harmful in the long run. Pretending to be okay, means living in a denial that causes you to chronically self-neglect, and always be misunderstood. Paying attention to our depression requires honest dialogue, and the ability to care about ourselves to take care of ourselves in the moment. Practice the necessary self-care, practice communicating when you are not okay, practice saying ‘no’ when things are too much to handle. Practice allowing yourself to have what you need. Practice the art of addressing and feeling emotions, but not ruminating or self-blaming & self-shaming.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

2 thoughts on “The Walking Zombie

  1. Beautifully said. You said exactly how I have felt many times. When I was a teenager my therapist told me I was wearing so many masks that I had forgotten who the real me was. That was after I swallowed a lot of pills wanting to end the pain. Thank god I didn’t succeed but my ups and downs over many many years are still a struggle some days. Thank you for saying how I feel better than I could have.

    Liked by 1 person

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