This essay was originally published on Medium on April 18, 2017.
I get told to smile a lot.
The reason for this is because when my face is relaxed, or emotionless, it doesn’t settle naturally into a smile. In fact, when my face is relaxed, I actually look like I’m seriously contemplating the Space-Time Continuum and/or like Drew Barrymore in Firestarter, when something is being engulfed in flames. And our society prefers women to be smiling. So obviously, this is problematic.
In high school, a group of kids in my class started calling me “Depressed Girl.” Which was embarrassing. It was also a constant reminder that I was actually dealing with depression and anxiety that I was trying to keep a secret. Being repeatedly reminded that I looked depressed only worsened the situation by stigmatizing my mental health issues and making me feel guilty for having them. I would sometimes do a sarcastic smile in response, but inside, I felt like disappearing.