Olivia Culpo’s side-by-side Instagram photos demonstrate realities of depression

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Kayleigh Dray
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“We’re all too familiar with the ‘highlight REEL’ of Instagram so I wanted to get REAL and tell you it’s not always as amazing as it seems,” the model explained.

There’s no denying that it can be hard to explain to others what’s really going on inside your head – and put the complex range of emotions into words that your loved ones will understand. And, in the bad old days, the many misconceptions about mental health made it feel even harder.

Now, though, things are changing. More people than ever are choosing to speak openly about their battles with mental wellness, and many in the spotlight – including Fearne Cotton, Ryan Reynolds, Adele and Kristen Bell, to name just a few – have shared their own stories publicly in a bid to pave the way to a better understanding of the issues faced by so many.

Following in their footsteps is model and 2012 Miss Universe winner Olivia Culpo, who recently took to Instagram to share two photos of herself, one which had been taken recently, and one which and been taken earlier in the year.

In both photos, Culpo is glamorously made up and smiling. However, she used the caption to explain that appearances can prove deceiving.

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“[I was] looking at the difference between these two photos today, and thought it was important to share something with all of you,” said Culpo.

Then, drawing the attention of her followers to the second image, she explained that she was “depressed” when the photo was taken.

“I had no appetite, was drinking way too much, smoking, couldn’t sleep, and couldn’t eat,” she said. “But I was still taking photos on social media and pretending everything was great.”

Culpo added: “I was going through a difficult situation that left me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually bankrupt and it had taken its toll physically. [And] the feeling of despair is a relatable one, so I feel a responsibility to anyone else going through something difficult to say that it’s OK to not be OK.”

Noting that she is healthier and happier now – and, more importantly, “treating my body correctly” – Culpo went on to explain that the toxic comparison culture of social media can prove damaging to people’s mental health.

“We’re all too familiar with the ‘highlight REEL’ of Instagram so I wanted to get REAL and tell you it’s not always as amazing as it seems,” she said.

“I’m sharing this because I want to emphasise what we already know: Instagram is everyone’s best version of themselves and their lives. It can trick us into thinking everything is perfect in other’s worlds. Which is NOT true. We are all more alike than we think, navigating life with similar ups and downs; good times and bad. We never really know what someone is going through, so it’s unfair to judge/compare.”

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Culpo finished by saying: “I hope this helps others who might be going through a hard time and feeling like they need to ‘have it all together’. Social media can create a crazy amount of pressure to live up to an idealistic standard of “perfection” (which obviously doesn’t exist!). Hard times happen and the most important part is putting one foot in front of the other, knowing the moment will pass, and being patient with yourself.

“No filter is going to take away from the normal ups and downs of life that we all have. Our imperfections/hardships make us all perfectly relatable, taking this journey through life together. I think the more we understand how connected that makes all of us, the easier and more rewarding this life journey can be.”

Culpo’s words echo that of mental health ambassador Fearne Cotton, who has said before that she often finds herself worried by the ‘compare and despair’ impact of social media.

Social media is a tricky one because I love it and I dislike a lot of it as well,” the Happy Place presenter said.

“I like the fact that it gives me a control as to what I would like people to see of me, it’s less hearsay, less second-hand news. But the bit that is dangerous, especially for younger women, is looking at other people’s lives and doing that awful ‘compare and despair’ sort of thing. You put your own life against others and [sometimes you start] believing in the fantasy that you see.”

Cotton added: “I do try and show a fair reflection of what my days are like, but I don’t think I would have wanted to have put any of my episodes of depression on there, as it feels like the wrong platform.”

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It is a firm reminder that depression, like so many other mental health conditions, is an invisible illness.

Depression, according to Mind, is a low mood that causes us to feel sad, hopeless, or miserable about life; these feelings last for a long time, and usually affect our everyday life.

Psychological symptoms include:

  • Feeling upset or tearful
  • Finding no pleasure in life or the things you usually enjoy
  • Feeling isolated and unable to relate to others
  • Experiencing a sense of unreality
  • Finding yourself unable to concentrate
  • Feeling hopeless, empty, or numb

Physical symptoms include:

  • Losing interest in sex
  • Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
  • Physical aches and pains with no cause
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Moving very slowly
  • Having no appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight

However, while there are many signs and symptoms, everyone’s experience of depression will vary. As a general rule of thumb, mental health experts advise that you visit your GP if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than two weeks.

You can find out more information – including a series of approved self-care tips – on the Mind website.

Images: Getty


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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