What It Feels Like Going to Work With 'High-Functioning' Depression

What do you do when you’re a depressed, but “high-functioning” person? When people look at you and say you’re not sick, you don’t look like you’re suffering, you don’t act like there’s anything wrong with you. The key word in that sentence is act. A high-functioning person with depression, such as myself, is forced to act every damn day. Recently I’ve taken to keeping my office light off at work because working in the dark just feels better to me. It’s easier for me to hide and people tend to leave me alone. I struggle with migraines as well and in the middle of oppressive monsoon season, they make me extra sensitive everything — light in particular, but sound and smells too. So, I get away with being in the dark and people leave me alone. It’s a win-win? I guess.

The truth is I wake up every day, I make my coffee then I sit and do my social media scrolling for half an hour trying to get the caffeine in my system to wake me up. I shower and paint my face to something that resembles a “normal” looking woman, get dressed, get in my car and arrive at my job — exhausted already. I literally pull into the parking lot and I have to peel myself off my seat and tell myself to put my feet on the ground and go. I don’t hate my job. I actually like most of the people I work with and I feel supported there, but I also know that sometimes I’m the little black rain cloud in the office. And that is the hardest to face. I do my very best to fake it, really I do, but sometimes my acting falls flat. On those days I should probably stay home.

In the midst of this massively depressed brain of mine, I have to be a problem solver. I have to constantly have the right answer to everything, all day, every day. Saying the words “I don’t know” is extremely hard for me, and when I do it’s because I actually don’t know or my brain is honestly too tired to think. It feels unacceptable to not know though, like I’m a failure somehow because I don’t have the answers. That’s the other part about being a high-functioning depressed person — unrealistic expectations. Because I can get up and go to work, cook meals, shower every day and put on a good show, I almost believe that maybe I’m not sick. That my mind is fine because I’m not like everyone else who says they can’t do those things when they’re depressed.

Underneath all of that is an insurmountable pain that defies words to name it. I can’t adequately describe the torment my brain inflicts on me. The constant barrage of, “No one cares, no one sees, no one hears, you don’t matter, you don’t know anything, you’ll never be what you want, you’re not lovable, you’re just a bitch, you’re annoying, you’re fat, you’re ugly, you have nothing, your kids hate you, your spouse doesn’t love you, you’re a fraud, people are only pretending to like you, there’s nothing good about you, you might as well..just..give..up.” Every day, that is the tape that plays in my head behind the smile, the laughter, the can-do attitude. Because those are things that are expected of me. On the inside — my brain expects me to fail.

I defy my brain daily by going forward, by trying to find hope, by distracting it with shiny objects that look like time wasters to others, by reading, by writing, by wearing it out enough to sleep. I live my life the best way I know how in order to survive. I’m high-functioning because I have to be. I don’t have a choice. I can’t give in to the thought monsters. I can’t become what they say I already am so I keep going. I am terrified to stop moving forward.

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Thinkstock photo via Kim Carson

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