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What It's Like to Be Depressed and 'High-Functioning' at the Same Time

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On the surface I have it all.

I smile and joke a lot.

I’m very upbeat and optimistic.

I’m a wife, mother and friend.

But then there is what you don’t see.

You see what I want you to see… but today I want to tell you about the rest.

You don’t see my depression… when I cry for hours not knowing why. The crushing feeling that I’m in a black hole I can’t find my way out of.

You don’t see my anxiety… the panic attacks that leave me literally breathless. The irrational thoughts that take control of my mind, body and soul.

You don’t see the times I push down all my sadness in order to be the “me” I’m supposed to be. The fear that if you saw the truth, you wouldn’t want to be my friend anymore.

You don’t see the thoughts that consume me after each email or text I send out. Did I say something wrong? Will they think I’m a pest? Are they going to hate me?

You don’t see the late nights when I pray to God to make it stop and ask, “Why me?”

But then as the smoke in my brain clears a bit, I ask myself, “Why not me?”

Mental illness is just that… an illness. And people get sick. I didn’t choose this… I’m sure the millions of others who battle with their brain would agree with me there… nobody would ever choose this.

But the one thing I can choose to do is to talk about it. And I can only talk about my experience. I’m high-functioning… my mental health never stopped me from going to work or doing anything. Sometimes I think it drove me to the other extreme.

But everybody’s struggle is different.

I guess the main point I’m trying to make is that I don’t want to be afraid to talk about mental health. We have come a long way, but there is still a stigma attached to mental disorders.

I so wish that when I was 10 years old and didn’t know why I was so sad that I felt able to talk about it.

I wish at the age of 13, when I first thought about suicide, that I didn’t feel so alone and as if there was nobody to turn to.

I wish it didn’t take me 30-plus years to get into therapy.

I wish I felt it was OK to not be OK.

Maybe if we all talked more openly about our mental health, we could learn better how to understand and support our friends and loved ones through their journey. I know it isn’t easy, and not always successful… but always worth trying.

Maybe we could learn to stop judging a book by it’s cover and to look deeper inside what makes a person tick.

And maybe those of us with mental illness could learn to love ourselves more and to realize just how amazing we are to face an unseen force every day.

I want to learn to love myself… all of myself.

And I want to learn to let you see the rest of me too.

Originally published: July 20, 2018
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