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What It’s Like to Be a Young Professional With Depression and Anxiety

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Hullo. I have depression and anxiety.

More accurately, I have what is commonly called “smiling depression” and “high-functioning anxiety.” For many years, I would not admit I had anything wrong with me, preferring to describe myself as “highly driven” or “good under pressure.” But regardless of how you slice it or dress it up, I have a deep-seated problem.

I am terrified of dealing with anything on an emotional level. I use humor successfully as a deflection strategy. I am an upbeat friendly individual with a wide social network, but I engage in extremely few close friendships. I have realized that if I let someone in too close to me for long enough, they wise up to my tricks and sense a pattern. They try to help me, and I freak out and we end up falling apart. Consequentially, my life has been punctuated with many short-term relationships that never seem to survive a certain level of intimacy. Fortunately, I have only fallen in love twice in my life. Both times, I have subconsciously sabotaged these relationships when I realized the person had penetrated my defenses and was threatening to trigger an emotional chain reaction that would detonate years of emotional repression and compartmentalization. On both occasions, I moved through these breakups without taking a single day of personal leave — having my job to focus on actually helped.

Which brings me to my second debilitating “fault” — my high-functioning anxiety. My obsession with order, perfection and validation has driven me in my headlong pursuit of my career. My debilitating fear of failure and my debilitating obsession to define and justify my existence by the positive impacts I have on others have combined to fashion a devastatingly effective goad with which I mercilessly lash myself onwards.

My two “faults” feed each other like the infinite serpent consuming its own tail. My high-functioning anxiety drives me to neglect my personal life, combining with my depression and lack of emotional availability to drive off anyone attempting to get close enough to break the cycle. Devastation from heartbreak seeks its remedy in compartmentalizing the emotions I cannot deal with and burying them under another pile of activities and goals I set myself. The round eternally continues and the most frightening part of it is, I do not know whether I even want it to stop. My vices have become my security — their familiarity woos me and when I suit up in them, I feel untouchable. I feel that without them, I would be a completely different person — an exposed and unfamiliar entity I would not recognize and may not even like.

And so I sit as the guard to my own prison, warding off those who would help me, using my bars of incarceration as the battlements of my defense. Strangely comforted by the impregnability of my desolation.

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

Originally published: January 29, 2019
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