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When I Catch Myself Thinking My Life With Mental Illness Is Unfair

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Dealing with mental health issues like depression does not affect everybody in the same way. Some people’s lives might change dramatically, whereas the lives of others seem to remain the same.

I have “high-functioning” depression. My flat is always neat and tidy, I take care of my outward appearance, look fresh and smiling, chit chat, laugh and still do well at work and university. Only people close to me notice how hard it is for me to get up on time every single morning, how exhausting activities of daily life are for me, how I struggle keeping in touch with my beloved friends, how I barely manage to have short small talk and how I cancel meetings on a regular basis. Only these people see me crashing down after a long day at work and panicking about assignments or the consequences of not-so-perfect grades.

While the symptoms of depression can be visible on the outside and alarming for people who care about you, experiencing “high-functioning” depression leaves you mostly overlooked and your pain invisible. Hard working colleagues and scholarship college students aren’t usually considered to be “struggling.” People too often assume what they see on the outside is a reflection of what goes on behind closed doors.

Although I can be grateful depression has not taken away my ability to do and achieve all of this, I often find myself getting angry and desperate because there seems to be no room to talk about what I am going through when I’m trying to hold a deadline or how much time and energy it takes me to write one single paper. How can I put the severity of my illness into words when my family, friends, teachers and even doctors always point their fingers to my excellent performance?

Whenever this happens, I find myself thinking about how unfair it is. It’s not fair I do not get the validation for my daily struggles from people around me. It is not fair my mental illness is such a disadvantage everywhere I go. It is not fair people with no mental health struggles do not need to spend so much time completing tasks while people with mental illnesses sometimes cannot get anything done for weeks. It is not fair it is me or you who got sick. It is not fair. I would get even better grades if I had not become ill. It is not fair and I cannot change it.

And this makes me so angry. But holding a grudge and comparing my performance with those of others gets me nowhere. By looking at other people’s social media posts or grades or commitment and comparing them to mine, my mental illness indeed remains invisible. But it’s unfair to compare myself to people who are performing under different circumstances. I learned to accept my condition for what it is and to stop comparing between people in uneven situations. Yes, I got ill and it is not fair I need to handle the consequences, but there is a lot to be proud of in my position. I developed the strength to seek professional help, I learned new skills to deal with my illness, I persevered with finding the right combination of meds and I found the courage to talk about my struggles. I am evolving and taking steps in the right direction, moving at the pace my condition allows. And most importantly, I choose not to give up or give in to the pain and exhaustion every single day. This is the benchmark I will use from now on.

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Originally published: January 25, 2017
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