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Why I'm Letting Go of the Label 'High-Functioning' Depression

I tell myself that having high-functioning depression is easier than the alternative. Every day I go to work or out with friends, I am quietly thankful that I am keeping my depressive, anxious thoughts in my head and not letting them bleed out into my daily life. There have been times in the past I have had to step out of my life to deal with my mental illness and they are times I am not in a hurry to revisit. So, I tell myself I have it easier than people who can’t get out of bed because I am actively living. It wasn’t until very recently I realized that isn’t exactly true.

Those who know me will probably agree I am very social and love being around people. I am committed to my job and my relationships and navigate them all with enthusiasm. The truth, however, is that with this enthusiasm comes intense exhaustion. I am used to dealing with the mental anguish of battling my darker thoughts; however every few months, when I least expect it, I find myself overwhelmed with the kind of exhaustion I have only experienced at the height of my depression.

This was the case after Christmas — one day, I just couldn’t get out of bed. I dragged myself to the bathroom to try and have a shower but I just ended up staring at my reflection in the mirror. I took one small bite of food that tasted of nothing. I tried to watch even the most mindless television show I could think of but I couldn’t concentrate for more than 30 seconds. And so, later in the day — when the numbness had worn off and the deep, deep sadness had set in — I sobbed to my boyfriend. I was so frustrated because this was not supposed to be my story with depression. I was supposed to be “high-functioning,” to struggle and battle every day but not be completely incapacitated. I stayed in my bed and slept until morning, feeling completely defeated.

Today, when I woke up and managed to leave the house, I realized how attached I am to the way I feel I should experience my depression. I have been labeled by both professionals and consequently myself as so “high-functioning” that I now I realize I leave little room to allow myself not to function. As vocal as I am with my friends, family and social media about my journey with mental illness over the years, I still have not made space for myself to step out of my life in a healthy way. It’s OK for me to sometimes say no to going out or to speaking on the phone. It’s OK to take a mental health day from work, and I mean not just talk about taking one but actually taking it. It’s also OK for me to let go of my label a little bit and let myself not function, just for a day or even an hour.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but this year I am telling myself I can be proud of my progress and not be scared of going backward at the same time.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

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