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To the Stranger Who Doesn't See My 'High-Functioning' Depression

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Dear stranger,

You look at me on the subway and you see a tired woman on her way to work. You see someone who looks like everyone else on the subway, someone who is sleepy because it’s 8 a.m. Some days, just for a moment, you may see a hint of something more. Let me share with you what that little something is.

I have hidden my depression for as long as I can remember. I have what some people may call “high-functioning” depression. It is a lovely companion to my anxiety. To the outside world I look like I have it all together. My makeup and hair are always done, I am well dressed, I look put together. It has always been this way. Smiling through the pain, hiding the fact I really just couldn’t get out of bed that morning. I show up, do my part and then go home and crumble.

Going through a day with “high-functioning” depression looks like a lot of smiles. It sounds like “I’m just tired.” Part of this is true because all the hiding becomes exhausting. The pretending is easy some days and very difficult on other days. The weight of hiding how I feel presses down and it gets heavier and heavier until it crushes me. When it becomes too much to bear, it looks like tears running down my face. It sounds like gasping for air, like screams and like sobs. It sounds like me asking why. It’s panic attacks without cause, it’s numbness without a known trigger and it’s fits of anger over small incidents.

The next day you see a tired girl. I sit on the subway and you look at me, you look at how although my makeup is done, I look exhausted. This is my life with high-functioning depression and anxiety. This is my life hiding it all.

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Originally published: February 3, 2017
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