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What I Wish People Understood About 'High-Functioning' Depression

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I have high-functioning depression and I have struggled with mental health issues most of my life. But when I finally gained the confidence to begin talking about it and telling others I had it, I was more often than not met with comments such as:

“Wow, I would never have known!”

This is part of the difficulty for people living with high-functioning depression, and often misunderstood or not believed.

I have chosen to talk about a few points I think are important for people to understand about my life with high-functioning depression:

1. Just because I’m smiling and laughing doesn’t mean I’m not struggling.

This is a big one I struggle with most days. I smile, laugh and even joke so I don’t worry or burden others. This gives the impression of being “better” but the majority of the time I am far from it. My mask has always been my safety blanket. It’s something I have used my entire life. However, I do find if someone truly takes the time to talk to me and ask me how I am feeling, I will open up. This is such an amazing feeling. It’s just a shame most don’t or won’t do this.

2. I am always exhausted.

I spoke about this with a friend not long ago — about how exhausting it is to live with any mental illness, full stop. If I tell people I am tired or even exhausted, I am nearly always met with “Oh, me too!” I shrug that off, but what I really want to say is: “You have absolutely no idea what it’s like to feel this exhausted every single second of every day.” I don’t mean it in a horrible way — it’s just one of those things I wish people understood a little more. I keep myself so busy so I don’t slip. I am so scared the dark thoughts will come back that I exhaust myself mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s why I am usually in bed every night by 9 p.m.

3. It’s isolating.

One thing I hate about depression — well most mental illnesses, actually — is they force you to isolate yourself. Part of this comes from the depression telling me not to go out, not to talk to anyone — why would I? They all hate me anyway — which in itself is completely debilitating. It annoys people, but it’s not something I enjoy doing. I literally sometimes have no choice. It feeds into the stigma surrounding mental health and makes me feel anxious at times.

4. It makes me seem like I am being deliberately difficult.

I have unfortunately come across this feeling from others close to me a few times. When you can’t make a decision or cancel something last minute, or can’t cope when plans change. So many times I have had people say: “Just deal with it!” “It’s not the end of the world.” “Why are you over-reacting?” What might seem like such a small thing to others is huge to me. I often have everything planned out in my head beforehand so it’s like a bomb going off in my head if something changes at the last moment. I panic! I wish I didn’t feel like this but I just can’t help it.

5. I often have no idea why my depression takes a turn for the worse.

Oh, the times I’ve been asked: “What’s the matter?” “Why are you feeling like this?” “What’s brought this on this time?” The times I’ve replied: “I have no bloody idea!”

And it’s true. Sometimes I can just wake up in the morning and feel different. Sad. Anxious. Stressed and moody. It doesn’t matter if I am doing everything I can to keep my mental health in control; it can all be undone by one (usually unknown) trigger and it all comes crashes down.

6. Getting support from loved ones is often the most important thing.

I have the most amazing, loyal, kind and loving husband. I am so grateful and blessed to have him, but high-functioning depression is difficult to understand. I can’t fault how he has been there for me the last few years when many partners would have walked away. He doesn’t often understand a lot of what I am going through, but he asks and he listens, which is so important. Unfortunately, though, there are others around who often don’t understand, so just ignore it or make assumptions. This is so painful for the person living with depression. A text is sometimes all it takes just to know you are wanted and loved. I completely understand it is difficult. I live with it and I barely understand it at times. But ask us. Let us know you are there. That will mean the absolute world, I promise you.

As I have said many times before, everyone’s experience with mental health issues is different, even if they have the same diagnosis. So I have chosen to focus on my experiences and my issues.

High-functioning depression is so difficult to live with. It’s a struggle to keep on fighting most days, but I will. Please don’t give up on people living with depression or any other mental illness for that matter. Show them support and love the way you would any physical illness.

Remember: many people are fighting battles we never know about. Be kind always.

Lots of love

Amy xx

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Thinkstock photo via Yuanting

Originally published: September 8, 2017
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