This article starts with a caveat: I am not a mental health professional, I am a sufferer. As such, my experience may not be your experience. Having said that – terrible life experience is one of the reasons why I’m sitting here, advocating for mental health. So please do take this all with a grain of salt and stay safe.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that any one of these signs can be explained by something in your life. But a combination of them for a length of time might merit revisiting the “high-functioning” label. Or at least an informal chat with a pro.
1. You refuse to speak to a professional about it.
Yes, therapy is expensive, and medical doctors misunderstand sometimes. Yes, there are structural barriers you have to sometimes overcome to get to ONE mental health professional, let alone enough for you to find a good fit. Yes, it can be prohibitively expensive. But thinking about the barriers around getting help is not the same as refusing to seek it on principle. Barriers can be worked around. Information can be gathered. You may want to ask yourself why you are refusing it flat out without even looking into it.
2. Your friends/partner are starting to experience compassion fatigue.
Some people just can’t stand FEELINGS TALK of any kind. Some people – like your colleagues and your boss – are not the ones to talk about regarding this. Some people, though, shut down conversations around feelings because they have reached the saturation point and they can’t keep going. Some people just don’t take well to being a listening ear – and some of them get to that point if you use them to dump all your problems on.
3. You find yourself getting disproportionately defensive.
The key word here is ‘disproportionately’. Some people like concern-trolling. Some people genuinely don’t know what’s going on. Some people (like your good friends or partner) may be gently pushing back on the idea that you are high-functioning because they sense there is something else going on there. If you find yourself biting their heads off for suggesting you talk to a doctor… you might want to ask yourself if the reaction is merited.
4. You take to the Internet for answers.
Is reading this list less expensive than an hour of therapy? Maybe. Is it going to be as helpful? Probably not.
5. You’re more worried about being perceived as not-high-functioning depressive than seeking treatment.
There is a lot of shame, still, surrounding mental health. We all struggle with our own preconceived notions. But you know what? When I sought treatment, I discovered that literally, no-one in my life cared. Not one person. To them, my shrink appointment was as boring a topic as a visit to the dentist; the antidepressants as mundane as a pap smear. The one who cared the most was me – and as soon as I discovered that, I was able to let go of most of my other fears and hang-ups.
At the end of the day, depression – high-functioning or otherwise – is another illness. Like a cold, it’s common, it sneaks up on you, and if you leave it as is, it can grow worse and worse. The stigma attached to it is real and it’s not always easy to find your balance. But it’s better to do so with support rather than by yourself.