High-functioning depression is characterized by being able to go through the motions of a “functional” life, such as going to work and school, seeing friends, etc., but feeling no joy or satisfaction out of these activities and achievements. No matter what you seem to do, you’re still depressed. You still feel completely empty. No matter who you’re around, you still feel alone.
If you find yourself suffering from high-functioning depression, please know that you are not alone and your pain is valid. Just because you’re getting out of bed and going to work or seeing friends, doesn’t mean you’re not hurting. Your high-functioning depression is as serious as major depression, or any other mental illness. Please seek professional treatment if you find yourself struggling. It’s not your fault your brain functions this way, you didn’t ask for this and it’s not your choice. But you can get better. You can get help and find the treatment that works for you. You’re worthy of a full and happy life.
It’s going to be okay.
1. Finding it almost impossible to be proud of yourself.
When you have high-functioning depression, the standards you set for yourself can sometimes be unrealistically high. No matter what you seem to accomplish, no matter what you achieve, you never feel a sense of pride in any of it. There’s no satisfaction, no thrill. Instead, there’s always something you feel you could have done differently, done better. You find flaws in your process, your final product, ANYTHING, and then ultimately, you point those “imperfections” back to yourself. As something inherently wrong and “bad” with you.
2. Having little physical energy (but an energizer bunny brain).
You have serious trouble getting out of bed at times, you can’t always get yourself to go to the gym, and sometimes you can’t even get yourself to see your friends. But, despite this lethargy, this weight that sits on your chest and makes it impossible to sometimes stand, you always seem to have some stream of consciousness roaming through your brain unattended. It’s always ready to pounce and make you worry and feel like crap. It’s exhausting.
3. Seeming to have forgotten how to say “no.”
If you have high-functioning depression, chances are the word “no” has seemed to have vanished from your vocabulary. You often take on too much at work, or in your personal life, because you are afraid of letting others down (or letting your depression be seen).
In the end, though, if and when you do bail on a friend or fall through on a work project, you end up feeling like an asshole. It’s a vicious cycle.
4. Accidentally snapping at others (and then obsessing over that slip up for the next 10 years of your life).
Irritability is a lesser known symptom of depression, but it’s there. And sometimes, you find yourself lashing out at loved ones for what feels like no apparent reason, or in a way that doesn’t match the situation. Of course, you feel so guilty afterward and always apologize. However, your regret seems to stick around long after the event. In fact, it feels as though there isn’t a mistake of yours you’ve forgotten, even if the party in question has moved on long ago.
5. Feeling drained from always going above and beyond what’s necessary to keep and maintain healthy relationships.
Part of depression can sometimes be feeling unworthy. As such, even if you have great friends, you still feel you have to do everything in your power to keep them. You sometimes fear being a burden, so you always try to go above and beyond in your relationships, even if it’s unnecessary. Even when they definitely don’t expect it. But you can’t help but feel you have to do more, more, more since you feel like you and your depression can be too much.
6. Messed. Up. Sleep. Patterns.
Either you’re sleeping too much, or not at all. There’s not really an in between for you.
7. People being shocked that you have depression.
You? Depressed?! Most people have no idea and are shocked if you disclose that you suffer. You do so much after all! You seem so happy! You’re so positive for other people and seem so hopeful. But the problem is that they only see the surface. They only get to see the act. After the curtain closes, they would see a totally different story. If they could go inside your mind, your heart, your brain, maybe they would understand.
8. Being incredibly good at hiding your depression.
You almost feel as though you’re leading a double life because you’re so good at hiding your depression. Your acting skills are on point. You accomplish great things (though you may not think so, the rest of your world does). You have a steady job or are doing well in school. You see friends and are supportive of them. You laugh. You smile. You act, you act, you act. This is why so many people are so surprised to hear about your illness, if you choose to tell them. This is why even you yourself struggle to take yourself and your suffering seriously.
9. Struggling to ask for help.
You struggle to get out of bed for your job, but eventually, you do. You see your friends. You go to the gym sometimes. You try and eat healthy. But you don’t feel joy or fulfillment at any of these junctures. In fact, you feel complete and totally empty with the things that should be energizing you and filling you with joy. But you’re still doing them, so you convince yourself you’re fine. If it were really that bad, you wouldn’t be able to function, right?
The truth is, depression of any variety, be it high-functioning or not, is a serious mental illness that needs medical attention. And, sometimes, high-functioning depression can transition into a full depressive episode, if left to its own devices for too long. Please don’t invalidate your suffering.