There are many forms of depression, we know this.
Some people will be severely depressed to the extent that they can’t get through the day, or out of bed, while some people will still be able to function while their insides are screaming into the void.
Getting through the day with severe depression is not the same as ‘feeling a bit down but still managing’.
It’s normal to feel sad sometimes. It’s normal to go through low periods just as it’s normal to be tired, grumpy, or in a particularly sunny mood. When you’re generally feeling low, you know that it will pass and that you’re in a crap mood, but that it won’t be forever.
When you’re depressed, the low mood is at rock bottom and it’s an all-consuming, never-ending dark pressure that feels like it will never leave you. Depression makes you feel like there’s no reason to live, like everything is meaningless and that the gloom is truly endless. Depression is a neurological change in the brain that completely takes over your entire being.
It’s possible to be contemplating suicide while appearing to be totally ‘normal’ and cracking jokes.
Even those with high functioning depression will find that their mental health affects their daily life, and they’re likely only so high functioning because they’ve found ways to manage their depression that let them live with it.
For example, if you have diabetes you have to check your blood sugar throughout the day, consider your meals and give yourself doses of insulin when you need it. I have depression, and I manage it by making sure I take my medicine every morning, checking in with how I feel (shite, despairing, ambivalent and generally hollow) and considering the ‘face’ I’ll need to put on for the day ahead.
Most importantly, I make sure I have time in between the more intense parts of the day (such as meetings) to be on my own.
At the end of a work day I’ll often need to go and be in the dark and lie down/cry/just be silent and alone, and this allows me to be more functional when I need to be. If you ignore how you’re feeling, it’ll only get worse – like not changing a dressing on a nasty wound and letting it rot, my alone time to breathe and cry is me changing the dressing on my wounds so I can be fresh again.
I consider myself to have high-functioning depression because I now know how to get through (most) days with it, and manage it with medication, exercise, therapy – and let’s be honest, alcohol and crying.
But like other high functioning depressives, this doesn’t work every day and sometimes the illness flares up so intensely that I’ll need to cancel plans or work from home, or just retreat for a few days until I feel healthier. This is not the same as feeling temporarily sad.
For those with high-functioning depression, getting through the particularly bad days is an enormous struggle and energy expenditure. Personally those days make me feel like I need to sleep forever, submitting to unconsciousness and not having to deal with the world ever again – but I’ll probably be wearing jazzy earrings and a pink blazer and some glittery shoes in an attempt to cover it all up. Glittery people can’t be depressed, right?
If you do have high-functioning depression, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you’re now functioning again it must mean everything is fine and manageable. You still need to keep tabs on how you’re doing, as chances are your daily life won’t stay exactly the same forever and any changes you encounter will need to be considered for impact on your mental health.
It sounds exhausting – it is bloody exhausting, but it’s really the only way to make sure you can be one of these high-functioning types.
Check yourself, prioritise yourself, and schedule time for yourself into your high-functioning life, even if it’s just to go outside for a five minute walk around and a cry. Change your wound dressing and carry on.
If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, you can find a qualified local counsellor in your area with Counselling Directory. Mental health charity Mind also offer counselling services, and you can call The Samaritans on 116 123 (UK and ROI). The NHS even have a little quiz you can take. If you can, visit your GP for further advice. To talk about mental health in a private, judgement-free zone, join our Mentally Yours Facebook group.
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