Sunday, 2 February 2014

High-functioning depression

Some would describe me as what is known as a 'high functioning depressive'.  I am quite inclined to agree with them on this, although being this way has its perks and certainly its downsides.

I never used to be this way. Way back when, in 2010 when my depression worsened to a severe state, I went through a stage where leaving the house wasn't an option. I'd abandoned my friends and the furthest I would go would be to my boyfriends house (who at the time, lived two roads away from me). I must have achieved a maximum of 40-50% attendance in the whole year at the Sixth Form, and especially during the time I had to take out of that establishment in order to try and 'recover', I barely left the house, succumbing to the same four walls, turning to literature, my boyfriend, and treatment as my main sources of support.

In 2012, I succeeded in getting a job in retail. I'd had previous retail experience, in a local shop near to where I live, and after that in Oxford Street, around the same time when my depression hit its worst state. I didn't last in the job very long and quit very shortly after my overdose. I called in sick on Saturdays with 'migraines' which were actually a result of hiding under the covers for three days straight.

I realised when I started working for this company that my overall state had improved, and was no-where near better, but I had begun to function as a normal person again. I'd completed my A-levels by this point, quite literally three days after my final A-level exam I got this job - and I soon realised that being depressed at work wasn't an option. I have called in sick once (for mental health purposes, anyway) for this job, after a day of non-stop crying and actually feeling unable to leave the house, but relatively, I've done well at hiding my illness, putting on a brave face for my colleagues as well as the customers I serve, and staying strong. The day after I took an overdose back in July last year - instead of staying at home as I was in so much pain and being sick, I attempted a four hour shift at work, just to prove to people I could be ill and still function.

I've adapted this to other areas of my life and more recently I've realised how much I hide from the world. I would argue that I'm still very much in the grips of depression, yet three times a week I travel to University, once a week I work a shift at my retail job and I plaster on my smiley happy face. The one people want to see. It's a brave face and it's becoming easier and easier to put on because it is easier than admitting the truth to people. A lot of people are very aware that I supposedly suffer from depression, but can't quite see how sometimes when I'm so jolly and 'optimistic' all the time, there for other people. And no matter how hard I try, I can't shake this off. It's gotten to the stage where I can't cry in front of people, not even my therapist, or any University lecturer, when I am open and honest about my illness I say it like I'm joking about it and laughing things off, with, would you believe it, a smile on my face. Because that's the only way I can deal with suffering from this for such a long time anymore.

The truth is, alone, I turn into a completely different person. I bottle all of this emotion and sadness, I absorb all the negative comments, the bad essay marks, the self-neglect, the worthlessness all day and as soon as that door hits slam and I'm back on my own it's like darkness has invaded my brain. I'm invited to events which I can't attend because I want to be on my own, anything other than University and work is a chore. I can't make myself relax and do simple things to calm myself down, easily frustrated, my mind sends itself into overdrive and I start thinking awful things. That's where the self-destructiveness comes in and takes over, whether it be in the form of actively self-destructing or mentally. The cycle repeats itself, day in and day out. My head feels so heavy and weighed down, my heart beating a thousand times a minute, unable to reinstate calmness. Sitting down to write essays feels like an utmost burden, I sometimes just sit and stare at screens praying they'll write themselves and I won't have to submit something that I'll no doubt receive an awful grade for anyway. My confidence is nowhere to be found and I can't WRITE IT DOWN (like everyone keeps telling me to do) because I have no energy, no creativity, no willpower, no mental force any more. Any words that I read in novels or films/tv programmes that I watch don't resonate with me anymore. I forget everything. The tears. They'll start and sometimes won't stop. It might just be a trigger word from the day that replays itself in my mind. A picture I've seen on someone's Facebook page, or just sometimes not even anything. Just general sadness.

I've come to terms with the fact that I'll always be a depressive. But as one of my wonderful University lecturers said to me last Tuesday, 'you may always be the depressive, but you don't have to always be depressed'. That has stuck with me all week and I've been overplaying it again and again. The truth is, I don't know where to start, where to start on the road to ,not always being depressed'. I thought I was in recovery but the truth is, I'm not doing anything actively to help myself and I'm still having the same thoughts as I did three years ago, I'm just processing them slightly better and just getting on with things, but only because I have to, and not because they fulfil me with excitement or extreme happiness. The people pleasing and perfectionism also play a huge role in this, letting people down/failure is my worst fear and being depressed and showing people I'm depressed is, for me, letting the side down.

A few weeks ago, I typed a list of what was on my mind at that particular time. I never published it on here as I was too ashamed, but the list took up a whole page worth, and since then there's been more to add to the list, I've suffered a bereavement since then and I've lost a few friends too. I've reached the conclusion that I've always been like this. I've had my good days, great times, and fantastic memories over the years no doubt, but it's always there, whether in the forefront of my mind or at the back, and currently it's sticking out like a sore thumb, screaming at me and tearing me down. Getting rid of negative feelings that have been forced into you since you were at least 5-6 years old is just too difficult to rid altogether. I'm too terrified of spending the rest of my life as just a high functioning depressive, with no career prospects and nothing to show for myself, because I'm just a depressive and nothing more. At the same time, I've no idea where to start in trying to work towards a better future. I'm stuck in a cycle, a limbo of forced happiness and repetitive sadness, and I really want out.


  1. I don't even know how long I did this exact same thing - it really is astonishing what a smile can hide. There's a reason it's a cliché, you know? I've even had mental health professionals who've worked with me for months believing the front that I put on. And I'm like, really? Do you not have other patients that do this? Re: your question about where to start, I don't know, you're the only person who can answer that. But you don't have to accept depression taking over the rest of your life. You simply don't. I did, for far too fucking long. If you pursue what you love, what inspires and nourishes you, then gradually, bit by bit you can change the balance from mostly bad to mostly good. You've already introduced so much positivity into your life with your literature course and the way you challenge yourself and your anxiety; your writing and connections with other sufferers; somewhere in there, there's meaning. I know it might sound like bullshit because I thought it was, but it turns out, all this airy-fairy "recovery is possible" stuff is actually true. I offer myself as proof <3 Sending much, much love and many hugs sweetie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  2. For a long time I've been living in a similar way, I thought recovering from the eating disorder meant I was recovered but more & more I'm noticing it uncovered stronger feelings I was hiding from. And I keep hiding those feelings, I'm terrified as being seen as depressed, I feel like I've let everyone down. And by going to work I feel no one would believe me.

    I can tell when I'm feeling lower than normal now and I have friends who inspire me just by talking with them. That motivation doesn't last long but I believe if I can feel it for a moment, I can feel it for longer.

    You have started by writing this post, by being aware. Sometimes the steps forward are so small we don't notice them at first. Fill your days with what comforts you and you'll find your inspiration to keep fighting it.

    Sending lots of hugs too!