High-Functioning Depression

I read an article today that really hit home.  The article was written about a young woman who seemingly had it all together.  She had excellent grades, a great group of friends, and was involved in campus groups.  Nobody would ever think of her as suffering from depression.

This description really hit home with me because, on a 15 minute phone conversation which lasted for over an hour,  someone recently told me that I have it all together. I laughed and said “If you only knew”.  She knows quite a bit about my mental illness since she has heard me tell my story as part of NAMI’s In Our Own Voice program.

The young woman in the article has what is called high-functioning depression.  She doesn’t fit the stereotypical picture of someone who has trouble sleeping, stays away from friends, and cries a lot.  She doesn’t look like a person who needs help.  And, unfortunately, she is one of many, many people who don’t want to ask for help.

When I was a kid, I was one of the best students in my classes.  I had friends.  I was musically talented.  I had a sense of humor.  I was elected senior class treasurer.  I dated a cheerleader.  I went to my #1 college.  I performed before hundred of thousands of people at football games.  I went to my #1 graduate school.  I got married.  I got a good job.  I had 4 kids.  Seems like a pretty wonderful life.  Certainly not the stereotypical picture of someone dealing with depression.  And, unfortunately, I was one of many, many people who didn’t want to ask for help.

As someone with high-functioning depression, I lived behind my mask.  I coped with my anxiety, I did the best I could to hide my insecurities, I used my sense of humor to try to feel like I fit in, and I tried not to feel different.  In my forties, things got bad and I reached out for help.  Once I did that, I began the long journey of recovery.  The hardest part of the journey was getting over my own stigma.  I didn’t want anyone to know what I was going through.  I was ashamed.  I was afraid that people would avoid me and I would lose my friends.  That didn’t happen.  Instead, as I became more open about my condition, I found out how so many other people had their own masks.

If you fit the description of someone with high-functioning depression, I urge you to reach out and ask for help.  There is no shame.  It’s time to remove the mask.  You’re friends will be there for you.  After all, nobody has it all together.

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