The contents of this article may be sensitive for some readers. It contains discussions of self-harm and suicide. If you relate to any of the points raised throughout the article, it may be worth speaking to a professional. This article contains an account of somebody who lives with high-functioning depression. The account has been personally written by them. We have not used their name in order to protect identity.
When it comes to mental health, a person described as high-functioning manages to keep up with their responsibilities. However, they are managing to function whilst suffering with a mental health condition or symptoms of one (if undiagnosed).
The formal diagnosis for high-functioning depression is known as Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD). It is a form of long-term depression, which can be less severe than other types of depression, as the individual is able to function. However, this doesn’t make it any less serious and often is an ongoing issue, sometimes lasting years. It can often be hard to diagnose as it won’t become apparent until the symptoms have been happening for an extended time.
That being said, many people may feel the symptoms of PDD without having a diagnosis. To outsiders looking in, a person with high-functioning depression may appear to be managing, but internally there’s an intense struggle. A struggle where they are constantly feeling numb, tired or low.
Symptoms of persistent depressive disorder can include (but are not limited to):
- Avoiding social activities and interaction
- Change in your appetite
- Feeling tired or having little / no energy
- Losing interest in activities you do daily
- Trouble sleeping (this could be sleeping too much or not enough)
For many people these feelings will be reoccurring or feel constant, and the cause of them experiencing this could be for a number of reasons. For example, it could be down to a traumatic event, maybe they have not been able to come to terms with it or it has impacted them massively.
To give you more insight I spoke to someone who is living with high-functioning depression. Here is their account of what it feels like:
“Imagine having people telling you that you’re fine and that you’re not depressed. They tell you that it’s just one of those days and you’ll be okay when you wake up. The morning comes and they ask how you feel. Deep down you know you feel the same but are worried for the same old response. They ask and say things like:
- What do you have to be depressed about?
- But you seem fine to me.
- It will pass, it’s just a rough day.
- People have it worse than you, you’ll be fine.
That is not the response I get from everyone but for the most part that’s the case. They are not pleasant or helpful responses and it happens often. Admittedly, it is very demoralising, and makes it tough to open u about what I’m going through. Rather than listening to what I have to say, people are quick to speak but not patient to listen. I understand that to them it might feel tiring, hearing me tell them I’m still feeling low. However, for me it is tiring to repeatedly feel this way and sometimes with little understanding of myself.
People try to tell me about all the good things I have in my life, as if they are convincing me that I’m not low. The fact is that too many people see what is ‘good’ and use that as a reason to justify why I can’t be depressed. The reality being, is that for years I have been battling suicidal thoughts and urges to harm myself. There’s a constant cloud of feeling hopeless and tired, no matter how much I sleep. It’s the side that no one can see as it’s an internal battle.
On the flip side, I manage to take care of myself, I get up and go to work and get errands done. People see that I’m able to do things and associate that as a sign that I’m okay. Little do they know that in my head I am screaming out and trying not to cry. At times it feels like I am living a double life or that I’m putting on a front.
I remember the days where I was in a depressive state and struggled to function. I wasn’t eating or showering at times. But as the days, months, weeks and years went by, I began to be able to function around my depression. Essentially, I got used to the feeling of hopelessness. I began to accept that I may feel like this for what seemed like forever.
There are constantly days that are worse than others, on these days it is usually me not being able to sleep. It’s me constantly crying my eyes out in private and then going on about my day. As a whole I struggle to feel any sense of happiness. But because I am used to it I don’t always talk about it nor does it show on my face or in my actions.
If there’s one thing it teaches me, it is to be more empathetic and conscious. If I am battling this and no one can see it, how many others are also living my struggle? Mental health is always challenging as there’s no quick fix. You can’t see inside my head that I’m screaming out in pain. I wonder if I will ever be able to live a ‘normal’ life where I am not conditioned to functioning around my struggles. It is very hard to heal when you don’t know where to start.”
If you relate to anything raised in this article or account, it may be worth reaching out to someone you trust or a professional. Mental health is not always visible and should be approached with care.
UK Services for Mental Health
USA Services for Mental Health
To find services where you live visit CheckPoint, a global mental health resources website. It provides a list of services that you can get in touch with.
Mikayla is a budding Fashion and Graphic Designer, she has her own brand, inspired by Mental Health, called “The Mattah”. Through her brand she discuses her own struggles with mental health and encourages others to express how they feel. When not designing garments and sewing, she also spends time cooking among other creative outlets.