What do you get when you combine a high functioning person, depression, and anxiety? In the mental health world, you get The Perfect Storm.
It’s been almost ten years since diagnosed with depression, and three since I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety. My constant desire for over-achievement, perfectionism, and busyness mask the constant war going on in my head. For a long time, most people would look at me and not think I suffered from depression, or anxiety for that matter. I worked hard in high school, played sports, earned a great scholarship to a top-notch college, worked 40 hours a week while maintaining a decent GPA, graduated with two degrees and started my career. At the same time, I managed to meet my best friend and start a life together. It was always easy to go about my daily life and excel because my mind was too busy to be sad or anxious.
I didn’t pay attention to or really even notice my storm until I was married and in limbo. My husband worked 60+ hours a week and I was in the process of finding a job since we just moved to a new city. I didn’t have any friends, hobbies or family close by to keep me busy. So, instead, I entered a continuous mental storm that reeked havoc on my general outlook on life. After about a year of insisting “nothing was wrong,” my husband convinced me to see a psychiatrist.
My psychiatrist informed that I suffer from high-functioning depression and anxiety. This type of mental illness often goes undetected because the people who experience it convince themselves everything is fine and that they are just going through a phase. Because every other aspect of my life seemed “normal,” I continued to overlook the symptoms often associated with high-functioning depression and pretended like everything was okay.
Fast-forward almost ten years and I still struggle with this storm every day. Some days, weeks, or even months are worse than others. To most people, I seem fine. But, if you look close enough you’ll see the damage – from unanswered texts to flakiness and an always “on-guard” demeanor. I withdraw from friendships. I over analyze a smile or a compliment. There is a constant conversation of “I’m not good enough and I’m letting everyone down” going on in my head. I have a never-ending to-do list that never seems to get done because I am literally frozen in fear that I’ll screw something up. I seem busy or stressed but, in reality, I just keep moving forward because I’m too afraid to stop. Because, when I do stop, I’m on a slippery slope downward with no place to grab on. It’s a battle I fight every single day.
High-Functioning Depression and Anxiety
According to the Anxiety Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are highly treatable, however, roughly one-third receive treatment. Our society is becoming more aware and accepting of mental illnesses, yet it is too common that people want to put the symptoms of mental illnesses in a box. Mental illness affects each person differently. Many mental illnesses are invisible ailments, and high-functioning illnesses can often be silent, but that doesn’t mean they are not felt. Seeking treatment is not only a preventative measure to ensure symptoms don’t further progress; it is a proactive way to better your quality of life.
I am slowly learning to make my mental health a priority. Some days the storm wins and others it does not. Only by learning how to take a minute to slow down, breathe, and just be happy with the way things are, have I been able to get through those stormy days.