Wednesday, 23 November 2016

High-functioning depression

When I look back, I now realise that I had what would be classified as 'high-functioning depression'.

I had all of the classical symptoms of depression such as low mood, suicidal thoughts, guilt and sleep disturbance, but I also was functioning completely normally. I was able to go about my day-to-day life and complete all of the tasks that were needed of me. I was able to smile and laugh and hang out with friends. And because of this, hardly anyone knew that I suffered from depression until I opened up on my blog. When in reality, I was getting home and crying every evening - sleeping a lot, self harming and generally hating myself.

Heck, 2 weeks after my suicide attempt I was in my 2nd year exams, and I got the highest marks possible in them. I had still managed to revise even whilst I was at my lowest point ever, and I felt like I wanted to die. I think having a goal to concentrate on was one of the main things that kept me going.

High-functioning depression may sound easier that normal depression, because sufferers are able to hide it and continue with their everyday life. However, it could be much more dangerous - high-functioning depressives find it easier to hide that they are struggling, and possibly aren't able to open up as much because of this. They may be in a high-flying job that they are performing well in, and feel that they couldn't tell anyone about their illness in case they were deemed too unwell to do their job. I know that I found it more difficult to tell people about my depression because I was a medical student - I honestly thought that it could be held against me and I could be seen to be 'unfit to practise'. I even asked my GP before I opened up to my medical school about the fact that I was struggling.

It could also be dangerous because people perhaps don't realise, or don't believe, that they have a mental illness, and therefore don't get help.

Because of this, I think I often doubted my diagnosis and that I was ill. How could I get out of bed and be a medical student, and still have depression? How could I laugh and smile, yet feel so dead inside? I had a lot of guilt surrounding my depression as I felt that I should be fine, and that I didn't deserve to be a medical student. I always had an inner battle over my fatigue and low mood, and wanting to be the best I can be.

I think the most important thing is that high-functioning depression is recognised by both medical professionals and lay people, so that sufferers can be helped as much as possible. All I needed was reassurance that my diagnosis was real, and that it wasn't my fault. Once I got over that hurdle, recovery was a lot easier.

All mental illnesses are real and they can be managed. Nobody should ever be made to feel inadequate or silly. And nobody should ever, ever be told to pull themselves together over a mental illness just because it can't be seen.
You don't have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive.
                       - Diana Vreeland

1 comment:

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