Being a high-functioning depressive

Being a high-functioning depressive

A few weeks ago, I met up with a friend who is close to someone with depression, too. In a somewhat bashful tone, she said, “I wish she was more like you.” What she meant by that was, she wished her friend was a high-functioning depressive like me.

I wasn’t always a high-functioning depressive.

Just two years ago, my days consisted of lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, having nothing but coffee for meals, and wondering when I’ll finally meet my end.

doll, broken, face,
Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

Thanks to cognitive behavioral therapy and meds, I’ve regained a lot of my energy: to work, to build and maintain relationships, to eat and exercise, to write. Since then, the good days have more often than not outweighed the bad ones.

The good days are blessedly typical. I am productive at work, I joke around with my friends, I bring joy to my boyfriend, I talk to my mom about what’s going on in my life. I take stock of all the good things in my life. Those days don’t necessarily have to be eventful; their ordinariness is a blessing in itself.

The bad days, however, are awful.

When they come (which they still do), it feels as though a mask—of happiness, of normalcy—has fallen off, and I can’t get it to fit quite right again. I fake it through an entire day, which is exhausting and draining to say the least. Even after I crack jokes, I fall silent, feeling an urge to cry for no real reason. I get palpitations throughout the day, my heart beating rapidly, with my mind saying, “You’re worthless” on a loop. I stare off into space for long periods of time.

Since I started therapy, I slowly but steadily regained my life.

It came to the point where I could actually be considered productive. Eventually, I adopted a sense of responsibility towards the areas of my life that I had previously abandoned. When I was low-functioning, I let go of nearly everything and everyone. Upon recovery, I realized that I never wanted to go through that again. The energy it would take to rebuild my life is far greater than the energy that I’ll expend if I just stick to my commitments.

So now, I can’t just say “fuck it” and leave, because I know full well what the consequences will be. I can’t use depression to take a sick day, or to not feed my cats. I can’t beg off from a social event because I’m not feeling up to connecting with people.

The energy it would take to rebuild my life is far greater than the energy that I’ll expend if I just stick to my commitments.


In that same conversation with my friend, I laughed and told her that there were a lot of times when I wished I wasn’t high-functioning, when I wished I could just tell all my responsibilities to go to hell as I sleep the day away. On certain days, the temptation to do just that is so strong, I have to check in with my trusted support system so they’ll hold me accountable.

In some ways, I’m glad to have had lost so much before, since now I fight harder to keep what I do have.

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