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A Year of High-Functioning Depression

Personal Perspective: I don't know how long pretending is sustainable.

© free_illustration10 | Shutterstock
Source: © free_illustration10 | Shutterstock

When I turn on my work computer, I keep seeing articles on my feed for high-functioning depression like “Five Signs You May Have High-Functioning Depression,” “Are You Suffering From High-Functioning Depression?” and “You Could Have High-Functioning Depression and Not Know It.”

I don’t know why there has been such a recent slew of articles about this topic. Certainly high-functioning depression is different than seasonal affective disorder, which tends to show up this time of year.

I don’t know why I even click on those articles to read. The fact that I do is probably trying to tell me something, namely that I’m relating to the title or something within the articles resonates with me, so I continue to read similar articles.

What is high-functioning depression? One post here defines it as follows: “If you struggle with high-functioning depression, you may still go to work, see friends, and attend events. But the heaviness rarely leaves you; you carry a feeling of exhaustion wherever you go. You feel weighed down by burdens. You think you have nothing to look forward to when you think of the future.”

I feel as if I’ve been dealing with high-functioning depression for close to a year. I enjoy my job, which I’ve been in for 10 months, but the hours are long. I’m enrolled in a fellowship program for clinical supervisors, and it was a relief to hear one of the other attendees say that “we,” meaning social workers as a profession, don’t make enough money, because managing my finances is stressful, especially around this time of the year. I’ve taken on a second job, admittedly not just for the extra income, which is nice, but for the opportunity. Next week, I start as an adjunct instructor at a local private college teaching an Introduction to Counseling class.

How do we do it? Margaret Rutherford writes, "Psychologically speaking, people with high-functioning depression are able to use the skill of compartmentalization, where you suppress your own personal feelings for the moment and instead, attend to the needs or expectations of the present.”

I have ongoing medical issues with several unknowns up in the air, that are causing me stress. My insurance finally approved a special kind of MRI after denying it three times. This MRI will show if I need surgery, which of course I hope to avoid. The other major issue is more neurological in nature and there are more questions than answers. A new neurologist is in the process of reviewing my past history of brain CT’s and MRI’s (and there are more than several) and I have an appointment with her at the end of February, which seems a long time away. I was just diagnosed with sleep apnea, which this sleep physician believes is contributing to, if not causing, my years of insomnia. No one thought I could have sleep apnea because I’m not overweight. At first, insurance wouldn’t even approve a test in a sleep lab, but when the home test came back with low oxygen levels, they did approve the test in the sleep lab that showed sleep apnea. I have a virtual appointment today to learn to use the CPAP machine.

I get up every morning (around 2 AM or 3 AM) exhausted, but I can’t get back to sleep. Around 6 AM I take Shelby for a walk, feed her, and then get ready for work. I log onto my computer around 7 AM and send out the links to the sessions for the day. Then I walk Shelby again, especially if I have morning sessions. At 8 AM I sit down for the day and work until 7 PM or 8 PM. I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at my desk. I collapse at the end of the day and Shelby is begging for attention, so I play with her for a while. We go out for our evening walk, and when I come back upstairs, depending on how exhausted and computer weary I am, I may check my personal emails or leave them for early the next morning.

I rarely have enough energy to write (it’s about 4:30 AM now) because I’m also technically working on a memoir, but I don’t have the impetus to write consistently. If I had two resolutions for the New Year (and I don’t believe in resolutions), it would be to read more this year instead of aimlessly surfing the net or scrolling on Instagram. And to spend more time working on my memoir.

I did return to therapy several months ago, but I didn’t find it helpful. I’m thinking of trying to find another therapist, because the way I’m feeling is not sustainable. One new client said it took her a year to find me, so this does not inspire optimism. I know it’s difficult to find therapists who are taking new clients right now.

© LineTale | Shutterstock
Source: © LineTale | Shutterstock

Since my last therapist didn’t work out, I need to identify what I’m looking for in a therapist and what I want out of therapy. One problem is I compare everyone to my former psychiatrist, Dr. Lev, who I can’t afford to see right now, and no one can measure up. I know that is not fair to any new therapist stepping in, but I don’t know how to resolve this. This issue is one that keeps me from looking for a new therapist. One of my balls that remains up in the air.

Thanks for reading.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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