Depression is hard. Having it is hard. Dealing with it is hard. If you or anyone close to you suffers from depression, it. is. hard.
I have struggled with high-functioning depression for years. For as long as I can remember, it’s been almost impossible to fall asleep at night, shockingly difficult to wake up in the morning, and I’ve had no energy throughout the day. I’ve been sad all the time. I’ve spent more time crying than laughing. I spent most of my teens and twenties refusing to make plans, because I knew I’d be emotionally unable to keep them. I self-medicated with Netflix, with Facebook, with coffee, with cats.
No one knew.
After I dragged myself out of bed in the morning, I would plaster a smile on my face and laugh way too easily at way too many things. I’d do my homework and show up for appointments and respond to every text message and answer every phone call because I was supposed to.
For the longest time, that was all that kept me moving forward: The fact that I was supposed to.
I think that’s the main defining characteristic of being a high-functioning victim of major depression. It’s not that your depression isn’t as bad. It’s not that you only feel bad sometimes. It’s not even that you’re stronger than people with lower functioning depression. It’s that no one knows what’s happening.
After I was diagnosed with major depression for the second time, and prescribed anti-depressants for the first time, my doctor echoed something that someone had already told me long ago: “High-functioning depression is dangerous because it’s harder to diagnose. You don’t seem depressed, so no one realizes that you need help until it’s too late.”
I was miserable for a month after I started my meds. I felt sick and fuzzy for weeks before the the medications started working. But when it finally kicked in? It was like I was finally able to see color, smell the flowers, hear the melodies underneath the lyrics of my favorite songs.
This lasted for two months.
And then, Thanksgiving night, as I climbed back into my mother’s SUV after a quick perusal of early Black Friday sales, something inside of me broke. My sister, sitting in the front seat, fiddled with the radio and chattered at me. I answered her, my voice steady, like nothing was wrong, even as tears flowed down my cheeks and I stifled sobs that came from nowhere.
I told her how excited I was for Christmas. All the while, I imagined walking into my bedroom at home, opening the closet door, sticking the barrel of the rifle hidden behind it into my mouth, and pulling the trigger.
At my husband’s insistence, I called the doctor the very next day and they shuffled everything around to get me in asap. They doubled my dosage. They checked up on me. They told me to call them during office hours if I ever felt like that again and suggested I seek counselling. “Whatever you do,” they told me, “don’t go off your pills cold turkey until we tell you to.”
It’s been nine months and I’ve been fine.
Everything is hard. I can’t sleep at night and I struggle to wake up in the morning. I’m on a hiatus from social media, because I’m not emotionally equipped to handle everybody’s bullshit right now. It’s been months since I’ve seen my friends and I keep coming up with excuses not to see my family. I restarted my newest writing project from scratch, because I need the hopelessness to channel through my writing if I stand a chance of funneling this darkness out of my chest.
My last few months have been nothing but stress and frustration. Mero broke his leg. My car broke down. My basement renovations began two months after they were supposed to. I’ve gotten dragged into dramas I didn’t want to be involved in. All while not mentally equipped to handle any of it in the midst of my mental illness flareup.
I’ve spent the last few weeks crying and being angry and pretending like I’m fine when I’m not. I’ve tried to be positive about bending over backwards for people, only for them to walk away without a single thought about how far out of my way I’ve gone for them.
I feel like I’m drowning.
So today, for the first time in too long, I stopped trying to deal on my own and being predictably disappointed by perpetually broken promises. I reached out to my friends, the ones I’ve been ignoring all summer because I’m a fucking nightmare sometimes, and not one of them left me thrashing in the waves.
It has taken me twenty-six years to forge these four friendships with four women. But, today, when I finally reached out, not one of them hesitated to take me by the hand.