Ever since I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2018, I didn’t want it to define me. After all, I was high on the flawed “you are not your mental illness” school of thought back then. So I tried my best to be as functional and productive as possible, no matter how much my body and mind begged for a break. Then, I began to have serious trouble getting out of bed every morning, which is a classic sign of low-functioning depression. But did I accept that sign for what it was? No. And who was to blame for that? Society.
The world today has glorified high-functioning depression to such an extent that it basically seems like the only “acceptable” form of depression. All that talk about destigmatization and recovery is largely about/aimed at famous and successful personalities who made it even though they had depression. Who wants to hear the stories of folks who aren’t rich and struggle to get the simplest tasks done? Not a lot of people. And speaking from personal experience, even fewer want to be in that position.
I know I am not the only one who struggles to accept the inability to function. Well, it’s time for all of us to screw what the world thinks and be authentic and empathetic to ourselves. As I said in this post, everyone has different levels of physical and mental energy. The right thing to do is to respect these levels as much as possible instead of constantly trying to increase them. Because if you try to go against the way you are fundamentally wired, there will be consequences.
For years, I have mostly had medium to high-functioning depression because I have had the good sense to not chronically overexert myself. But ever since my official diagnosis, I have been pushing myself too hard at work. The fact that I have not been making enough money despite “performative workaholism” has only added to my despair. The result? I have had low-functioning depression since December 2019. It’s draining for me to simply exist over the course of a day. Even writing aka the love of my life feels like a draining task. Though I am able to do only the bare minimum on most days, I always end up mentally and physically exhausted long before bedtime – and I am just 29! Ugh.
Wait, there’s a silver lining in these extremely dark clouds. If you can go from medium/high-functioning to low-functioning, you can go from low-functioning to medium/high functioning. After all, depression is on a spectrum and can be managed, if not completely eliminated.
The first thing you have to do is listen to your mind and body by giving them the reduced workload they need. Ideally, a vacation would be the best option, but how many of us can just up and leave? Then, see a therapist if you can afford it. (I no longer can, so I am taking a CBT course on Udemy.) Most importantly, inform all the people who need to know like family, bosses, clients, etc. so that they can understand your lack of availability – or at the very least, back off. If you are someone who is working their ass off despite high-functioning depression (which, FYI, definitely needs treatment), know that you are only human and may find yourself in the exact same position as me anytime. It is not your fault you are not able to function as well as other people, so please, please be kind to yourself.
Remember, living in alignment with your natural energy levels needs to be a long-term lifestyle change and not just a temporary fix to low-functioning depression or burnout. Despite its ubiquity, hustling all the time is unnatural and paves the way for physical and mental health conditions. So if you are a founder or someone in a position to change your company’s ‘always on’ work culture, please do. At the end of the day, there is so much more to life than work, right?
I am looking for reasonably well-paying work that will allow me to manage my depression and reclaim my life. If you are looking to hire a professional and experienced writer, check out my ‘Work With Me‘ page and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.