What It’s Like To Live With Low-Functioning Depression

Too tired to work. My desk is right behind me, by the way. (Yes, I work from my bedroom because I am a freelance writer and co-working spaces are neither cheap nor quiet.)

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. 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. Natural remedies like marijuana may help too.

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 ‘Hire Me‘ page and email me at shaikhmahevash@gmail.com.

9 thoughts on “What It’s Like To Live With Low-Functioning Depression”

  1. Hi Mahevash, I struggle with low-functioning depression for over 15 years with cycles of high–functioning depression in between. I really understand you, because I worked long hours as the bed as my office and trying to think as I answered calls when I fell asleep. It is really difficult to find information about low-functioning depression, probably because of social factors. Today, my sister insinuated that I’ve been like this for so long that this is probably my personality, probably meaning, “you’re just lazy”. I just don’t get affected by that anymore (well, maybe a little bit). Through the years I’ve learned that others just don’t have the capacity to understand, but sometimes they just want to help. It’s important that we try to focus on ourselves and stop blaming (I know, better said than done). My life has been extremely dark as I am also a divorced mother, and the treatments I’ve made haven’t really worked. Still I keep searching for better solutions. I will try a different approach soon, transcranial electrical stimulation, perfectly safe and used in resistant depression. The struggle is real, but you are a young person and undoubtedly a fighter. Don’t hesitate to seek help in associations, sometimes private therapists do pro bonos. I did and great professionals came into my life.
    Wish you the best!

    1. Hi Lurdes,

      I was having a really bad day until I saw your comment. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I hope transcranial electrical stimulation gives you the relief you deserve….you are a seasoned depression warrior, after all. It’s a shame that “normal” people don’t appreciate the toll depression takes on the mind, body, and spirit…as you said, the only solution is to try to ignore their hurtful words.

      I appreciate your kind words and I wish you the best as well!

  2. Thank you for writing this! It was spot on. I think it s only the second article on low functioning mental illness I have been able to find on google. Nice to be reminded I’m not alone and that it’s not all a poor attitude 🙄. I hope things have improved for you since you wrote this. Keep on keeping on.

    1. Hey B,

      You’re certainly not alone. Nor do you have a poor attitude. Low-functioning depression is very much real even though it is barely discussed.

      Things have improved for me, thanks for asking. There are times when I do become less functional, but they pass.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I hope things improve for you soon. Keep on keeping on…you got this :)

  3. Thank you for writing this and raising awareness. I am 29 as well, went from low-functioning to high-functioning. Now I am back to low-functioning and am trying not to be so hard on myself. People seem to have an easier time respecting high-achievers. Many don’t understand that getting out of bed is an achievement for us.

    1. Hi Amanda,
      I’m sorry to know you have LFD. It’s incredibly hard to live with it. I hope you go back to being high-functioning. Or even better, manage to become depression-free…anyway, please hang in there.

  4. Sorry to hear this, girl. Of all people, you don’t deserve to feel this way. Have a lead for you, please check your mail.

  5. She Who Will Not Be Named

    You know, life is so weird. First of all, there’s this whole ‘must work’ compulsion. Then there’s the figuring out what you want to do and not hating it and getting paid for it too conundrum. Stupid rules. Whatever happened to just being and apprenticeship? We have complicated our own lives and the noose is getting tighter yet few decide to do anything about it. The ones who can really make a change are just cashing in without a care in the world.

Comments are closed.

Tired of the stigma associated with mental illness?

Tired of the stigma associated with mental illness?

Subscribe to my newsletter for empathetic conversations on mental health.

Thanks for subscribing! Please find the confirmation link in your mailbox.