High-functioning Depression

Prelude

I’m not sure if anybody will ever come across this or find this helpful, but here it is.

I’m writing a post on high-functioning depression because I’ve suffered from this for many years now. It wasn’t until two years ago when I returned to Hong Kong when I finally went to a clinical psychologist and received a proper diagnosis. Some people do not believe in “diagnoses”, because there are many instances of incorrect diagnoses. You can have the symptoms of multiple mental issues but not “have” any of those clinically. There are also many instances where people are given the wrong advice, wrong medication or treatment, but this doesn’t change how I feel (or am unable to).

I’m not here to be skeptical; I’m here to share. Who knows, maybe it will help somebody. Maybe it will help them knowing they are not alone, and that there are people who genuinely understand.

Bit of background

I come from a conservative environment and upbringing where everybody just “gets on with it” and expect you to do the same. I grew up in a high-stress environment where education means rote learning and stuffing information down your throats rather than nurturing one’s passion, interests or capabilities. Everybody is pragmatic and judgmental.

…Now, I’m not trying to make you feel sorry for me, I’m merely painting a picture for you. I’m sure there are people who feel like they’ve grown up in a similar environment even if the cultures differ immensely. However, my point is that when you are so used to just “getting on with it” and being told that you’re just stressed and feeling emotional because everybody else is, that it’s normal, you start to believe it.

And because there is a stigma around mental illness (I believe this will never not be the case), I never talked to anybody about it or saught help until I went to university. My self-esteem has always been shite, but during my UG years I was on an emotional roller-coaster everyday. I’d burst out in tears in the library. I’d cry after sex. I would stop wanting to have sex. I’d self-harm or spend more days thinking about dying than otherwise. But I’ve found ways to get around it, and I’ve managed to stay alive.

So, what is the problem, then?

Because I no longer want to kill myself as much as I did before, and because I no longer felt extremely sad all the time, I stopped seeking help. I stopped talking to people about my feelings. Now, I don’t really have feelings anymore. People tell you it’s part of growing up, but it’s really not.

I don’t know how I got through any of it without fucking up my life. I only remember being stressed constantly, and worrying about hurting my girlfriend when I eventually tell her that I cannot go on like this. She’s wonderful, but my feelings are not there anymore. I cannot tell whether it’s my flat affect that is causing this or my inability to love or maybe it’s her. Either way, all my life I’ve just kept going and going and going, until one day I read this blog: https://theoakstreatment.com/blog/what-are-the-signs-of-high-functioning-depression/

Obviously, it’s only one of many blogs, articles and pieces of research that talk about depression (or mental illnesses more generally), but it really resonated with me. It’s so easy to just brush these things under the carpet; it’s easy to not take care of yourself; it’s easy to allow people to tell you that you’re just being dramatic and you’re stressed and you just need a break…but some times, it’s more than that.

I suppose what I wanted to say was: to anybody out there who’s feeling shit, or worthless, or whatever — I hope you will look for help. Talk to somebody. You don’t have to fight this battle alone. There are plenty of resources both online and off, where you can read about these things. Don’t give up.

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