The Reality of Living with High Performance Depression

When I wake up, I usually glance at my phone. I know, it’s a shitty habit I’m working on. I squint at all the notifications. I think this makes them harder to see or at least the appearance of there being less. I motivate my legs to move by the litany of ways I am lazy, the reminder of the pressure if I fail, I take down more than just my soul. These are roughly the regular thematics of my morning thoughts, but you get the point. The institution calls it high functioning depression, but you aren’t actually functioning, you are preforming the act of functioning. This is where people like me turn invisible in the current cultural environment of Orwellian dystopia, and it’s nothing to do with serotonin.

Depression sounds like a constant low hum, always on but not always drowning everything out. The buzzing creeps in when I am doing mundane activities. It demands to know if this is it. And if this is it, what’s the plan. The academic in me chimes in with the visual depiction of the conditions of disenchantment. As Sartre says, “like all dreamers, I confuse disenchantment with truth”. This confusion of truth is at the crux of my depression.

The invisible power runs a current under me, pushing me along. On bad days the power dissipates as analysis paralysis makes its way in. I can’t move. Not because I can’t think of a way to move, but rather I fear the answer alludes me and anxiety comes barreling in. The apoplectic rage turns inward. I wonder what the fuck is wrong with me that I can’t perform simple functions. What is the exact cause of why I fit in a very small number of spaces?

The thing about depression is, you can’t think your way out of it, no matter how smart you are or how much effort you put in. And you must put in the effort to heal but it’s not your fault. Understanding this distinction is critical to teasing out reality from warped thoughts.Happiness is not the antonym to depression, and it sure as hell isn’t a choice.

I am not seeking accolades, or even solutions. I am simply tired of the advice from glazed over eyes telling me to get on with it. Get on with what? I am tired of the troupe of healing as light and love. Sure, those are part of healing. But healing is actually extremely painful, it is metamorphosis done in a deep shadowy void that is anything but a cocoon.

I continue to battle my demons, not because I am strong, but because I have come to the hard realization, I have no other option. As my therapist once said to me, desperation gets a bad rep. I realize my efforts are parallel to becoming antifragile. When I have been exposed to uncomfortable and random things, I have grown. Because, as they say, shit happens. We can’t prevent or shelter people from things they would rather not see.

People living with high performance depression aren’t “stronger” than those who suffer from other mental ailments. This isn’t the mental illness Olympics. Depression doesn’t always look like someone who can’t get out of bed or hasn’t showered in weeks. We need to hang up this heroic mental illness troupe already and while we’re at it can we get rid of the cancer warrior, please? People who die from cancer didn’t lose, they died.

Antifragility produces change because it is not simply the opposite of robust or even resilient. We are all exposed to shit we would rather not be. Or, as Buddhists say, “life is dukkha”. Victim mentality is a trap that snares those who want to remain frozen in a sick society where complacency abounds. This shit doesn’t have to break us, even the atrocious, and even if we fall apart, there is a way to pick up the crumbled pieces and make something new, but it ain’t pretty or easy.


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Welcome to the other side of waking, to an exploration of life through dreams, anthropology, psychology, and a little anecdotal bullshit.