All my life I have dealt with anxiety and depression in some form. From mild to suicidal, I’ve run the depression and anxiety gamut. I’ve had panic attacks (two of which cost me a job) and I’ve been Baker Acted twice for suicide. But even with all of that experience, it took me years to figure out that I was dealing with functioning depression (I’d call it high-functioning, but I was functioning on a very low level).
When most people, myself included, think of depression, they picture someone who sleeps all the time and never leaves the house. Someone who has lost all motivation and can’t find it again. I never think of someone who goes to work and (some) social functions, and who keeps the house clean (sometimes) and laughs with their friends. But, that was me.
It began probably two years ago. I had a period of about six months where I knew I was depressed, I just didn’t know why. I spent every evening bawling my eyes out and writing out my worst personality traits and how awful I was. This was always after my husband went to sleep because I didn’t want him to know.
That’s one of the scariest parts about depression: It often isolates you because you’re already depressed and what’s the point of depressing others with my depression?
But then one night my husband woke up and came into the living room during one of my self-hate fests. He immediately asked me what was wrong. Of course, I told him “Nothing” because of above reasons. He then told me that he knew something was wrong, and wanted to talk to me about it, but only if I wanted to talk about it. Which, honestly, was a very good response. I opened up to him and he reassured me and helped me through it. I thought I was fine after that. Obviously, I wasn’t.
That was two years ago and from that time I have been a functioning depressed person. It started out slow, but over the span of two years, I began to deteriorate. I continued to go to work, but I stopped leaving the house unless I absolutely had to. I got to the point where I realized my smiles and laughter were a show. I was just doing what I needed to do to get by, but I always felt like something was missing.
It wasn’t until I started noticing that I was developing a very flat affect, or personality, that I realized what was going on. I had stopped fake smiling. I had stopped leaving the house almost altogether. I was still working, but I was spending my days off laying on the couch, eating snacks and scrolling through my phone. I cancelled plans and avoided talking to people for fear that they would want to make plans. I was getting bad and it snuck up on me quickly.
Fortunately, I was able to go to a psychiatrist, who is awesome. She listened to me tell her my life story, from the abuse as a child up to the self-hatred today, and she prescribed me an anti-depressant. Normally I would have said thanks, but no thanks. This time was different, though. I knew that I was not living the life I wanted, and I was bringing my husband down with me. So I had to try it.
I’ve been on it now for about a week and a half, and I have noticed a difference, as has my husband. Last Sunday I went on errands with him. We had to come home before going to another one, and when he realized I was coming with him again he was pretty shocked. That’s how bad it was getting. And that’s how much that medication has helped.
When it comes to your mental health, don’t be ashamed of asking for help or even using that help. There is no reason to feel shame because your brain is not producing certain chemicals. There is no reason to feel shame because you need something to make your brain produce those chemicals.
If you are depressed and/or anxious to the point that it is affecting your entire life, try to get help. I know that this isn’t always feasible, as it can be very pricey (I paid $200 at that visit and I have insurance), but look for therapists who can at least listen to you and help you find ways to deal with your depression or anxiety. I’m going to one on Monday who works from her home but also takes insurance.
On the other hand, if you know someone who is depressed, let them know you want to help them but only if they’re willing to let you in. Don’t try to force it or tell them to go outside for fresh air or that “everyone gets sad.” Just be there for them to lean on and maybe they’ll open up to you.