I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and High-Functioning Depression.
This has cast a large and looming Shadow over a good portion of my life, and it’s not something that a lot of people understand.
GAD isn’t just feeling anxious over stressful things in your life…it’s feeling stressed all the time about everything. It’s a sense of dread, of tight anticipation that something bad is coming, right around the corner, every second of every day.
It’s illogical and it’s irrational.
It’s a chemical imbalance that requires meds, balanced nutrition & exercise to mitigate & treat – but there is no “cure”. No magic pill, & no ultimate therapy that makes it go away forever.
And it’s not something you can “fix” by saying “Just don’t worry about it, it’ll all work out. Let it go, why don’t you?”
I take my meds, & get along pretty well most of the time, anymore, as far as that’s concerned. I still have panic attacks every now and again, but they’re fewer and farther between now, since I started taking better control of my meds & managing my stress in other ways with music, exercise, reading, writing, & my other coping techniques.
My depression, on the other hand…
It’s a sneaky bastard.
High functioning depression is hard to spot in a lot of cases, because the people who live with it are just that good at hiding it.
Here are some of the warning signs that go along with HFD:
1.Difficulty experiencing joy: I know how this will probably sound…but…while I can be happy from time to time, laughing & smiling, going on about my day, I can’t remember the last time I Experienced Joy. True moments where I actually let go of myself and just relished in the joy of a moment? Nope, couldn’t say – it’s been that long. It’s always tinged with the dread of “knowing” that it’s not real.
2. Relentless criticality — of self and others: For me, this is moreso about being self-critical. I know that I do a lot of self a deprecating humor. This is not always healthy.
3. Constant self-doubt: Yep.
4. Diminished energy: Mass yep. I’m tired all the time. I try to push through it, because I have to…but there are days I – just crash.
5. Irritability or excessive anger: I try to keep this in check, but yes. I know this is there. There is a well of anger inside of me, that, sometimes, spills to the surface.
6. Small things feel like huge things: And they build up…
7. Feelings of guilt and worry over the past and the future: oh god, remembering things I did from years ago, overanalyzing conversations inside my head, rereading texts and emails to catch “hidden” meanings & subtext…
8. Relying on your coping strategies more and more: I constantly shift my strategies to try to find something that will work, because after a while…they stop working.
9. Generalized sadness: It doesn’t ever go away completely. Not ever.
10. Seeking perfection: In myself, not so much in others. I am my own worst critic in many ways, I know this.
11. Inability to rest and slow down: My brain never stops. Even in my sleep, obviously, because I’ve been dealing with insomnia for years now. I can fall asleep, but can’t stay asleep, waking 3 and 4 times a night, often from nightmares. And “crash days” don’t seem to garner much in the way of recuperation, it’s more just getting to a point where I can cling by my fingernails again for the next few days.
If you met me for the first time on the street, you’d probably never guess these things about me.
That’s the nature of High Functioning Depression. “High” being the operative word there, because I do get out of bed every day, go to work, make small talk, handle my life…for the most part…
The depression just sits in the shadow, patient, waiting…
Until I’m alone, usually on the weekends, or at night, when I’m really tired but can’t sleep.
When my defenses are down.
GAD AND HFD are companions, they mesh well together, and can get so tangled up in each other that they often get misdiagnosed. And the stigma that goes with them is not fun, either.
My ex used to call people with mental disorders like GAD & Depression “weak-minded”.
There’s more than one reason why we’re divorced.
But it’not a weakness of the mind.
It’s a chemical imbalance. And in me, it’s a combination of chemical imbalances & past traumas that cause my issues. I take meds for the one. I work through the other.
Blogging is a help with that.
But the Shadow of GAD and HFD still holds steady over my head, & I know it’s something I’ll live with my whole life.
As long as I have to sit in the Shadow… maybe I can start trying to think of it as Shade instead…
And at least welcome the fact that it keeps me out of the direct, and damaging UV rays that cause skin cancer?