I found this article the other day written by someone who has depression but also leads a busy life, and it just made so much sense. It’s me. I am high-functioning and depressed; if there was a club for those people I could join it and be among my own kind; not all depressed people spend days or weeks in bed and avoid the company of others. I feel vindicated, like my flavour of illness has a recognisable description and I’m not the only one. Yes, the description says it’s really quite alarming, but let’s gloss over that.
I received an award the other day for which I’d had to complete various different long-term goals and projects within three years of a chosen start date, all picked by myself but meeting specific standards for length, hours spent and so on. I spoke in front of a group of people at the presentation about what I’d done, and they were really amazed that I’d done this in a period of time which also involved getting engaged and married, completing my final university exams, starting my first job, getting a promotion and moving house three times. I just shrugged it off – I don’t give up on things and they all had to be done, so I did them.
Similarly, my boss praised me recently for having completed a task (hiring a new person for my team) quickly, and I explained it away by saying I wanted to get it out of the way before going on holiday. It was incredibly stressful and I literally lost sleep over it at the time, but I just wanted to do it. To a girl who, before the depression, completed four A-levels (including a couple with near-perfect results) whilst also gaining a grade 8 violin qualification, a similar level qualification in tap and modern dance, playing in two orchestras, singing in two choirs, helping weekly at Brownies and Guides and learning to drive, this is as nothing. For want of a better phrase, that’s just how I roll.
And maybe it’s good that the depression hasn’t changed that, but maybe that’s why I’m always so exhausted. But if I keep moving, I don’t have to stop and evaluate how things are going or even if they’re going anywhere I want to go. A friend commented the other day that I do so many things – I used to just go to one zumba class but now it’s two, one of which is run by a crazily enthusiastic lady who makes us sing while we’re dancing, and I’m running a Rainbow unit and being the breadwinner for my household and helping with a lot at church and considering a shift at the local Oxfam shop because they need extra help – and I realised then that I’m scared of the alternative.
I’m alone now, and whilst I love solitude and need to recharge there’s a fine line between a careful measured approach that will do me some good and either of the two extremes of cleaning ALL the things whilst my husband is out of the house or flopping on the sofa to look at pug memes until 2am. Anything to keep my mind occupied. If I stop it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the exhaustion and emptiness and then so difficult to get going again. I want people to see the sociable, capable, active me and think that’s who I am. If they know I’m different underneath I want to make them forget and not worry. I want to make myself forget and not worry. What I don’t want to do is think about whether or not this attitude is sustainable.