I was sure it was Concealed Depression.
After all, I had hidden it for 43 years before finally facing it. I am just now wrapping my arms around the idea that I have a mental illness, and then I read an article that may change what I call it.
That should be exciting.
I am learning something new about depression and the way people experience it. And it does make sense. I remember telling one Doctor in the hospital that I felt I must always be “evergreen.” I felt I needed to be the rock of the family, always a smile, always a kind word, always a solution.
No one was allowed to see behind the mask I wore.
I concealed my depression. But it turns out I am probably exhibiting all the signs of High-Functioning Depression. The article I read today has me galloping off to find out everything I can about this type of depression. Here is what I came across.
What is High-Functioning Depression?
In my opinion as a psychotherapist, high-functioning depression is a pop psychology term for what’s clinically known as dysthymia.
Dysthymia, according to the “Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition” (DSM 5), is a mental health disorder characterized by:
“Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, as indicated by either subjective account or observation by others, for at least two years,” and includes the presence of two or more of the following symptoms, “Poor appetite or overeating; insomnia or hypersomnia; low energy or fatigue; low self-esteem; poor concentration or difficulty making decisions; feelings of hopelessness.”
And yet, while these symptoms may look diagnostically similar to the symptoms we think of when we envision major depressive disorder (MDD), individuals dealing with dysthymia may not have the same severe levels of impaired biological and mental functioning that can make major depression easier and more obvious to spot.
In other words, someone struggling with dysthymia may still be able to get up and go to their demanding, prestigious job, be in a romantic relationship, post the believable smiley photos on Instagram, regularly get together with their girlfriends for happy hour and generally handle all the logistical adulting stuff of their life — passing for someone who doesn’t “look depressed.”
But inwardly, this same person may be gripped with a challenging set of symptoms invisible to those of us who love and know them.
I am passing for someone who does not look depressed.
That was how I lived my life. I was always on, always in control. You know, “never let them see you sweat.” And that has been exactly what I need to project in a business environment. Up to a point. Even in business, having the ability to connect one on one, in a more personal way, helps build a bank of positive energy that can be drawn upon when needed.
There are ways to connect with your employees and fellow managers that let’s people know you are human, without getting into the nuts and bolts of your personal life. I am very good at this type of connection. I know who has children, who is dealing with an aging parent, who just bought their first house, got their first puppy, or who is going on vacation.
My connection with employees and managers gives them a glimpse of who I am.
I share my tomato garden stories, the bear at the birdfeeder stories, and the latest adventures of our rescue beagle. And this glimpse into who I am as a person helps. Plus, the fact that when they come to me with problems and concerns, I listen, and if needed, I do something about the issue.
My brand is built around being the “go-to guy” for getting things done.
As I write this, I am, in my head, replacing the words go-to guy, with “high-functioning depression guy”. If I can always be counted on to get things done, then I can’t possibly be depressed. Depression would want me to be less engaged, less involved with people, less functioning.
But I have said before, depression can be very sneaky.
It can infuse itself into many situations and manifest itself in wild, unbelievable ways. Having me be the lightning rod for getting things done, seems to me to be a way depression could control my actions. What a mean trick.
The conclusion is that my learning will continue. My understanding of how depression can appear is still in its early stages. It will be an ongoing occupation for me for the rest of my life. Keeping one step ahead, knowing my triggers, and being able to catch the warning signs of relapse are all valuable undertakings.
Regardless of how it is diagnosed, I have depression, depression does not have me.
Your comments are appreciated as I continue my journey.