You have to keep your feelings locked away.
You can’t let yourself feel sadness, or grief, or pain. Even your joy is manufactured – you’re so defeated on the inside that you don’t even know what happiness feels like anymore. The idea of letting someone in, showing them your pain and your darkness, scares you more than no one ever knowing you at all.
You never truly allow anyone to see you.
The only way that you can survive is if you don’t let anyone see what’s hiding underneath your carefully maintained surface. Every day is a struggle to stay afloat, but you’re terrified that if you slip, even for an instant, the persona that you present to the world comes crashing down and you’re exposed.
You cause yourself literal pain.
When you’re this tightly wound and bottled up, the body responds by manifesting all your internal suffering in external symptoms. You might have migraines, digestive troubles, body aches, extremely tight muscles, irregular appetite, or a myriad of other symptoms related to constant mental and emotional stress. You think you’re fooling the world, but you can’t fool your own system.
You are constantly exhausted.
It doesn’t matter if your days are full or free – you’re tired. You’re so busy keeping up appearances with your high-functioning version of depression, you don’t give yourself any time to rest. Again, you’re afraid that if you have a moment to actually sit with what’s going on inside, you’ll lose that fragile facade you’ve built and never recover.
You are trapped in your own mind.
When you have no outlet for your pain and your fears, you end up caught in a cycle of self-destructive thoughts. You may turn to anything and everything to try to numb your brain, but it only helps temporarily. You might function fine, even exceptionally, in the outside world … but your internal world is barely hanging on.
You feel heavy and hopeless.
It’s such a constant state that you don’t know any different. There is no release, no relief, no break in your need to keep up appearances. Not only are you depressed, no one understands that you are having a hard time. Your high-functioning tendencies only keep you isolated and misunderstood. They are a burden, not a help.
You are completely disconnected from yourself.
It’s pretty tough to stay rooted in your intuition and inner self if your system is constantly working to present an image of high functionality to the outside world. You may not even realize how disconnected you are – that’s how focused you have to be on controlling your image. You’re in a toxic rut and you see no way out.
You numb to cope with the pain.
You can get away with many sorts of socially acceptable numbing, like drinking a couple glasses of wine every night or spending your free time mindlessly watching trash TV. Just because it’s how a lot of people cope with their unhappiness doesn’t mean that it’s healthy or that you should use it to numb your pain, but that’s what you always end up doing.
You can’t change any of your unhealthy patterns.
When you’re spending all of your energy covering them up, you’ll never fix them. Living in survival mode is not sustainable and that’s why you are always sick, stressed, and sad. Just because you can function in a passable fashion in society doesn’t mean that you are living a fulfilled life.
You are stuck in survival mode.
It’s a recurring theme, but it deserves its own section. This is something pretty much everyone with high-functioning depression experiences, but you’re probably not even aware of it. If you were, it might send you over the edge, so you live in this constant denial of your truth that feels like a uniquely torturous sort of purgatory. You can’t do this forever.
You seem like you’ve got everything together, but really you’re miserable.
That’s basically what high-functioning depression is – the ability to move through life as if you’re fine. That’s what makes it so dangerous. You are less likely to display obvious signs that alert others you might need help or support. It’s horrible to live in a self-made cage where no one really sees or knows the real you. When things get really bad, you feel more alone than ever.
You don’t have the capacity to find real healing.
As long as you stay stuck in this endless cycle of misery and numbing, nothing will ever change. That sounds like reason enough to seek a way out, but that doesn’t work when you are so wrapped up in your patterns that you feel entirely trapped. Nothing is more devastating than living your entire life in a state of complete and utter unhappiness that you feel you must maintain in order to stay alive at all.
(originally published on ThoughtCatalog.com)