High Functioning Depressive

A recent article on the death of Cory Monteith describing him as an atypical “junkie” who didn’t fit the stereotype got me thinking about the concept of a “high-functioning” addict. This is a term I hadn’t come across before until quite recently and it certainly never occurred to me until now that the term might be applicable to myself – a high-functioning depressive.

I guess in order to apply any definition to oneself you have to analyse what exactly does it mean. What is “high-functioning”? I suspect that this is something that will differ from person to person according to their beliefs and values, but for me it means:

Being able to work closely with colleagues without them knowing about my illness and excelling at that work

Some people might define high-functioning more emotionally – being stable more days than not, not doubting oneself, not being dependent on medication for balance – but for me it’s the ability to be a functioning member of the 9-to-5ers that is valuable. I guess that comes down to my high regard for the opinion of others, good or bad as that may be. I have often been described as a Type A personality and a counsellor once said that perhaps my upbringing and the focus on working hard and achievement mean that these are now the measures against which I score myself. Regardless, it’s important to me that I am considered strong and capable. I have a high-pressure job with a lot of people and money balanced on my ability to perform, so any instability would not be looked upon favourably. I love my job and I know I can do it better than a lot of other people – I don’t want to introduce any element of doubt or second-guessing into the mix. I want to be Mina. Not Mina-question-mark.

Maintaining what I deem to be a good social life, though to others it may look entirely antisocial

Again, I think this comes down to personality and values. I value a good meal, a movie, a chat with friends. I no longer think hungover is a good way to spend a Sunday and I don’t like how I feel when I drink on my meds. My move to London was also relatively recent so my social circle has contracted significantly and I spend more nights in than out. However, on the flip side, I spend more days out than in. Something that was unheard of in my 20s. Weekend days especially were for recovery or pre-party preparations. Now I go to museums, I brunch, I sip cappuccinos and read my book while my other half relaxes with his newspaper beside me. And I love love love restaurants.

Having a successful, mutually supportive relationship where I both give and receive love

Well, who doesn’t want that! I suppose the key here is “mutually”. I don’t want a kind, loving partner who strokes my hair and looks after me. Well I do, but I with two caveats: 1) I want to be strong enough to do the same for him and 2) I want him to let me. For several years I was in a relationship with a man who didn’t need me and he would freely admit it. Coupled with the fact that I really needed him at several points during our years together, the relationship was doomed to inevitable failure. Having found a healthy give-and-take relationship it’s important that I strive to keep it as such and not let my illness turn it into a one-way flow in my favour.

So What?

I guess you can look at this post in two ways:

  1. Think I need to be good at everything (cheers Type A personality!) and so I can only live in a world where I perceive myself to be really good at having depression and therefore I should shut the hell up with this high-functioning nonsense; or
  2. Consider that it’s good to have points of reference for yourself, that can only be defined by yourself, that you can check-in with from time to time and see how you’re doing.What do you think of the high-functioning concept? If it strikes a note with you I’d love to know how you’d define it for yourself.
High Functioning Depressive

The Road Less Travelled

A recent Daily Prompt was: Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded. My thoughts on this one are slightly different to the brief, so I hope you can bear with me.

What’s so bloody wrong with the road well travelled?

When did being on the common track become such a bad thing? I wonder if this obsession with being different has been popularised by people for whom “abnormal” isn’t an option? People who have the luxury of taking normal for granted, people who never have to aspire to normalcy because they are already there. I don’t feel like a lesser person because I have what some would consider very boring life aims:

  • Be successful in my chosen career
  • Have a healthy, happy relationship
  • See my family as often as possible
  • Maintain contact with my overseas friends
  • Enjoy my chosen hobbies & make time to pursue them

This might seem like a boring list. Even now, in my current balanced state of mind, my instinct is to keep adding to the list so that it seems like I live an interesting life…surely this can’t be everything I aspire to! But that’s today. Tomorrow could be a different story. At a moments notice my depression can rob me of my ability to achieve even these most basic of aims. I care less about my work, I avoid contact with family and friends, I can’t be bothered picking up my creative or technical projects.

If life is a journey then achievement of our own personal aims is surely our destination. Personally, I like to think of myself travelling down the highway, with occasional detours to see something interesting or to take a break from it all. And even if I sometimes get lost, I’ll always find my way back to the highway in the end.

The Road Less Travelled

Why I Love: Pharmacies

I love pharmacies. Especially big ones. Or foreign ones. Much to my boyfriends displeasure I love wandering around them on holidays. All the foreign drugs and cultural remedies call out to me as I stroll past, map in hand, en route to another tourist attraction. I spot pharmacys like others spot planes & trains.

I browse the medical section like other girls ooh and aah over the cosmetics. “Look”, I’ll point out to by boyfriend, “they have special ear cones for people with tinnitus”. He’ll wander over, “I didn’t know you had tinnitus”. I don’t. But that’s hardly the point!

When he first discovered my fascination he asked me what it was about and I think it comes from feeling like I’m in a place of health. Row after orderly row of illness-quashing potions with fancy name endings like -achloride and -oxeylene. Perhaps I feel a sense of kinmanship with my fellow customers – other sick people, seeking a cure for what ails them.

I would have loved to have been a doctor, but I can’t stand the sight of blood. I might have been a pharmacist, but in high school chemistry a failed experiment left a still intact scorch on the bench. I might even have been an actor on any one of those hospital dramas, but I don’t like speaking in public. So I guess being a pharmacy spotter is the next best thing!

Why I Love: Pharmacies