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.
I guess you can look at this post in two ways:
- 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
- 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.
I’ve just returned home after dropping my sisters at the airport after a weekend visit and I feel….uneasy, I guess is the best description. Waving my sisters off wasn’t about to send me into a spiral of depression but it was definitely a sad moment, especially knowing that I won’t see them again until November. For the first time in many years I don’t know the daily ins and outs of their lives, as busy schedules and the ocean between us challenge communication styles. My life decisions have meant that I am now removed from their lives and I foresee no situation in which I will return to the proximity we once enjoyed and even took for granted. In fact, it is likely that my life path will mean that our meetings will become less frequent and my status will become increasingly that of “visitor”.
I am acutely aware of all of this and yet all I feel, sitting in my now strangely quiet house, is a sense of something being “not quite right”. The medication I take so that I can enjoy the wonderful life opportunities I have been given have a flip side – just as efficiently as they destroy the Down they also destroy the Up and the In Between. It does not distinguish between emotions. SSRI is not a fancy name for an administrative system that sits in your brain, filtering emotions and deciding which ones to file in the “okay to experience” pile. Instead it is akin to a joke I saw once, where somebody had placed a shredder directly under their letterbox – every emotional signal received is shredded irrespective of type or your ability to cope at that given moment.
I’m torn between knowing that this medication is vital for my life and my lifestyle and wanting to experience the depth of emotion that I know is within me this morning. Or any morning. Is this a signal that I am recovering? Is my mind telling me that I can cope with more? Or are these the thoughts we are warned about when told not to stop taking our SSRIS – that once we begin to feel better we should not mistakenly label ourselves as “cured”?
I don’t know the answers. But today I have a hell of alot of questions.
I spend a lot of my time convincing myself that I really do want to leave the house & socialise. I remind myself it’s my illness talking when I say I don’t want to go. So when I’m actually looking forward to leaving the house & something else gets in the way I seriously resent it.
For the last two days I’ve had the most painful headache. Not a headache actually, more like a skull & brain ache. It hurts to use my eyes, to close my eyes, to lie down, to stand up, to be awake, to sleep….you get the idea.
Today I have a social event and as I sit here having gotten dressed nicely, done my hair and covered myself in SPF 50 all I want to do is go home and crawl under my duvet. And it’s not my brains fault this time. Well, okay it is my brain….but it’s not my Mind! And boy do I resent it. Sometimes it feels like I can’t win. Just as one part of me plays the game of life another part of me throws a tantrum.
Like a child I want to stomp my feet and shout “not fair not fair”. Except doing that would hurt my stupid brain.
Today’s Daily Prompt is: When faced with confrontation, do you head for the hills or walk straight in? Was there ever a time you wished you’d had the opposite reaction?
One of the things I’ve always hated about people with depression is how they always manage to turn everything into being about their illness. Everything is always about them. So, sometimes I’m reluctant to do the Daily Prompt in case anyone thinks I’m doing the same. But then I realise that this blog is actually about depression, so maybe I get a free pass!
So – Fight or Flight. It’s something most people associate with a massive life event, like facing a lion or standing on the edge of a bungee platform or being attacked in an alleyway. Sometimes I wish I had those problems! For me Fight or Flight comes into play every morning when I open my eyes – do I roll over and give into the urge to hide under the duvet until afternoon (which is pretty obviously the flight bit) or do I get up and have a shower. I know what you’re thinking – a shower is your fight?! Well, in a word, yes! A shower is my fight, my big finish, the big climax of my waking-up story.
When you have depression you face these little mini-hurdles over and over again, every hour of every day. But to us, they don’t seem so mini. Some days after I win the battle to shower I lose the battle to dress. Some days I’ll fight right through to getting out of the house and meeting some friends. Occasionally it’ll feel like I’m not even fighting, so easy are the hurdles. I clear them all with the ease of an Olympic gold medallist. I love those days.
Some days I fight through the whole day and some days I fall at the first hurdle. And what do I achieve with all this fight? Well, I can go to bed at night satisfied that I actively participated in this thing we call “daily life” for a whole day. And if I flew? Well then I go to bed promising to fight tomorrow.
As to the second part of the prompt, was there ever a time I wish I’d had the opposite reaction? Only every single day! On the days my illness makes me think are bad I wish that I was different. Come 2pm I’ll wish I had gotten up that morning. Come 5pm I’ll wish I wasn’t still in my PJs. Come 9pm I’ll wish I had achieved something that day. This is the curse of depression, on the days that you are “up” you congratulate yourself on every achievement, you feel proud of your actions and your self-talk even forgives any little mistakes you make. But to every yang there is a yin and oh boy does depression come with a pretty unforgiving yin. On those days I treat myself with a disgust and disdain I should reserve for my very worst enemy, which is oddly congruent because on those days my very worst enemy is, in fact, myself.