What is high functioning?

You’ve heard the term, probably in relation to the Autism spectrum. But did you know that there are also high functioning depressives? But what are they? 

The term is defined as operating at a high level, usually in developmental disorders. What that means is that although someone has a disability or disorder, they’re still able to perform a majority of daily functions relatively well. What this means for a depressive is that they get out of bed, maintain adequate personal hygiene, go to work, and interact with others pretty well. What it also means, is that if the public doesn’t “see” it, the disorder doesn’t exist. If they’re not spending all day every day in bed, not showering, self medicating with alcohol or drugs, complaining or moping about everything, secluding themselves from family and friends, then it’s in the patients’ head. The patient is fine. They’re normal. That is what the public sees. But this kind of depressive is anything but fine. 

I am this type of depressive and I’ll tell you what it means to me. 

Being high functioning, I am a perfectionist and overachiever. I have a strong work ethic and a dedication to projects. No matter what it is, I feel compelled to complete the task as efficiently and perfectly as possible. I go above and beyond in all that I do. If something’s not perfect, I’m going to make it perfect. It’s a matter of pride. Anything less just isn’t me. 

I care too much about people (even though I insist I hate everyone), often putting others’ needs before my own. In fact, I’m always last on the list. I haven’t had a pedicure in well over a year. I get haircuts once a year. I don’t buy things for myself. Everything I do is for and about someone else. 

I am compelled to get out of bed every day. It’s not that I don’t want to be there, I do. If I could sleep all day long, I would. And I’ll admit it, there are some days I skip my shower because I just don’t feel like it. But my work ethic compels me to get up and go to work. I also have this innate fear that if I don’t, everything I’ve built in life will collapse. That’s not to say I’m not still struggling right now. But I know if I don’t go to work, I can’t pay my rent (I can barely pay now anyway) and I’ll be out on the streets. And as an overachiever I can’t have that. At work, I go above and beyond for every customer. And I do it with a smile at all times. People say I’m always smiling. Well, yeah. But if you could only see what lies beyond the smile…

I often have too much on my plate. Right now, its work, a side project, and completing the move into my apartment- which is going slowly. 

And because I’m high functioning, I have a lot of stress and anxiety that I do my best to swallow most days. And I still suffer from depression, it’s just that the public doesn’t see it and therefore thinks that I’m just fine. But I’m anything but fine. I’m just really good at compartmentalizing the demons until they’re just too strong to hide. And this is what makes me high functioning. 


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