Have you ever felt that you should be “normal and happy,” yet found yourself struggling through your days? From ads for antidepressants, you might think that depression looks like a mopey, unsmiling person who cannot get through the day. However, you might have what is known as “high-functioning depression.”The signs and symptoms of functioning depression are the same as those with major depression. Changes in appetite, sleep patterns, increased dependence on stimulants, lack of motivation, accumulative piles, letting things go, and not having the energy to make it better.
The difference is the severity. You may be able to get everything required of you in life and still have depression. Rather than struggle with feeling a lack of motivation, you feel detached from your life. You know that things need to be done. You may have people who depend on you. And you can do those things, but you can’t muster enthusiasm for life. Getting through your days is a struggle rather than a joy.
The official diagnosis for someone with high-functioning depression is “persistent depressive disorder (PDD). This person may not be completely disabled by depression. He or she may not struggle with thoughts of suicide or self-harm. (If you are experiencing thoughts, reach out to a counselor today).
Like those with a major depressive disorder, someone struggling with PDD can experience the same clinical symptoms. Yet, he or she can also get through daily tasks, show up for the people who need them, and more.
Many people who have dealt with a major depressive episode can overcome that but still struggle with persistent depression. Persistent depression can also be a way that your mental health manifests burnout in your life.
Coping with high-functioning depression.
Carve out some time to look at your life in a big-picture way. Look at your schedule and eating and exercise habits. Consider if you are doing things to care for your health, such as check-ups and downtime.
Life has a way of filling in all the nooks and crannies and taking over when we aren’t paying attention. Look at your schedule, plans, and responsibilities to identify if you are saying yes when you should say no.
A few questions for reflection:
- Where can you set some boundaries?
- Who can you ask for help?
- How can you create margin for yourself?
- Are you an introvert who is spending too much time with people?
- Are you an extrovert who has not had enough time with people?
- Do you have friends you can confide in?
- Do you feel external pressure to meet certain expectations, socially or otherwise?
- Have you been able to take time away from screens, social media, and other distractions?
- How do you feed your creative needs?
From work to bills, kids to friends, there can be a constant pull for your attention. As you attempt to keep everything spinning, perhaps you are crashing and burning.
Depression is not something you can read a Bible verse and pray away (that is not a cure for any mental health concerns). However, your spiritual health and mental well-being are interwoven. Carving out the space to pray and meditate on God is a grounding practice.
You do not need to do an in-depth Bible study or commit to a reading plan. Simply plan 10 minutes a day, any time of day, and tell God all that you are feeling. Then read one verse. Maybe the same verse repeatedly. Choose a verse of comfort. This practice will draw you close to God.
Bible verses for meditation.
Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. – Psalm 88:1-2, NIV
God listens to his people, no matter what they are going through, no matter what time of day or night. He is there, even when you can’t feel or know. Faith is acting on this truth.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4, NIV
Darkness is not a place that God avoids. Many people, find a closeness with God happens in the darkness. So on your darkest days, remember that God is not afraid of the darkness.
Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. – Psalm 30:5b, NIV
If you cycle through periods of depression, you know that they won’t last. You can cling to the promise that rejoicing will come again. Functional depression recognizes that some days are harder than others.
7 tips for those with high-functioning depression.
Depression can ebb and flow. There will be seasons that you feel great about and others that will be more of a slog. It is important to recognize when you are struggling a little more. Some days will be better than others.
1. Give yourself grace.
Don’t shame yourself for needing extra time or saying no. This is not the time to fixate on perceived weaknesses. You should not feel guilt or shame when you need help and encouragement.
2. Strive for balance.
Set a timer for accomplishing a task, and then set another to sit and have a rest. Plan simple and nutritious meals, and don’t get carried away with elaborate goals. Find a hobby that is relaxing and distracting.
3. Stay hydrated and healthy.
It’s okay to be tired and need a pick-me-up. Drink water or coffee or pick a healthy snack. Listen to your body’s cravings. Many days can be brightened by the right combination of food and drink.
4. Get outside.
Fresh air and sunshine are beneficial to anyone working through depression. When all you want is to retreat into darkness, the standard advice of “take a walk” can feel like a monumental task. Make getting outside more achievable by creating an outdoor space in which you enjoy sitting.
5. Tackle small tasks.
Do one load of laundry, wash a sink full of dishes, or make your bed. During seasons of depression the tasks around your home can seem Herculean, so focus on one thing at a time. The daily habits of doing small things will keep things manageable.
6. Stay present.
Give yourself grace on the hard days and savor the good ones. Understand that there is nothing you can do to change the past and worrying about the future is futile. When things are going well, you can stay present in the moment, drawing strength from the joy and peace that you are experiencing. When things are hard, let that be true without it overwhelming you.
7. Reach out.
There are many ways of asking for help. You can place grocery orders for pick up. Place orders for standard household items on a delivery/subscription schedule. Put bills on autopay. All these things can prevent you from living in crisis mode and alleviate some of the anxiety that might accompany depression.You can ask your partner and family to cook meals and assist with daily household tasks. Call or text a friend when you are feeling down. Have a person who you trust to pray for you and let them know when you could use some extra prayer.
Talk to your primary care provider about the options and wisdom of taking medication. They will be able to refer you to a counselor as well.
Schedule a visit with your counselor. A conversation with your counselor can give you a much-needed perspective. Over time, they can help you chart the ebb and flow of your depression, providing a safe space to recognize patterns and triggers.
Persistent Depressive Disorder is not a thing that goes away overnight. However, with care, you can learn to live your life well, even with things that seem difficult. Reach out to a counselor for help today.
“Forest Road”, Courtesy of Geran de Klerk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Light Through A Tree”, Courtesy of Jeremy Bishop, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sunrise”, Courtesy of Ivana Cajina, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Boats on a Lake”, Courtesy of Fabian Quintero, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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