So, what's new with me? Well, not much in the grand scheme of things I'm still the same person I was when I last wrote on my blog, but I just seem to have lost my zest for life. I went through quite a bad time not so long ago - back in July I wrote this post about living with brain fog and how it was affecting me.
Living Under a Cloud
Back then I didn't think I could do anything as I was living my life under a black cloud, nothing was exciting me and it was all I could do to get myself up every day, go to work and live like a normal human.
Eventually I did come out from under it but ever since I've been feeling like there was still something in the way of me actually still seeing everything in complete technicolour but I didn't know what it was.
It's only very recently that I've come across a term which accurately describes how I've been feeling. 'High Functioning Depression' really is the hidden mental illness, it lets everyone (and the sufferer) believe that they're OK, they're functioning on what would to most people seem to be a very normal level, they get up every day, go to work, see friends, attend events, go on holiday - on the outside you'd believe there couldn't possibly be anything wrong.
How can they be sad when they're always so happy? Or she can't possibly have depression she always looks so smiley on her Instagram feed? Well, I'm here to tell you that is exactly what sufferers present to the world.
They want to believe themselves so hard that this is exactly true, they ARE happy, they ARE functioning so, why are they still feeling so blue?
High Functioning Depression is a bitch. It's like the worst friend you could possibly have, always dragging you down and preventing you from enjoying anything fun in life. She wants you maintain this charade of happiness to the outside world, all the while making you feel like shit for having absolutely no energy or motivation to do anything.
Whilst people with full blown depression can't manage to get out of bed, or shower or interact with family or friends, those suffering with High Functioning Depression are the complete opposite. This is what makes it so hard to get diagnosed or even realise that there's anything wrong.
What Is High Functioning Depression?
When you first read the symptoms of HFD, it's like a switch goes on. Finally, someone understands how I feel! But at the same time, you're still left wondering why do I feel this way when I'm still managing to get up and go to work? Shouldn't I be in bed with the covers pulled over me, not being able to cope with the simple task of actually getting out of bed?
High Functioning Depression can also be known as Persistent Depressive Disorder or PDD. This allows the sufferer to still maintain a somewhat normal life, like I described above.
The first criteria for PDD is that an individual experiences a depressed mood most days and for most of the day, for a minimum period of two years.
The depressed mood must include two or more of these symptoms:
Decreased appetite or overeating
Insomnia or oversleeping
Lack of energy and fatigue
Lowered self esteem
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Feeling sad and hopeless
In addition to these symptoms that cause a depressive mood most of the time, there are a few other criteria that have to be met to make a diagnosis of PDD:
The depressed mood characterised by the above symptoms must occur on most days for at least two years without any relief from depression for longer than two months during that period.
The individual has never experienced a period of mania or hypomania, an unusually euphoric and energetic mood.
The depression symptoms cannot be better explained by another mental illness, by a medical condition or by substance abuse.
The symptoms and depressed mood must cause an impairment in one or more areas of normal functioning and significant distress in the individual.
A person diagnosed with PDD may also meet the criteria for major depression.
So you see it's not as straight forward as you may think! Thanks depression!
What Does It Mean?
Well, in practical terms for me it means that I no longer find joy in the activities I used to love. I signed up to the Aspire Channel Swim Challenge but have yet to even complete more than 1 mile.
I haven't been swimming in God knows how long and I actually don't feel any desire or motivation to go, which is so surprising and is by far the biggest indicator to me that something isn't right.
Along with that I just don't have any motivation or exercise at all, apart from going dog walking with my friend, but that's because getting outside in the fresh air with two hounds is just the tonic, I know that I need - and love!
I've been spending too much time on my sofa watching Netflix - for me that's my safe place and where I feel happiest. Plus, with it being Winter and the weather being awful, it's definitely the best place to be!
I've been struggling to sleep - again! For me this really is where I fall down, I don't what it is but my brain just can't seem to switch off, even if I follow all the proper steps like a good girl! I just wish there was something more I could do to help myself but unfortunately, I don't think there is...
I've found I have difficulty concentrating on anything for more than a few minutes and also difficulty in remembering anything. Apparently, this is a common effect of HFD/PDD but I just wish my mind would retain information!
I've also been isolating myself from friends, although that's relatively easy considering the ones I've made up here are always busy and never really have time for me anyway. So, I guess it's not been so much isolation as not having the time to see them because they're always so busy or they just don't care about me. Either way, it would be nice to actually see them occasionally...
Not having any self-esteem, this is a big one which ties in with over-eating as you would probably expect. The more depressed I feel, the more I eat, the more I eat the worse I feel about myself, so I think 'sod it' and eat more anyway! It would be funny if it wasn't painful.
By far the biggest change I've realised is by far the change to my personality. I just seem to have become a shadow of my former self. Of the person I knew before, she had disappeared underneath a grey cloud and i couldn't get her out of it. Will I ever be free from this? With any mental illness I suppose it's hard to tell but one thing I do know for sure is that there's definitely no shame in it. In an ideal world I'd rather not have any form of depression or anxiety, but I'm not sure who I would be without it.
What does the future hold now?
Well, first things first, I need to sort out my sleeping habits. That, I believe, above all else will help me to feel better almost instantly. I know what I should and shouldn't be doing so I will start there and see what happens.
I'm hoping it's as simple as going to Holland and Barrett to get some sort of herbal sleep medication.
I'm hoping the more I talk about High Functioning Depression, the more awareness will be raised and therefore more people will (hopefully) begin to understand what it is and the affect it can have on them.
Even if I *finally* get out from under this cloud, I know that I'll always be susceptible to feeling this way. Now I know the symptoms and what exactly HFD is, I'll be more aware of my feelings and how I need to look after myself.
I hope this post has been useful to some of you, I for one know that I would have appreciated finding an honest post like this when I was googling 'what is high functioning depression?'.
If you think you may be struggling with any type of depression or mental ill health, please do go and talk to someone about it. Even if it's just a friend, the more people who you have in your corner, the better.
I hope you're having a good day today. Thanks for reading!