Outside you cannot see, but inside is more than real. Keep moving forward day after day, but always feel tired and energetic. It’s the “high-performance depression”: when you can “work” in your life, but not to be happy.
Samantha gets up every morning to go to work. Things to do are always so many, but everyone knows that Samantha is a great worker and she never complains. The boss always praises her for commitment and punctuality. Always try to put on a smile when she need to interact with colleagues, but often prefer to spend the coffee break at her desk. She is often invited to join them for an aperitif after work, but she always has some ready and credible excuses for declining the invitation.
Each day Samantha returns home, weary, puts on comfortable clothes and takes off the mask. Turns on the TV, the channel is not important; it twitches on the couch and gets lost in the lives of others. Every now and then comes a message on WhatsApp, often friends who are asking her to leave, but these proposals are getting drastic. Samantha declines with kindness, and if anyone asks her how she goes, the answer is always: “Well, thank you.”
The evening goes so, with the look in the void and the feeling that things just do not go. Tomorrow will be another day, but you already think of the fatigue it will make to get up after another night’s over. Think of the thousand small commissions you will have to do at work, and how much energy you require. Energy that Samantha feels she does not have anymore. She knows she will have to wear the mask again, because it is important that others do not realize how sad and empty the life of Samantha.
Depression or no depression?
When we talk of depression, we could imagine a person screaming on itself in bed, in the darkness of unspeakable suffering. In fact, it is a very appropriate picture to define the “classic” depression. Those who are depressed tend to isolate themselves, float in states of extreme sadness and lack of energy and desire to perform relatively simple activities, such as getting up from bed in the morning.
Samantha, however, managed to get out of bed. And she goes to work every day. Although every small task is grueling as climbing a mountain. It tends to avoid contact with others, but if it is forced to interact it can do so, though with great effort. But within it there is a swirl of thoughts that tell how sad and sluggish her life, with no prospect for the future, no desire to move on. He does what he has to do to pull it out day after day.
The others do not know it, they do not even imagine it, but Samantha is the classic person who could be termed “depressed to high performance”.
Officially, there is no such diagnosis. For diagnostic manuals or you respect the criteria for a disorder or you do not have it or does not exist. But Samantha does not care much about her life, let alone a diagnostic manual.
The fundamental difference between major depression and a high-functioning depression, net of diagnostic criteria, is that those who suffer from it seem to live an apparently normal life. That is, it is able to work.
A person with a depressed depression often is not even able to get up from bed, let alone go to work or take care of themself. When dealing with a high-performance depression, however, these activities are carried out daily, but require energy and effort that is difficult to imagine. In short, the person manages to maintain a more or less active life, but every activity is based on simple survival.
What do others not see?
From the outside, all this is not visible and nobody suspects anything because there is no reason to consider Samantha is a depressed person. It is able to interact with people, though the nature of the speeches is always rather superficial and always has a good excuse for declining invitations, the reality is quite different. Social interactions are nothing else but the ultimate task to do, not a pleasure.
Samantha seems to work just like anyone else, but becomes more and more tiring every day. She does not have any more energy, she is often tired, and the explanation she gives to others is a recipe about how work is ultimately very stressful.
Only you know what it means to go home every day and finally let go of sadness. Remove the mask and pull the rowing boats. And contemplating her tiredness, lack of strength and stimuli to get up from that couch, the absence of a perspective. Of course, in theory, it would be nice to go out on the street and talk to people, but what’s wrong with it? Nothing changes, the die is drawn: Tomorrow will be just another today.
Living, not working
Samantha is doing what she has to do to go on, but it’s a simple “pull out”. She has no dreams, no goals, no hopes. The future is indefinite, most of all a gray photocopy of what was yesterday and today. Go ahead, without a goal, only by inertia.
But living is much, much more. It means being in the present and appreciating how good every day is, enjoying moments of happiness but also actively seeking them, doing what we like and with the people who make us feel good. Living is also looking ahead and hoping for a better tomorrow. Take the goals and go straight, with confidence and determination, towards their achievement.
This perhaps is what is missing in Samantha. Rediscover the small daily joys that already exist but can no longer see: the aroma of coffee that awakens the senses when in the morning the eyes are still closed, the perfume of the flowers when passing in front of the florist, the satisfaction of a job well done, the embrace of a friend who is happy to see you.
Reopen the drawer, for a long time closed with many padlocks, where dreams are resting: nothing but other beautiful moments that are not here are not now, but maybe tomorrow.
Down the mask
How many people in everyday life struggle to move on, feeling an anguished sense of emptiness inside? They are the same people who read stories about depression and do not recognize themselves in the image of the person curled up in bed, they say: “I’m not like that, but why cannot I be happy?”
Living is much more than a forced smile in the face to face the other day we have been granted. How many of us, however, consider each passing day as yet another test to be overcome? How many wonder what’s wrong with them and fear the answer to the question?
Going on with the wearer’s mask is not the only way to try to cope with the sadness and uncertainty that besiege our lives. Sharing your sorrow with someone next to you, asking for help to those who want it or turning to a professional can make the difference between being trapped in an undefined gray and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
I know it’s not easy, but it finds the courage to take off the mask. Because no one has to suffer in silence and face alone, a pain that seems even bigger than they do.