I was reading an article the other day about depression. In the article there was a young woman who regularly saw a therapist. She recalled her first session, as a junior in high school, when she was telling the therapist that she had a 4.0 GPA, was in numerous student organizations, and had a vibrant social life. She was at the time being treated for depression and anxiety.
The therapist as she recalls, gave her a puzzled look and mentioned that she seemed to be pretty high functioning yet she had severe depression and anxiety.
That is where the term “high functioning depression” comes in to play. Where everything looks to be going right and orderly, but there is immense suffering and chaos that is not seen.
Robin Williams, Lee Thompson Young, and countless celeberities and non celeberties, all from the outside looked to be doing well, but were far from well.
These people suffering in silence while excelling on the outside, could be your classmate who gets straight A’s, your neighbor with the pretty house and fantastic marriage, or the actor who won an Oscar.
By all accounts, life was going good. Until there is the dreaded phone call or breaking news story, that says they took their own life.
I remember the evening I heard Robin Williams died. I was surprised, shocked and saddened. Most recently, BMX star Dave Mirra took his own life as well. Mirra lived right here in NC. According to released reports, Mirra had just visited friends and family. He seemed to be doing fine. Yet just moments later, he would end his life.
This high functioning depression, has been under the radar. Yet we see it everytime there is a news story. The narrative of, everything seemed fine. The person was active in school, at work, in church, yet they were drowning in severely deep waters and no one was none the wiser.
Is there someone to blame for this? Is there something to blame? Is it because of society and how mental illness is viewed?
Is it the person’s culture? Did the shock of the suicides of Lee Thompson Young, Chris Lighty, and Don Cornelius come from the fact they committed suicide or from the fact they were African American men who committed suicide?
Will there ever be truly open dialogue regarding depression and suicide? Or will it only be brought up when someone takes their life? Or on a primetime TV show’s “very special episode”?
It is my hope that the stigma of mental illness erodes, and soon. People are still struggling with their mental issues, some are dying. I hope to see the day when this changes. When it is OK to talk about your feelings. When it isn’t seen as unbelief to see a therapist or psychiatrist. When you truly can express how you feel without judgement.