The danger of high-functioning depression as told by a college student
I first saw a psychiatrist for my anxiety and depression as a junior in high school.
During her evaluation, she asked about my coursework. I told her that I had a 4.0 GPA and had filled my schedule with pre-AP and AP classes. A puzzled look crossed her face. She asked about my involvement in extracurricular activities. As I rattled off the long list of groups and organizations I was a part of, her frown creased further.
Finally, she set down her pen and looked at me, saying something along the lines of “You seem to be pretty high-functioning, but your anxiety and depression seem pretty severe. Actually, it’s teens like you who scare me a lot.”
Now I was confused. What was scary about my condition? From the outside, I was functioning like a perfectly “normal” teenager. In fact, I was somewhat of an overachiever.
I was working through my mental illnesses and I was succeeding, so what was the problem?
I left that appointment with a prescription for Lexapro and a question that I would continue to think about for years. The answer didn’t hit me all at once.
Instead, it came to me every time I heard a suicide story on the news saying, “By all accounts, they were living the perfect life.”
It came to me as I crumbled under pressure over and over again, doing the bare minimum I could to still meet my definition of success.
It came to me as I began to share my story and my illness with others, and I was met with reactions of “I had no idea” and “I never would have known.” It’s easy to put depression into a box of symptoms.