Life: High Functioning Depression
This is the story of my struggle with high functioning depression.
Today: High Functioning Depression
Over the past 4 months, I’ve had 3 jobs. None of which I will have after Saturday.
I’ve told all of my clients that I’m leaving behind at my current job (as well as some of my friends and family members) that it’s because after a full year of working for myself at Hair Culture Studio, my entrepreneurial drive won’t allow me to be happy and perform successfully working for someone else.
This is not the truth.
The truth is that as early as my very first job at Charlotte Russe, I struggled with high functioning depression. I began working there in 2008 but I didn’t even know my struggle was with high functioning depression until this month… 9 years later.
High functioning depression is basically when a person looks like they have it all together on the outside: great work ethic, coachable, goal oriented, strong willed, successful etc., but on the inside, they’re depressed. I would say that they could be depressed for a number of reasons, but sometimes it’s for no reason at all.
Looking back, I began showing symptoms when I was in…
High School: Numb
It was my senior year and we were in A3 (we had “A” day and “B” day classes). A3 was my “Showboaters” class. Showboaters was a group of kids Sophomore year and older who sang and played instruments.
We got to sing before school dances and at middle and elementary schools. Best of all, at the end of the year, we had this show that we called “Big Show” where each Showboater member would raise $1500 to put on this huge concert for our peers, the people of the town we lived in, and our families. It was really huge!
During your Senior year, you got to sing two solos. (If I’m remembering correctly).
At the end of A3, our choir director approached me and told me that I may not be able to perform my solos because I was so close to failing my AP Calculus class. I figured that there wasn’t much that I could do, so I just accepted it. I figured I would do the best I could in the class and hope it worked out in my favor.
By the time I was in A4, my AP Calculus class, two days later, my Calc teacher came up to me at the end of class and told me that I would still be able to perform my solo, because in order to participate in extracurricular activities, AP classes were a non-factor.
“But you probably already knew that, because you didn’t look worried one bit.”
That was the thing.
I was not worried.
I was not sad.
I was not upset.
I was not embarrassed.
I wasn’t anything.
I didn’t feel anything.
I couldn’t have cared less what ended up happening with my solos or with my classes. And even though I made it seem to other people that these things were some of the most important in my life (I worked so hard at and pushed myself for everything), my interest in them were pretty much nonexistent.
Of course I passed the AP Calculus class and had no issues performing the solos.
I was just always naturally good at a lot of things, but my inability to feel passion or joy or contentment held me back a lot. I was able to hide it so well, but in reality I was just getting by. Floating through life.
This was one of the very first signs of high functioning depression. It continued into…
College: Anti-Social + Self-Critical
In 2009 as a student at Oklahoma State University, I started noticing my depression a little more. But I didn’t really recognize it as such.
Now, with no parents around to force me to get out of bed and force me to get to class, it was easy for me to get stuck [literally STUCK] in bed and sleep the day away, only leaving to go [barely make it] to class or to meet up with friends when they wanted so they wouldn’t be worried about me.
Instead of being the friend that went out with everybody and enjoyed hanging out every day, I became the girl who dropped her friends off at parties and told them to call if they needed her or were ready to come home, because I “had to study.”
My friends thought that I just didn’t like to go out, which was somewhat true, but they never knew the reason why was because I just wanted to be by myself most of the time. As much as I loved my friends, being around so many people at once triggered anxiety, though I never really showed it.
Enter high functioning social anxiety.
When I did go out with friends, on the outside it seemed as though I was having a great time (just not a very good dancer), but on the inside, I was FREAKING out!
Why are they staring at me?
Does this dress make my ass look flat?
I hope he doesn’t ask me to dance.
Should I even have come?
These people probably think I’m weird af.
I cared about everything.
I felt everything.
Eventually, I was no longer at Oklahoma State University because my financial aid had run out. And because my grades weren’t the best (my grades suffered due to my depression), the aid offices weren’t willing to help me stay in and I didn’t have the thousands of dollars needed to pay out of pocket.
At the time, I didn’t know that I suffered from depression. I thought that maybe I was just lazy. Or maybe I just wasn’t smart. Or that school just wasn’t for me. In reality, I was suffering from a disorder that could have been treated had I known what mental disorders were.
Many of us do not.
It was time for me to move back to Texas. I would take my job back at Charlotte Russe, because that was where I was most comfortable. Watching all of my college friends graduating and starting their lives, I became increasingly hard on myself for not doing the same.
I eventually enrolled in Esthetics school, where my high functioning depression followed me into…
When you’re going through Esthetics school in the state of Texas, you have to obtain a total of 750 hours to be able to obtain your license to practice Esthetics. Normally, the Esthetics program takes about 6 months to complete. I finished my 750 hours in just five months.
This is when I began to notice my perfectionism.
Being as skincare specialist, you have to be very precise on the treatments you give to your clients. Some people may have allergies or contraindications, and some products may cause more harm to certain skin types than good. This gave me the perfect opportunity to obsess over product ingredients, massage techniques, treatment options, and home care regimens.
I wanted to be the best. Each eyebrow that I waxed had to be absolutely perfect and each Brazilian service that I performed had to be 100% hair free. Not even a hair that I tweezed could be left behind on the skin.
Clients see this as being thorough. For me, I had to get it 100% right 100% of the time. Even on my low days, I would suck it up, put a smile on my face and do my job flawlessly.
Until one day I didn’t.
After working for European Wax Center for three years, and then taking a year off, I came back into the waxing industry at Waxing The City. The two jobs are basically the same in that we provide the same services, but the service times were different.
I could do a perfect Brazilian Wax in 7 Minutes and take about 4 clients an hour at European Wax Center. At Waxing The City, we had minimum service times and for a Brazilian Wax, we had to spend at least thirty minutes on a Brazilian.
My first month or so, I struggled big time with spending thirty minutes on a Brazilian, and my boss, though she was really nice and helpful on finding ways to extend those service times, pushed me hard to achieve this.
She would come into my room and tell me that I need to spend a little more time on these services to make sure we were give the best possible service.
“I love how coachable you are! I feel like I can come and talk to you about things that need to change and you take it constructively and I love that.”
I did take these conversations constructively and really focused in on this challenge, because I didn’t ever want to screw up.
(This was in no way my boss’ fault and when I finally talked to her about what was going on with me personally, she made sure to always check to make sure that I was okay, that the environment was positive, and that I was happy at my job.)
I began to be even more of a perfectionist and even more self-critical. To the point to where if I couldn’t execute my job perfectly, I took it really hard. To many of you, it may seem strange, but I was beginning to lose sleep over it. Every night, I would just stay up thinking of ways to become better at what I did.
Even on my off days, the mornings of the day before I would have to go back to work, my husband Franklin would notice that my mind was already on the next day. Already at work.
Anxiety attack at work.
I think the straw that broke the camel’s back in this working-for-somebody-else gig was that one day, I was having a really low, low day. This was on one of my 11-hour shifts, so I knew I was going to have to be at work until late that night.
In the middle of a brow service with one of my favorite clients, my heart started pounding, my body started shaking, and my breathing changed. I felt like I was being smothered.
I had to excuse myself from the treatment room and go to the break room. Thankfully one of my coworkers was in there and she grabbed the manager and finished my brow service for me.
My boss thought that maybe I didn’t have enough food and that my blood sugar was probably low. In reality, I was having an anxiety attack. I was too embarrassed to admit that, so I just went along with the blood sugar thing and just took the time to lay down in an empty service room.
Eventually, my breathing returned to normal and I was able to drive home and get some rest so I could go back to work the next day and do what I did best.
Provide a perfect service.
This year has absolutely flown by and it’s taught me a lot about myself and why I do some of things that I do and why I feel the way that I feel sometimes.
I have been able to recognize my depression for what it is. I’ve learned that it’s nothing to be embarrassed about and that it’s important to see a doctor when you don’t feel as though you should.
I just had to recognize that not wanting to do anything or having to use everything within me to even just get out of the bed was not because I’m lazy or tired, but because I needed help.
I had to recognize that perfectionism isn’t always a good thing, especially when it triggers anxiety and prevents you from doing your job and living your best life.
I’ve learned that one of the driving forces in creating my own companies and the reason why I’m so great at a lot of the things that I’m great at is because of and not in spite of my depression.
I’ve learned that it’s important for you to tell someone that you’re having symptoms of depression. If you tell someone who doesn’t seem understanding or helpful, tell someone else. And I know that this may seem harsh, but don’t be surprised if someone that you do tell doesn’t believe your or doesn’t take you seriously. Find someone that you can tell who will believe you and have your best interest at heart.
I told my husband, Franklin, and he’s been so helpful in this.
So, I urge you, if you feel like this is something you may be suffering from, please seek help! It’s nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about and it’s much more common than you could ever imagine.
Depression Hotline: 1-800-784-2433
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
The Deaf Hotline: 1-800-799-4889
If you have any questions about my experiences, please feel free to ask in the comments or shoot me an email! (firstname.lastname@example.org)