A Day in the Life of High-Functioning Depression

Content notes: depression, allusion to death; proceed at your own risk.

This piece reflects my own personal experience and in no way represents that of everyone else who suffers from depression and/or high-functioning depression.




I wake up in the morning. It’s a new day.

My get-ready routine consists of brushing my teeth, washing and moisturizing my face, and putting on lipstick. I leave my dorm ten minutes before my class starts, and don’t come back to my room until I’m done with all my responsibilities and commitments for the day.

From morning to afternoon I go to all of my classes. For lunch and dinner I eat in the dining hall with my friends as we have small talks about everything. If I have some free time before 5 p.m. I’ll stop by one of my professors’ offices, or happen to bump into one and chat with them for a while. If I have a shift, I’ll show up to work and do my homework afterwards in the library. Sometimes I attend events, and socialize.

10 p.m. is when my day usually finishes. I will go back to my rooftop room, take a shower, carry out my nighttime skin care regimen, browse the internet as a means of relaxation, and go to bed.




I woke up one morning two years ago. It was the day when I skipped class for the first time in college. My friend, who was also my roommate, was so surprised she told all of our mutual friends that I skipped class. They couldn’t believe it. Ren — always diligent, punctual, hardworking — skipped class. It was breaking news.




I wake up in yet another morning. It’s yet another new day.

Reaching to the phone on the bedside table, I turn the alarm off and struggle to open my eyes. My brain is a one hundred pound dumbbell and I feel plastered to the mattress. I don’t want to go to class, but I think of the work I’ll miss and the resulting lower attendance grade. And so, with great difficulty, I manage to get one leg out of the blanket, letting it pull my body down, down, down, and finally off the bed. I carry out my morning routine, surprised that I can still stand.

In class I can’t concentrate. Everything feels off and my professor’s words sound like phonetic abstracts and I fail to even muster a thought inside my head. Even when I say something it doesn’t register with me that I’m the one speaking, that I’m actually able to speak. It’s like there’s a me who’s curling up and hiding in a corner in the dark room of my mind, and then there’s a me who’s too fed up with the sad me and decides to pilot my body instead. The two parts of me who, at that moment, can’t find a common ground.

The functional me, then, tries to take care of all the responsibilities I have for the day, In everyone’s eyes, I remain that have-it-all-together student, attending all my classes, socializing with my friends, reporting to work, going to events. As if I just do everything I set out to do for the day, that’s going to take care of the sad me who doesn’t see the point in doing any of this and just wants to lie in bed from one season to another. As if productivity is going to magically solve my problem.

Here’s the catch: the sad me and the functional me, they have a love/hate relationship. Every once in a while they like each other, but most of the time they want nothing to do with each other and conveniently forget that they occupy the same body and use up energy from the same source. When they cooperate, there’s very little I have to do, but just to let them run their course and figure out a compromise on their own. However, when they don’t like each other, the sad me emotionally drains me, while the functional me requires significantly more mental aerobics in order to perform the most basic daily tasks.

I’m constantly drifting in and out of conversations, assignments, reality, and oscillating between giving up and hanging on. My favorite classes become tedious. Social issues I usually care about deeply turn into mundane misfortunes. Even writing itself feels like I’m trying to cross an ocean with no boat or raft and I don’t know how to swim. My emotions exhaust me, and my high-functionality doesn’t let me rest. I don’t know which voice to listen to. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know. No one knows.

And then at night I’ll stay up until 4 a.m., watching YouTube and not enjoying any of it while perpetually on the verge of tears, and I’ll get up at 8:30 a.m. again for my morning shift at work.




I will wake up in the morning. It will be a new day.

To my surprise, I will still be alive.


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