What's Wrong??? A letter to those who don’t yet understand high-functioning anxiety and depression.
Updated: Apr 26
Thank you for reading. This isn't easy to write, nor is it easy to read. The word anxiety can be triggering in itself and often exists surrounded by pre-learned connotations such as, 'it's nothing more than worry,' or 'anxiety is simply lack of resilience.' Keep in mind, anxiety is a normal part of life - it literally keeps us alive - but for most people (and hopefully you), anxiety symptoms are situational and temporary. For people like me, who live with this invisible health condition, anxiety is not simply situational or temporary, it's an every-day/ hits you when you're least expecting it kind of thing.
Welcome to the ironic mental-health struggles of a self-development and mental wellness leader. (That's me, hi). That's what high-functioning anxiety looks like. Anxiety is tougher to spot in high-functioning individuals, mostly because they appear to be high-achieving, functioning well in social situations, and can accomplish tasks... a typical type A personality. Things look great on the outside, quite put-together in fact, while on the inside, there is a very real anxiety disorder. Essentially, it's silent, invisible anxiety, hidden behind a confident smile and perceived success.
For me, it's the anxiety (fear) that drives me to this perceived success. My symptoms can and often include daily: racing thoughts, fixation/ rumination, short-term memory loss, procrastination followed by long periods of crunch-time work, overloaded schedule, others thinking I'm difficult to read, irritability, over-stimulation meltdowns, inability to enjoy the moment, mental/physical fatigue, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, nervous habits, rare suicidal thoughts, panic attacks/ shortness of breath, physical pain (headaches and chest pain). Sleeping is very much my coping mechanism.
My default setting is 'fear of failing,' - a relentless consciousness of grief and change, a very heavy heart and a very heavy mind. A good day for me is a conscious and continuous effort, not a natural occurance.
Since most of these characteristics are invisible to those around you, the ones that are obvious are usually deemed to be just 'part of your personality' or your quirkiness. This can be why, the same people, often aren't all that tolerable to the rest of the symptoms, especially when you experience a trigger and have a reaction that doesn't make sense to the rest of the world.
"Be more resilient..." "Pull yourself together..." "Let it go..." "Be positive..." Reader, please be patient with us. Please remember how sizeable the rest of the iceberg is, that sits beneath the surface of what you can perceive and understand.
Anxiety symptoms can look different for everyone. No, I can't just 'snap out of it'. Resilience and anxiety can mutually co-exist. It's not just worry, it's chemical imbalance in my brain. I don't just need a break, a rest or a holiday. I need mental-health support. A panic attack is a very real thing. I'm not over-dramatic, I’m out there in the world living, with an invisible health condition.
“Living with high-functioning anxiety is probably similar to those who live with other conditions, but the problem with anxiety is that it cannot be seen. I may tell someone that I’m worried, but this is often seen as a part of my character. You know, ‘Oh, she’s a worrywart.’ No, I’m not. I’m fighting a disease.” — Lynda
“I’d never really understood that anxiety was a diagnosable condition. I was led to believe growing up that I was a ‘baby’ who got upset over unusual things. I think because I’m high-functioning, my anxiety often presents as irritation, anger, and frustration.” — Steve
“One of the things I struggle most with as a person with high-functioning anxiety is the fact that other people, including my family and friends, easily excuse the times my anxiety is giving me problems, because I ‘don’t seem to have anything wrong’ with me. I still have sleepless and restless nights because of overthinking. I still learn every day how a ‘normal’ person is supposed to react to certain situations. It’s much harder to talk about it when it doesn’t visibly appear like you’re suffering.” — Alex Quotes from Healthline
*Please note: Although the material contained within the GRLKND community, (of general nature only), is believed to be accurate and reliable, the information provided does not take into account your personal situation or needs and is for informational and inspirational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. If under any circumstance you need to speak to a mental health professional, or if you or someone you know is in crisis, please use the contacts below:
Crisis Lines: (Australia)
For counselling/ a chat: Headspace (1800 650 890) feeling anxious/ depressed: Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) For Youth aged 5-25 counselling: Kids Helpline (1800 551 800) For personal or peer crisis: Lifeline (13 11 14) For anyone contemplating suicide: Suicide Call Service (1300 659 467) Emergency: Call 000
Crisis Lines: (USA)
For feeling anxious/ depressed: Crisis Text Line USA: Text HELLO to 741741 UK: Text HELLO to 85258
CANADA: Text HELLO to 686868
For anyone contemplating suicide:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) Emergency: Call 911