What Does It Mean To Be High-Functioning?
This video on high-functioning anxiety came across my FB feed few weeks ago.
It’s the title that appealed to me.
I like that.
I have always been “high-functioning”.
My “high-functioning anxiety” looks like night sweats, impostor syndrome, and overthinking. Superiority complex.
Panic attack in the gym parking lot.
Dialling one friend after another, hoping to hear someone’s voice.
Too much coffee.
Knot in my stomach, elephant on my chest.
Years ago, I called up a clinic to ask them about the outpatient eating disorder program they had, hoping to get on the list. The slightly annoyed woman on the other end of the phone line wanted to know whether I cut myself.
Cut myself? I… didn’t. I immediately feel bad. Like an underachiever. How have I not thought of that? I mean there was this one time when I got out some razor blades to scare an old boyfriend. It hurt more than I wanted it to, bled less than I wanted it to, and he was not impressed. Ugh.
“Ok”, the woman says. “Do you abuse alcohol or drugs?”
Umm… The two bottles of craft beer have been in my fridge for weeks. As for drugs – not since smoking weed in India. But, that’s India – it’s actually harder to get beer in India. Does coffee count?
“How often do you think of hurting yourself”, continues the woman.
I finally snap. “Listen, I am not suicidal! I have an eating disorder. Which is why I called YOU, and not a suicide prevention hot line”.
“Oh”. The woman sounds disappointed. “Well, if there is no immediate risk of self-harm, we do not put your name on the list”.
There was no other list. Which, perhaps, is the crux of the problem for anyone in the “high-functioning” camp – anxiety, depression, or otherwise.
“Look at you! You are vertical, AND you don’t have a gun barrel in your mouth. Congrats!”. You are just fine enough.
There is never a list.
Inpatient and outpatient programs are for severe mental health issues.
Psychologists, and psychiatrists.
It’s hard to find a place where you go if you are just a regular person who is fucking lost and confused, and occasionally sort of depressed, but still manages to go to work in the morning, and get their laundry done.
I found that place in few people.
And I try to be that place for others. [See? Superiority complex!].
I often fail [and then I think: “who the hell am I to try and be that place for people?” because… impostor syndrome].
But people tell me that once in a while, I succeed.
And it’s so fucking worth it.