High Functioning Depression in High Achieving, Professional and Corporate Women.
It’s a common response said by many Black women in conversation or passing when we actually are not. The truth is, a lot of us have not been good for a while but we just push through. We may be silently battling personal guilt with depression, anxiety and heightened stress but we just show up and keep giving and giving and giving. We keep going to work, meeting with that client or teacher, helping with those entrepreneurial adventures, celebrating “we outside” birthday brunches and dinners, singing in the choir and putting everyone else as a priority above ourselves. WITH a smile and pleasant demeanor, because let’s face it we can’t let ‘em see us sweat. All while telling our favorite nontruth:
Let’s take a step back and really reflect on this. We are so accustomed to pulling it together and holding it together, that we get used to going through the motions, and in a sense becoming disconnected from our own selves. Showing up as the resilient, dependable and “strong” black woman, mother, daughter, partner or friend often means we are not paying attention to our own feelings and needs. And then when we need someone to see us; give us space to feel and sit in our feelings of sadness, grief, doubt, and even hopelessness at times we often go unnoticed. We suppress our feelings and our pain for the comfort of others and our careers so much so that many of us, high performing, educated and professional black women aren’t even able to acknowledge and face that we may be dealing with depression. Well I am bringing it into the room and naming it, high functioning depression.
High-functioning depression, now what is that? Black women, high-functioning depression is when a person can function well in various aspects of life, i.e work, school, home, and relationships, despite having mild symptoms of depressive disorder. The problem with this is when we feel that the issues are “all in their head” or we just need to “snap out of it” to find relief. And this is simply not true. Unfortunately, our “strong” black woman tendencies show up and guilt and shame only maintains and worsens our depression, keeping us stuck in our situation. While we are often praised for our strength, our perseverance, our work and our relation to others, which is fine, but we are so much more; we feel so much more and owe ourselves so much more.
When I reflect back on the work that I do with my clients, I have discovered that before even talking about personal, professional and financial responsibilities, the most intentional thing that I can give to other Black women is my presence, the creation of brave spaces where they don’t have to have it all together, their able to cry and break down emotionally, and are given the opportunity to prioritize their emotional and mental health. Empowering them to believe that they do have more control than they realize-even to start, and focus on taking small steps to recognize when depression shows up and what to do with it. Here a few ways how:
Ways to access support:
Engage in therapy
Find/Create your sister circle
Take a wellness and holistic class
Instead of challenging yourself to do more, challenge yourself to relax and do less:
Prioritize, delegate, ask for help
Practice saying No
Focus on one task at a time
Switch off after work
Try practicing one these daily affirmations:
I don’t have to be perfect to be powerful
I am learning that I deserve to be loved with the same intensity as I give love
Wellness, abundance, and freedom are welcomed into my life
I permit myself to let go of any relationships or situations that don’t bring reciprocity, growth, and love
La’Tish M. Thomas, LCSW