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People Don't Fake Depression, They Fake Being Happy

I've been mentally ill for decades, and there have been some dark days. So dark I had to be hospitalized for 6 weeks for my depression and suicidal ideation (plus an eating disorder).

While I was there, a team of doctors changed my meds, and I started electroconvulsive therapy treatments (where a seizure is induced, and my brain’s job is to stop it). They changed my life. I've had about 30 treatments.

In recovery from depression

But now I'm in mental health recovery. I work hard every single day to do what's right for me — take my pills, eating healthy, practicing good sleep hygiene (and personal hygiene), going to therapy and attending support groups when I can. Recently, I became an Affiliate Leader of NAMI Greater Corpus Christi and with it comes a lot of work even though it’s a volunteer position.

My point is that I'm better. For now.

"High-functioning depression"

I'm what people have recently coined as having "high functioning depression," which isn't an official diagnosis. Yet, I see the term all over mental health blogs, social media and even some studies. High-functioning depression is a nonmedical term that describes the ability to maintain daily activities despite mental health disorder symptoms,.

The depths of my illness

Before my stint in the hospital, I could hardly get out of bed. The only effort that I made was for my 2 young children. I was sad all the time, and I had suicidal ideation. I didn't shower or brush my teeth.

I can do these things now. I never ask my husband to take the kids to school (as I did before) or I can make it through the day without abusing my pills or cutting myself. I'm able to do so much more than I ever imagined. I socialize with friends and family. And I'm happy. Today.

What is "smiling depression"?

But I have a problem with the idea of high functioning depression, also known as "smiling depression." Others see you doing day-to-day activities like going to work, exercising, volunteering, and completing difficult tasks — whatever it may be— and assume that you are cured. I have major depressive disorder and dysthymia (and a list of other things), and even when I seem like I'm "on the grind," I'm probably not.

And I know I won't ever be cured, but throwing around words like "high-functioning depression" makes me believe I can be, or am.

There's no such thing

My fear when dealing with this unofficial term is that people with a mental health condition can start to feel like they're not sick enough (or healed). Or that when they need to reach out for help, they don't want to for fear of ruining their "high-functioning" image. I worry that people conceal classic signs of depression, such as hopelessness, sadness, and apathy, and struggle unnecessarily.

Those are some issues I grapple with, too, and that's why it’s vital to understand that high-functioning does not equal "fully functional."

I still have bad days. I get depressed, even when there are no triggers or reason to feel that way.

My depression is always there

I have to lie down to nap during the day. I cry and lose interest in the things I love. I get irritable and snap at my family. I isolate, sinking myself further into a depressive episode. My eating disorder gets triggered, and I struggle with other negative coping mechanisms.

Faking it isn't healthy

I don’t mean to be negative, and I'm not saying someone with mental illness can't have hope — positive thinking and affirmations have changed my perspective on life.

I just get scared for all the people who are fighting often-debilitating symptoms (and stigma) and feel that they can't reach out because they've led others to believe they’re okay. Because that's what people like me do.

They don't fake depression. They fake being happy.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.