Appearances are deceptive
To the outside world, they are productive, successful, happy people. The job is going well, the kids are doing well, the partnership is picture-perfect, the bank account is booming. But when the workday is over, their inner resources are used up. They forgo a bit of free time because, at best, they plop down on the couch or fall into bed to get up again in the morning.
They get by, seem content with their lives. But inside, people are suffering, in whose psyche a high-functioning depression has formed. No one notices, and rarely the sufferers themselves. Men are disproportionately more represented in this respect: “Help? Don’t need it. It’ll pass.”
In fact: high-functioning depressives get on with their jobs. They are great managers, great parents, great partners, great whatever.
When the hamster wheel becomes a one-way street
But the pandemic doesn’t make it any easier for all of us to cope with (too) high expectations of ourselves in both our professional and private lives. Time pressure, perfectionism, too many tasks and time pressure, conference hopping, unfulfillable ideals, the kids homeschooling: performance counts!
Subtly, the changes creep in: sleep disturbances, altered eating cycles, irritability, withdrawal from social life, increased alcohol consumption (or stronger), loss of motivation – the hamster wheel is running.
It may be an episode. But it can become chronic and manifest as major depression. Many like to call this a burn-out. Sounds better, sounds like achievement.
There is hope!
If you know someone and have “such a feeling”, then just talk to the person. Many sufferers are hardly aware that they need help. Professional help. A conversation can work wonders, attentive listening and compassion. It is important to understand that no one should be ashamed of this, and it is important to show this to our counterpart. So there is hope: let’s talk about it! Let’s listen! Let’s show perspective to our counterpart. Getting help is the most powerful thing you can do.
I once heard of a book title – “I don’t have to do a Shit”. When things get too intense, I recite that phrase to myself. And at the very least, it makes me grin.
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