Thursday, 21 March 2013

High Functioning Depressive (4)

One of the dispiritingly low number of hits you get on depression in academia when you search is this thread at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

And it is dispiriting to read it... here's a sample from one of the comments:
"In my professional experiences before returning to school, I found that people - friends, employers - don't understand  depression and sometimes don't care to. At my last job, I had a major episode that could have got me fired, so I had to disclose something of my condition to my employers in order to hang onto my job at that moment. The way I was treated after that was unbelievable, bordering on offensive. Before any of this happened to me, I'm not sure I would have even quite understood depression as an illness."
This makes me think how lucky I am.  I've never had a major depressive episode which has disabled me so I need time off work, or seriously impeded my ability to do the fundamental parts of my job. And so I haven't had to reveal my problems in an environment I'm not comfortable with doing so. And (maybe as a result) I haven't had any offensive treatment.

Brings me back to the topic of High Functioning Depressive, a theme of many recent posts.

Roughly speaking, everyone in academia is high functioning.  Many are depressive.  But when I've been talking about high functioning depressive, I've been mainly thinking about people who can do their job at a high level (or at least high enough) when experiencing depression.

It's obvious that this doesn't apply to everyone by any means.   Many people might be high functioning, whether depressive or not, and then be literally disabled by a major episode.  As for the commenter above, they have no choice but to inform employers and colleagues, even if their supervisor or line manager is not supportive.   They have the very real worry of facing both discrimination as a result, and of working day to day in a culture which is still not fully supportive.

I already knew I was incredibly lucky to be a straight white male: "the lowest difficulty setting there is" in the game of life.   I hadn't realised until very recently that even in my depression I'm lucky that my form of it is much less likely to lead to discrimination and offensive treatment.


  1. This is quite interesting. I particularly appreciated the last paragraph about being a straight while male. As someone who does not fit this description--two out of three differences--I do feel like discrimination is especially difficult when there is also a mental illness stigma attached. Perhaps, you discuss this further, I am playing catch reading right now... But it is an interesting position to be in. Both as a sympathetic person to the issue and someone who is affected as well (you) and a person who feels they have three strikes against them (me).

    I think of Bechdel (Fun Home), and I can't help but smile and cry, thinking of her experiences with instability, trauma, sexuality...

    Perhaps I am off on a tangent, but I do appreciate the acknowledgment of having a low difficult setting. Brilliant coinage, by the way.

  2. Thanks Duuras. I haven't written more about high functioning depression. A burst of posts came out and then I ran out of things to say.

    I agree that the lowest difficulty setting is brilliant. It's from John Scalzi. Just in case the link wasn't obvious here it is


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