You bet you’ll look as if things move easier for you, and without much effort; your worry is hidden, right under the smile.
5. You intensely focus on tasks, using accomplishment as a way to feel valuable.
“You’re only as good as your last success.” You count on activity and accomplishment to distract yourself from any inner insecurities or fears that might try to seep out of hiding.
“We hide to try our feelings, but we forget that our eyes speak.”
We all do this to a certain extent. If you’re having a bad day, it feels good to get something done that perhaps you’ve been putting off. Or you get a promotion at work. Or someone emails you about how your kindness was so meaningful to them. There’s value in purpose and effort.
But you carry it too far. You may not know what brings you a sense of esteem, except for those accomplishments and tasks. And that’s the problem.
6. You have an active and sincere concern about the well-being of others while allowing few if any into your inner world.
This isn’t a fake concern, and it does not pretend or insincere. It’s real: Caring for others is what you do very well. However, you don’t let others sense any vulnerability. You don’t reveal pain from your past. Your spouse might know, but it’s not discussed. There’s a wall up against anyone discovering that you’re lonely or fatigued, empty or overwhelmed.
This can be especially frightening when suicidal ideation is present. And you can’t let anyone in. Devastatingly, even if you do, you may not be believed. “What, you? Depressed? You’ve got everything in the world going for you.” And that could lead to devastating consequences.
7. You discount or dismiss hurt or abuse from the past or the present.
Compartmentalization is a skill. It’s the ability to be hurt, sad, disappointed, afraid, or angry about something and to put those feelings away until a time when you can deal with them better. Healthy people do it all the time. You can even do it with joy or happiness. Sometimes it’s not the time to burst out singing.
However, if you identify with PHD, you rigidly over-compartmentalize. You’ve developed very strong boxes where you lock painful feelings in, consciously or unconsciously, shoving them into a dark recess of your mind. This allows you to discount, deny, or dismiss the impact of life experiences that caused pain in the past, or the present.
“Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure, but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends, but hate socializing. It’s wanting to be alone, but not wanting to be lonely. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzingly numb.”
One woman identifying with PHD emailed recently that she’d been diagnosed with PTSD, and that has totally dismissed it. “What happened to me was no big deal,” she wrote. “Much worse things have happened to other people.” That may or may not be true, but the pain is still pain.
8. You have accompanying mental health issues, involving control or escape from anxiety.
You live your life in a very controlled, well-governed fashion. So actual psychiatric diagnoses that might co-exist with PHD might be disorders having to do with control, such as eating disorders and/or obsessive-compulsive traits. Alcohol or sedative medications could be used to escape anxiety as well.
“Depression is being colorblind and constantly told how colorful the world is.”
9. You hold a strong belief in “counting your blessings” as the foundation of well-being.
I believe in counting your blessings. You bet: It’s healthy, and it can keep you optimistic and grateful. However, if you’ve read this far and identify with PHD, you may feel guilt or even shame if you are ever anything but rigidly positive. Expressing compassion toward yourself? That’s out of the question; you’ve got too many blessings in your life. And any suggestion of self-compassion gets designated as whining or complaining. And that’s not allowed.