Redefine Professional Success if You Live With Depression

May 30, 2022 Mahevash Shaikh

Here's the thing: depression is a mood disorder that impacts all areas of one's life. I am not saying this to be dramatic or bleak. All I am doing is stating a fact as a 31-year-old living with depression since the age of 13. Anyway, just as no amount of money can make up for a toxic work environment, no amount of ambition or purpose can make up for the havoc of depression. Therefore, it is crucial for people with it to redefine professional success.

3 Ways to Redefine Personal Success When Living with Depression

Accept that Depression Hampers Productivity

The black dog of depression often takes such a heavy toll on my mind and body that I find myself short on time, will, and energy to accomplish daily tasks. For example, despite being a professional writer since 2013, there are times when I believe I can no longer write anything coherent. After speaking with neurotypical (without a mental illness) writers, I realized that this was not a writerly problem. 

Generally speaking, depression limits one's ability to work, and this results in guilt and shame. It took me a while to stop comparing myself with neurotypical peers. But when I did, I was able to release such negative emotions. In fact, since it affects everyone uniquely,1 do not compare your productivity with anyone. I try my best to nip comparison in the bud because if I don't, I feel inadequate. 

Work with Your Energy Levels

When the black dog is more manageable than usual, it can be tempting to work harder. While this is fine once in a while, doing it several days in a row may have severe consequences. As a depressive who is somewhere between high-functioning and low-functioning, I try to ensure I don't overwork. When I have done so in the past, it has pushed me into low-functioning depression.

Acceptance of one's current energy levels is crucial. On days when I struggle to function, I do the bare minimum at work and get adequate rest to become moderately functional again. As a freelance writer, this involves depression naps, deadline extensions, and turning down work. This isn't easy, but I know it has to be done. While I miss my old high-functioning self, I have accepted that I currently have what I call medium-functioning depression. Of course, I hope things turn around, but I will not blame myself if they don't. After all, these limitations are not my fault. Acceptance has helped me make personalized, authentic choices instead of mindlessly chasing societal templates of success.  

Celebrate All Wins

Unsubscribe from hustle culture and focus on every win. For example, if you are suicidal and still manage to show up at work, it is nothing short of an achievement. Pat yourself on the back for pulling through because if you don't, who will? If you don't know how to appreciate yourself, fret not. With the help of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), it is possible to change the critical voice in your head into a loyal supporter. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help you cope with related issues like suicidal ideation and apathy.

Whether you disclose it or not, plenty of people will invalidate or downplay your mental illness. You need to ensure you don't do it to yourself. Even if you see a therapist, you have to be your biggest cheerleader. Again, speaking from personal experience, when you celebrate the littlest accomplishment, it will help you boost your morale enough to keep moving forward.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health, "Depression." Accessed May 30, 2022. 

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2022, May 30). Redefine Professional Success if You Live With Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

Xavier Román
April, 23 2023 at 4:18 pm

Thank you for posting about depression. I've felt lost in this life and even dropped out from my doctor's degree and also quit my career of a school music teacher. Your articles help me feel understood. Thank you!

Lizanne Corbit
May, 30 2022 at 6:32 pm

You give excellent advice, Mahevash. This was so good to read! Thank you for taking the time to write these beautiful and encouraging words.

June, 1 2022 at 12:46 am

Thank you so much, Lizanne! Your feedback means a lot to me and I always look forward to your kind and insightful comments. Hope you have a lovely week :)

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