Being publicly high functioning despite a severe mental illness means people getting annoyed with you when you don’t deliver on promises or can’t give them emotional support. They don’t realise all your effort is already exhausted maintaining that high functioning persona. Commitments pile up on you and you can slowly start to unravel if you’re not careful. People don’t understand that you’re juggling illness and the rest of your life all at once.
I’m high functioning, most of the time. When I’m depressed I will smile sweetly, laugh and joke with friends and family. I’ll go on nights out and have a good time. I’ll go to work and do my job to the best of my ability. When I’m hypomanic I somehow manage to keep it all together without turning into a whirlwind of impulsivity or anger. I’ve even managed to complete shifts at work when I’ve been hearing voices. You’d think I’d be proud of that and I am, sort of. I don’t really know how to feel about how I manage my mental illnesses.
It can be a detriment to us. For me, applying for benefits was tough. I thought what if they judge me on the way I look or present myself, rather than what I and my psychiatrist have said?
Yes, there are times when I’m severely depressed or manic when this persona all comes crashing down. I’m not the only one that lives this way. Having this face of positivity and wellness all the time is exhausting and it catches up with you eventually.
I don’t mean to do it, its just the way I am. I’m not sure if it’s resilience I’ve built up over the years, or I’m just really good at faking. What I know for sure, is it’s not always the healthiest way of coping. I need to learn to be vulnerable, to show that I’m not ok.
To other people that look like they’re managing fine, when really they’re not, I would say, don’t be afraid to be genuine. You don’t have to live up to expectations all the time. You don’t have to set goals that you know you’ll never achieve. Deep down, everyone struggles for one reason or another, whether they like to admit it or not. It’s not a sign of weakness to show that you’re just managing, just functioning day to day.