#mentalhealthmonday – high functioning mental illness

Hello once again everyone! I have officially returned from Paris, ready and refreshed to bring you more blogging, and, most importantly, more posts about mental health! Today I thought I would talk about a topic that’s particularly close to my heart, which is that of high functioning mental illness. This is basically me in a nutshell. For example:

  • I wear makeup every day
  • If I can’t get a shower, I do my hair and put on nice-smelling lotion
  • I don’t always cry when I go to the doctor/therapist
  • I manage to get my schoolwork in on time

And these are only a couple of examples. There are loads of different ways in which people have high functioning mental illnesses. I often talk about it as if I don’t have time for my mental illness – I take time for self-care, and things like that (well, usually), but there are some days in which I feel like I have to go to work, or focus on an essay. I can sort of sweep it to the side, not allowing myself to focus on dealing with my mental ill health at that exact time, and waiting until I have the time to spend all day in bed, or something similar. I have no doubt that this makes my mental health worse. As a professor of mine said to me recently: “I’m not worried about the work getting done. I’m worried about what it’ll do to you to get it done.”

(A note: this is not a healthy way of dealing with this. I should probably do a post at some point talking about better ways of making sure I get my life things done and maintaining my mental health, but I’m not at that point yet! I think its good to realise that although I’m pretty well-adjusted in some areas pertaining to mental health, this is not one of them. Please let me know if you have any ideas that might help.)

I am also very, very good at putting on a brave face. I’m quite a bubbly person normally (just ask my friends and family – I can chat to literally anyone for hours), so it can become very obvious when I am depressed. However, I don’t let it show, except to the people very close to me. I guess this is a bit odd, because I talk about my mental health a lot. I just don’t like to show it. I think that this is because when I talk about mental health, I can control the narrative, if that makes sense. Whereas if I allow my body to speak for me, people can see all sorts of things that I don’t necessarily want them to.

I think this is why some people don’t believe me when I say I have depression and anxiety. Half the problem is that they cannot see through my appearance of functionality, and the other half is that there’s such a stereotype about what depressed people look like/act like. Just because I’ve got dressed this morning doesn’t mean that I’m okay. I’ve just made a purposeful effort in pretending that I am.

I know that a surprisingly high number of people have high functioning mental illnesses like this – what have your experiences been like? Let me know x



8 thoughts on “#mentalhealthmonday – high functioning mental illness

  1. heidirgardner says:

    This is me in a nutshell too – lots of people are shocked when I tell them I suffer with depression. I’m trying to be a bit more open with dealing with it but it’s nice to know you’re in the same boat too! Thanks for a brilliant blog post 🙂


  2. modoyle says:

    Welcome back.
    My name is Mo Doyle and I started blogging approximately two weeks ago.
    I have recovered from Borderline Personality Disorder and also have a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder 11.
    I myself am also very high functioning even throughout my darkest years.
    I recovered after 21 years of a long hard road consisting of multiple suicide attempts, self harming and more.
    No matter how I felt I always took care of my appearance for some reason.
    The stigma of mental health is bad enough without letting your appearance go as well.
    Always take care.
    Loved reading your blog.
    Love Mo Doyle from Ireland 🇮🇪


  3. christine @ the story salve says:

    SAME oh my god thank you for this post!

    Very few people “IRL” know that I’m depressed, I think mostly because I’ve worked so hard to hide it from people. I have a huge guilt complex about being a “burden” on my loved ones, which keeps me from reaching out to my ultra-supportive parents, my similarly mentally situated older brother, even my best friend who’s literally a psychologist.

    Recently, I’ve also developed a guilt complex about how high functioning I am. Because I seem to have all my ducks in a row (sort of?), I fly under the radar. I don’t ~need~ help as much as so many people out there. I get to this point where I essentially feel guilty for even being depressed because there’s no tangible reason for what happens inside my head.

    High functioning definitely contributes to my fear of talking about it with people in my life. I’ve had so many people say “but you laugh/smile all the time, how can you be depressed?” that I no longer even want to deal with that conversation. Maybe I should talk about it more, but having to explain high functioning mental illness is so exhausting.

    Glad you’re back. I really appreciate all your posts. I’m so glad we can talk about this stuff and feel a little less alone. ❤


  4. Sarah says:

    I’m basically in the same situation! I’m mostly functional in my day-to-day life. Occasionally my mental illness does get in the way of work (when I can’t get out of bed), but typically I’m “okay.” It ends up being the same thing–I CAN put all this pressure on myself to bust my butt at work, but to what effect on my mental health?


  5. Grace (the Changeling) says:

    Spot on with this post. When I was in counseling for the first time, my counselor asked, “How are your grades doing?” and I told him I had straight As. He was surprised because of the level of depression I had described in my intake appointment. “It doesn’t matter what’s happening to me emotionally,” I explained. “The homework gets done.” I might be staying up all night without eating and making myself physically ill to do it, but my work always got done. Which, as you said, isn’t actually healthy.
    What your professor said is pretty insightful and shows a pretty elevated understanding of the different forms mental ill health can take. So often grades and other outward signs of normality are used as markers of mental health, which works for some people, but it becomes erasure of high-functioning mental illness when those check-ins become check-OFFS, like you have to cross out a certain number of things on the list to be “really sick.”


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