21 Photos People With 'High-Functioning' Anxiety Want to Post, but Don't
While social media can be great for cataloguing your life and keeping in touch with loved ones, sometimes it’s all too easy to play the comparison game. When you live with “high-functioning” anxiety, this can be especially true on hard days.
Maybe you’re a stressed out college student who keeps adding things to your plate because people always count on you to “handle it.” Maybe you’ve just gotten through a particularly anxious work day, but no one would ever know because your smile never faltered. Or maybe you have been working so hard to keep functioning normally despite your anxiety that you’re reaching your burnout point.
However anxiety affects you, at the end of the day, sometimes you just want to see something real on Facebook — something that proves you’re not alone in your experiences.
We wanted to know what people with self-described “high-functioning” anxiety want to post online, but feel like they can’t, so we asked our Mighty community to share one photo they wish they could share about their anxiety.
It’s important to remember anxiety looks different for each person who experiences it. While some can hide everything going on behind a smile and perfectly rehearsed act, others may not have the ability to do so all the time. Whatever way your anxiety manifests, you deserve to talk about it.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. “The left is what my employers and co-workers see. The right is after a busy shift at work. I am praised frequently at my job and I’m very happy where I work, but my anxiety takes every ounce of my energy.” — Cassandra T.
2. “…because therapy is the only place I feel safe, not judged and only half ‘crazy.’ I actually get to lay my head down, and slow my thoughts down.” — Love J.
3. “It’s always easier to tell people it’s something physical — [like] it was something I ate or the change in season. No, I’m still in bed because continually fighting the voices of anxiety in my head make me sick and make me tired. They never stop, no matter how much I looks like or tell you I’m OK.” — Eileen D.
4. “[This painting is] living life with anxiety and depression and what it looks like from the inside for me. My sister painted this picture of me.” — Allison B.
5. “This is what ‘high-functioning’ anxiety looks like after a day of fake smiles, fake interactions that I don’t remember and just being a fake person wandering around in that cloud that is a barely held off panic attack that lasts all day! A person who just can’t even brush the hair after a shower, sometimes wouldn’t even shower and damn sure isn’t trying anymore. Seconds after this picture, the tears started as I stopped holding off that panic.” — Tommie M.
6. “I’ve thought a lot about posting this picture. This is what I look like at least once a day when I have a panic/anxiety attack. I get told a lot that I don’t look like someone who has depression and anxiety, but that’s because I’m too scared to look as vulnerable as I feel.” — Joleen R.
7. “So, here it is, me and my boyfriend. Happy. Smiling. And in front of a lot of grilled meat and two draught beers. And in my head, I think… maybe my boyfriend looks too old for me, and if my aunt comments that photo? No, she can’t, she is in the special list for privacy on Facebook. She can’t, but my professors can. Why am I scared, frightened, by sharing my happiness? Why [are] my standards for a Facebook photo so high? Why [should] a post should be perfect for others, and not for me?” — Gabriele I.
8. “The girl in this picture is lying. She lies every day. She plasters on this killer smile, laughs at the jokes, takes the meds and prays that today will be better than yesterday. The girl in this picture is lying. And the girl in the picture is me.” — Whitney D.
9. “This photo is a combination of two habits fighting against each other. The first element found in this composition is my need to appear deliberate. Personally, I don’t take photos for fun; I take photos to remain relevant. A majority of my social circle post to Facebook to share their enjoyment of things that bring them joy. My ‘high-functioning’ anxiety views an organic candid moment and turns it into ‘content’ that can show my life has a sense of normality.” — Oli P.
10. “I’m exhausted but can’t seem to sleep. I’m thinking about 100 million things and nothing all at once. My ‘high-functioning’ anxiety is ruining my life, it’s turning small situations into a catastrophe in my head. It’s making me feel stressed even when I have nothing to be stressed about. It’s no longer just mentally affecting me, but physically it makes me sweaty and cold at the same time. It sends my heart racing and makes me feel like I’m going to puke at any moment. As much as I want to sleep and escape how I feel, I can’t because my anxiety wakes me up.” — Melody P.
11. “I am more able to express my feelings through my artwork as well as my photography, rather than paragraphs of words. This sheet I created turned out to be one of my favorites. I call this sheet ‘Turmoil.’ The reason I named this sheet ‘turmoil’ is to represent the words and sayings that consistently invade one’s mind while experiencing Depression and Anxiety.” — Chloe B.
12. “’High-functioning’ anxiety can be hidden through a fake smile or laugh. But really it’s consuming me bit by bit every day. This was me in hospital having constant panic attacks over and over with blackouts that led to severe anxiety attacks. Mental health is no joke.” — Heather A.
13. “’High-functioning’ in a nut shell. This is my service dog, King sitting idly by. Many days are in this view. Many times I’m overwhelmed and I have to just sit down. And that can get awkward depending where I am. I like this photo because of the content you don’t see. My world is spinning around me, but through the chaos is this handsome face staring back, ready to enjoy the beautiful day when I’m ready. It’s about perspective, something I have to remind myself to look at when I feel at my most overwhelmed.” — Kimberli H.
14. “Worst anxiety attacks happen to me at work.” — Orlando P.
15. “Managed to shower, but sometimes it takes hours to continue getting ready.” — Kelly-Sue O.
16. “This what an invisible illness looks like.” — John S.
17. “I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety, severe depression and PTSD in 2013 due to a traumatic incident I experienced while in the service. I manage to be as ‘normal’ as can in front of everyone at work, friends even sometimes with family and my wife. [After the] traumatic event, I’ve had all different symptoms happening all at once. I felt like every single bone in my body was shaking and any minute my whole body would collapse. But I got out of my car, greeted everyone with a smile and a proper salute. I even managed to look somewhat sharp wearing my uniform without any signs of slow neglect for my well-being… Little did they know my wife had to monitor me at home to make sure I get out of bed on time, get my uniform ready and ask me to shower with her so I can at least keep up with hygiene and grooming. No one see this mostly, but my wife.” — Johanna B.
18. “I’m getting ready for my nephew’s birthday party. I’ll be surrounded by people I love. No reason to be anxious. I wanted to take a selfie, I did my hair and took a few. All the colors and smiles I caught in the few I captured look like a mask and a person I don’t recognize. This is how I feel today, grey. I want to stay home.” — Becky T.
19. “This is what hiding anxiety and depression looks like after 10 years of practice. When I got home after this, I slept for 15 hours straight in order to be able to cope.” — James R.
20. “These were both taken at work. How I feel during a panic episode and how I look right after I’ve pulled myself back together. I still felt just as panicked inside, I just had regained control over the crying and, thus, my appearances. These were actually taken one day apart, but the anxiety, depression and panic I felt inside was equally strong in both pictures and on both days.” — Ryan D.
21. “Here is a representational photo of the internal progress I experience when dealing with others and my anxiety kicks in. On the left, you can see the face I continue to present to the world while inside my agitation and impatience grow until finally I am screaming inside. This generally goes something like, ‘Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!’ None of this is the other person’s fault and they may even be someone I admire, but my anxiety doesn’t play favorites when it comes to making itself felt.” — Christopher M.
Photos via community members.