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The Side of 'High-Functioning' Mental Illness We Rarely Talk About

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To the loved one who asked about my day, 

I said it was fine. It started out good, fell apart in the middle and is back on track now. You asked me to elaborate, to possibly even write it down, so here goes nothing. 

First off, thank you for asking and for allowing me to express this in my own way, and not necessarily the way that works best for you. Far too many will demand answers during times when I might not have any.

Second, my day did go well. I woke up earlier than normal. I was productive, got most of my work done, at least definitely everything I needed to do. Then it happened — I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t tell if I was hungry or not, sleepy or not, OK or not. But I knew from everything going on that I wasn’t OK. Within minutes I had gone from having productive work conversations, to nothing. I was shutting down, and for a while I did. Those around me tried talking to me, asking me to eat, or why I wasn’t eating or working, but I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t put any of this to words, because how could I? How could I explain this all, when my body was no longer my own? How could I convey the desperation in slowly losing control all your senses, and shutting down literally like a robot? How could I convey the frustration of this happening over and over again? I couldn’t.

For me, this is the side of “high-functioning” mental illness, depression and anxiety we rarely talk about. Sometimes, I can get everything done, quicker and better than many others. Some days, it seems like the world is mine, and I can get it all done. But just as often, I disappear and cease to exist for brief periods of time here and there. Mental health days help, inversely causing less shut off days. But it still hurts to know I will not always be there.

On most days, I am fully accepting of this fact. Most days I take my functionality as a blessing, and the moments of shutting down as time to reset, something I’m grateful for. But some days, when you really want to function and you can’t, I still get frustrated, and I need to remind myself of the big picture. I am enough with or without my functionality. I am enough.

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Originally published: January 28, 2017
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