The Mighty Logo

When You're Too 'Put Together' to Have a Mental Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

More people than I can count have told me I am too “put together” to have anxiety and depression.

They act as though the fact that I am in graduate school indicates my mental health is fine. Because it’s never “prevented me from doing what I love.” Anxiety and depression have never “held me back.”

What they don’t see though is that it has.

They don’t see the fight I’ve gone through to get to where I am.

They don’t see the days where I scream and I cry and I want to leave this world behind me.

They don’t see the days when I give up and start making my exit plan because I don’t think I can do this anymore.

They don’t see that I force myself out of bed to take a shower, because if I shower every day, then depression isn’t winning, right? Because depression can only have me, his claws can only be sunk in me deep enough to scratch my bones when I don’t care enough to shower. When I don’t care enough to leave my bed.

They don’t see that I leave my bed only to lay on my couch. That sometimes I spend hours just sitting in my dark apartment because turning a light on would force me to face reality. They can’t see that sometimes I go days without leaving my bed or my couch.

People don’t see that some of my best days lead to my worst nights. They don’t see the emptiness that consumes me after they drop me off at home. They don’t see the internal struggle to force myself to interact with people. They don’t see I’ve made tremendous steps in taking care of myself in the past 10 months.

They don’t see my tears as another friend cancels their plans to visit me. They don’t know how much I question my role in every relationship I have. They don’t know that I always feel like a burden. They don’t say anything as I constantly apologize.

They don’t see me watching a comedy only to randomly start crying. They don’t see me forcing myself to do things I know, on a good day, would make me happy.

They don’t see me hiding myself. They don’t really see my Instagram captions, questioning everything.

They don’t see the constant self-doubt. They don’t see the way I hurt. They don’t see the way I feel things deeply. They don’t see that when something hurts me, I feel it all the way to my bones and that pain has permeated my skin so much that it takes weeks or months or sometimes years for me to get rid of it. They don’t see the damage that has yet to be fixed from a decade ago.

They don’t see me reminding myself to breathe. They don’t see anxiety looming over me, reminding me she wants to consume me whole.

They don’t see my amount and quality of sleep decreasing. Because it should be increasing if depression has me in his grasp, right? All I should want to do is sleep. They don’t see I can’t. They see me functioning and participating in everyday life.

They don’t see anything other than what I allow for them to see. And what I allow for them to see, is me attempting to be whole. I show them me at my best. I show them the me that wants to be OK even though anxiety has wrapped her hands around my throat.

They don’t see anything beneath the surface. They don’t realize I am as deep and complex as the ocean.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via manuela bertoli

Originally published: October 23, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home