But you look fine.
If you’re depressed, something in your life must be terribly wrong.
But you don’t look like you have an eating disorder...
These are just a few examples of the hurtful comments you hear when struggling with mental illness. It is both surprising and alarming the number of myths that are still around today regarding mental health.
They are slowly being spoken about, and the taboo is very slowly lifting. Education is increasing, albeit at what feels like a snail’s pace, yet these myths still persist.
Every day people across the world get up, get dressed and go about their daily lives, completely undetected to be struggling. From the outside they look as if everything is normal, however on the inside there is a battle going on.
While appearing 'normal' to those around them, they are fighting a mental illness. Be it anxiety, depression, BPD, or anything else. They are living with high-functioning mental illness. This might be a term you haven't heard before - it isn't one readily used. But it is very real for a lot of people.
High-functioning mental illness is a term used to describe those living with a mental illness that most people don't detect. It covers a broad spectrum; they might have a job, be studying, dress well, or even have the ‘perfect’ family lifestyle.
High-functioning mental illness means being able to go about most days as if there isn't a war going on in your head, or panic ricocheting through your body. High-functioning mental illness, like any mental illness, is exhausting, overwhelming and hard to deal with.
It is okay to be struggling, even if others can’t see that; and that my struggles are just as valid.
Struggling on the inside
Every day – well, most days - I get up, get dressed, go to university or a charity event and live what some would say is a very normal life for a 21 year old. I go to parties, I play a sport, and I even go on days out with my friends. I do it all with a smile on my face, presenting myself as a normal 21 year old going about life, and I suppose in most ways I am.
Yet on the inside every day I struggle with my mental health, be it low mood or anxiety. I worry whether what I am doing that day is going to lead to a panic attack. And although I haven't had a ‘bad’ one since I was in sixth form, it is a constant thought on my mind.
It's okay to say no
I am what may be described as ‘high-functioning’. I am also one of those people who finds it difficult to say no and loves to pack as much as physically possible into my timetable. I thrive on being busy, on being distracted and making a difference.
But, I am slowly learning that boundaries are important - that functioning on the outside doesn't always help you to function on the inside; that it is okay to be struggling, even if others can’t see that; and that my struggles are just as valid.
I often find myself wondering if I would have received more help if I’d shown my struggles more.
Functioning mental illness is a strange thing to live with. I often find myself wondering if I would have received more help if I’d shown my struggles more. And then I realise that it doesn't matter. That mental illness is mental illness, whether you are in a hospital bed or not. Whether you are visibly broken or not.
The struggles of every single person struggling with mental illness are valid. And every single person deserves help. So if you are functioning but struggling, then perhaps it is time to ask for help. Ask for some support because life is about more than just surviving, it is about thriving. And you deserve to thrive.
Ask for some support because life is about more than just surviving, it is about thriving.
More information and advice
We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.
Where to get help
However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.
Free, short-term online counselling for young people aged 25 or under. Their website also provides lots of information and advice about mental health and wellbeing.
Email support is available via their online contact form.
They have a free 1-2-1 webchat service available during opening hours.
- Opening times:
- 4pm - 11pm, Monday - Friday
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
- Opening times:
Supports people struggling with panic attacks, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and other anxiety-related issues - and provides support and information for their carers.
Call 01952 680835 for a recorded breathing exercise to help you through a panic attack (available 24/7).
- Opening times:
- 10am - 10pm, 365 days a year