I am functional. I take care of my responsibilities. I get up every day, go to work, get dressed, and I perform. This is life, right? I just don’t socialize or find the need to do anything outside of what I have to do because my daily responsibilities are draining me. I’m here and I’m doing life to the best of my ability. 

Have you ever said this? Have you ever felt that life is happening and you are just existing? Going through the motions of your daily routine? Mental health is real; however, it affects us in different ways. We are all different and handle our emotions differently, so to say a mental illness will look the same in everyone is not accurate.

Let’s look at Depression, for example. Many people feel Depression must include someone sleeping all day, have no motivation, and have no energy, possibly not physically taking care of oneself (hygiene), along with isolation and changes in their appetite. Although those are warning signs of Depression, that’s not only it. There are some people who go to work or school, and still isolate, have no motivation, have no energy, feel worthless and hopeless about their life but are considered “functioning” adults. You can still laugh, play, and appear to enjoy yourself, but go home with negative thoughts. That’s a part of performing throughout the day. During their work or school week, they perform but given the opportunity they will remain in bed or in their house all day, alone with their thoughts. 

Some may wonder why I use the term perform. Well let’s look at the definition of perform. According to Webster’s dictionary, perform means to carry out, accomplish, or fulfill (an action, task, or function). Yes, some individuals suffering with a mental illness simply complete the task required of them to avoid a bigger consequence. Much like: I go to work so I can have a place to live, I’m in school so I may have a career, or I’m doing this so situations in my life may get better (hopefully).

Communication is key. It’s important that you are open and honest about your thoughts and emotions…not only to a friend or family member, but also to yourself. Take the time and the opportunity to be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and any changes you notice. Become familiar with the warning signs for depression, anxiety, and burnout to assist in identifying any changes in actions, thoughts, and/or behaviors. Most of us are familiar and accustomed to “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps”, “brushing yourself off”, and “faking it ‘til you make it. However, it’s okay to have a bad day or not be in the mood. Everyone has a day like that. It’s important to notice when those days become more frequent and turn into weeks and months.

Just because a mental illness does not look like what we assume does not mean it’s not real or it does not exist. We all handle things differently but we are impacted. Because I am functional does not mean I do not have a mental illness that I am facing. Some say, “Check on your strong friend”; but I encourage you to check on people in your life. Just because it does not look like what you think or assume, does not mean it is not real. Take the time to educate yourself on mental illness and know the warning signs to help those that may be covering their true emotions by simply being functional. Many of us were taught to get up and perform but it’s time for us to truly see each other and offer help. Let’s work to be more than functional.

Monretta Vega, LPC


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