Have you ever looked out a window in the middle of the winter, filled with joy because the sun was shining bright? You see the lovely golden rays and assume it will be a little warmer than the overcast day yesterday.
How many of those days, however, did you open the door only to find the sun provided no relief to the sub-zero temperatures? How many of those days did you open the door to find you had made an assumption about the temperature, based solely on appearances? When it comes to mental illness, we often make the same mistake.
We assume mental health based on the presence or absence of the appearance of “functioning.”
We are quick to recognise mental illness in people who are bedridden by it. When we see someone functioning well by all appearances, we assume it will be a little “warmer” in their lives. We make an assumption about their mental health based solely on appearances.
We fail to realise functioning does not indicate mental health any more than the sun indicates warmth.
In the middle of a winter, we can’t make assumptions about the temperature until we have actually gone outside. In the storm of mental illness, we can’t make assumptions about mental health until we have actually delved into someone’s experience.
As we go through mental health awareness month, we at Libero Magazine want to bring awareness to one type of mental illness most often overlooked—high-functioning mental illness.
Throughout high school and early college, few people saw past my driven–by all appearances successful–lifestyle into my dark inner world. As someone with depression and an extreme tendency towards perfectionism, my fear of achieving less than my unrealistic expectations kept me running furiously on empty.
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Like a car driving on an empty tank of gas, I appeared to function from the outside while I wreaked extensive damage on my engine. I was on the brink of driving myself until I broke down, damaged and empty.
I am here today, however, because a couple people in my life got close enough to me to see my red gas light lit up. A couple of people took the time to tell me I couldn’t keep driving on empty.
They brought me the gas I needed and took me to a mechanic to start working on my damaged engine.
By recognising my high-functioning mental illness, a couple of people saved my life.
This mental health awareness month, we need you. We ask for your commitment to being those couple of people for someone else suffering from high functioning mental illness.
We ask you to commit to truly getting to know the people around you. In a world of superficial relationships, start telling people to be honest when you ask how they are doing. Start listening to what people are saying, and start following up.
We ask you to familiarise yourselves with the signs of mental illness and the various ways it can manifest. Check out liberomagazine.com or any other professional, monitored site for an abundance of information about this!
Start being a little more honest about your own struggles.
We are often afraid of burdening people with our problems, but in a world of picture-perfect social media lives, they often need to know you understand before taking the risk of opening up.
Finally, be willing to start mental health conversations.
When you truly connect with someone, you may notice signs of high-functioning mental illness. When you do, do not be too afraid to bring it up because you could start a discussion that may save their life.
This mental health awareness month, each of us has the opportunity to make a difference. Will you join us?