There is an interesting sense of guilt that comes with seeking help for your mental health. This guilt is particularly present for those of us that have what are considered “high-functioning” mental health issues. There is an ever-present voice in our minds that tells us we don’t deserve help. It tells us that we are not truly sick but rather just weak minded individuals who are complaining about nothing. We are able to go to work and function well in public, most of the time. This makes us feel like frauds for claiming to have mental health issues. We are the people you would say “I never knew” about.
It may seem like people with high-functioning mental health issues have it easier but that misconception is part of the problem. While we may not fit your image of a depressed or anxious person, it doesn’t mean that our symptoms are not severe. Just like you see us as being okay, we see ourselves as not being “sick enough” to seek help. When we have a particularly bad day and consider getting help, we immediately remind ourselves that we don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve help because we can make it into work every morning. We don’t deserve help because we have a social life and because there are so many people who have it worse. This belief is dangerous and is reinforced by the stereotypical depiction of mental illness.
High-functioning mental illness comes with an added level of danger. No one sees high-functioning mental illness so no one is keeping watch over us. We will do anything to hide our struggles, so no one sees the crying nights or the panic attacks. No one notices the person biting their lip to stop themselves from crying and no one sees the pain behind a smile.
If you are suffering from high-functioning mental illness I want to tell you it is okay to ask for help. There is no such thing as not being “sick enough”. If you are not feeling okay or feeling like yourself, it is time to reach out. If you are emotionally exhausting yourself trying to hide your pain it is time to reach out. For those of you who are not suffering, please don’t invalidate your friends or family when they tell you they are not okay. It has taken that person so much strength and courage to tell you so please accept it. Do not tell them that it must not be that bad. Please do not feed into this perception that there is one type of mental illness.
Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.