I recently had a chance to talk about something I’ve never discussed on here — my exercise addiction — with CNN. If you have a few minutes, I really encourage you to click over and give it a read, because it gives a side of anxiety, depression, and OCD that not many people take seriously.
Are you back?
Great! I trust you clicked over so I don’t have to expand on it here, but long story short, it rules my life. It’s exhausting, and each night I lie there in bed in dread knowing I have to do it all over again the next day — because yes, it feels like I have to do it all over again the next day.
It’s a routine of desperation, not trying to change the way I look, but trying to tire out the thoughts stuck in my head.
I bring this up because it’s part of something I don’t hear about all that often — high-functioning mental illness.
High-functioning mental illness doesn’t look a certain way. Yes, sometimes depression is huddling in bed and crying for days on end, but sometimes it’s that person who appears to be doing it all, but can’t muster up the energy to make a dentist appointment.
Sometimes anxiety is panic attacks and nervous energy, but sometimes it’s plowing through a huge workload while battling that voice in their head that says they have to do more, more, more that never quiets down.
Sometimes OCD is hand-washing and counting, but sometimes the rituals and the routines are things that might look harmless to those on the outside, but that hold that person in a prison of their own mind.
They’re pulled between wanting to do it all and wanting to do nothing at all — sometimes in the same minute.
I can tell you that while it’s not often talked about, high-functioning mental illness is real, because I live it, as do many other people out there.
The obsessive thoughts carry over into my work.
I pride myself on my work ethic and enjoy the work that I do. But much like with exercise, I have never taken a full day off, not even when I had blood transfusions.
Like the thought of not exercising, the thought of taking time off — even for a weekend — terrifies me. I constantly worry that I’m not working hard enough or being enough of a team player and that I’ll be filing for unemployment.
But honestly, part of it is that a day off from work doesn’t mean a day off from my own mind. I would still have the obsessions, the exercise, the same thoughts — I can never. get. a. break.
All I want is a break from myself.
On paper it all looks okay — modest professional success, a clean house, bills that are paid. But if you look close enough, you can see it in cancelled plans or plans that are never made. In pictures never taken because I look so sick. In days alternating between anxious energy and waves of fatigue. In the panic that flashes through my eyes when anything changes that might affect my routine.
Oh, the routine.
It’s all about the routine.
I feel like if I slow down, I’ll lose something — my job, my grasp of control, my ability to get up and do it again — because I always feel like I have to get up and do it all again.
But behind my ability to do all these things I’m struggling to breathe, struggling to get out of bed in the morning, struggling to make it through the fog of depression each and every day.
I don’t know how I can be high-functioning, I just know I am.
So why dust the cobwebs off my blog and ramble here today even though I’ll probably regret it and obsess?
I guess because sometimes I high-five myself for mailing a bill or washing my hair. Sometimes the best thing that happens is that I made it through the day. Sometimes I long to crawl back into bed to try and escape myself.
Because it is all-consuming and exhausting.
Because it’s hard enough holding it together, but it’s even harder when people misjudge you when you when some days you just want credit for taking a shower, and sometimes you just want someone to know.
But mostly because sometimes I read something that reminds me that I’m not alone, that I’m not (that) crazy. Because maybe this post can do that for someone else who is struggling out there.
Because it’s real, and it’s okay to not always be okay every day.
It happens to the best of us.