High-Functioning Mental Illness: A Personal Story

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Have you ever looked like you had all your life together to others but inside you knew you were not ok? I have! In my case, it is because I have 2 high-functioning mental illnesses.

“But you have so much to be happy about.” “We all have bad days, it’s not that serious.” “It’s all in your head, it’s not real.” “Snap out of it!” “Stop feeling sorry for yourself and acting like the victim.” “Even if you feel that way for real you can’t actually tell anyone or they will take your kids.” “Happiness is a choice, just choose to be happy.” “You don’t look sad, you look fine.” “Just stop worrying!” “Stop being lazy!”

These are all things I have heard before from people around me.

I try my hardest not to let it get to me but unfortunately, I don’t always succeed. This is really hard to hear for anyone. But especially when you are struggling with your mental health. Even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside.

Image: Minnie in the car with family members
Can you tell I had just spent the last 2 days crying & was on the way to stand by my little sister’s side as she put her doggy down because of cancer?

High-functioning mental illness is a term used to describe someone who is able to maintain a high level of productivity and/or success despite struggling with their mental illness. This person can appear successful and put together on the outside. But may be struggling with feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, unexplainable sadness or worry, and difficulty in maintaining a positive outlook on life. They can even experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, headaches, and difficulty concentrating.

The most important thing about this is to recognize that high-functioning mental illness is not a sign of weakness or a lack of effort.

Image: Minnie smiling with friends
These were taken on 2 occasions when my mental health took a sharp downward turn. The other 2 ladies in these photos were also going through major depression. Unfortunately, the beautiful girl in yellow is no longer with us due to her mental health getting so out of control that she took her own life.

I, like many other people, have been diagnosed with high-functioning clinical depression and high-functioning generalized anxiety.

What does this mean? And why am I sharing my mental health struggles with thousands of moms?

What it means is that even though you can’t tell by looking at me, I seriously struggle with my mental health. The reason I am sharing this is that not enough people talk about this.

I think it is about time that we as moms don’t always have to be perfect. We struggle too. Even the moms that look like they have it all together might be struggling on the inside.

And guess what? It is OK not to be OK & you are not alone!

There is nothing shameful about struggling or needing some extra help. Plus, it is OK and should be encouraged for someone to seek help when they need it. If this article helps even 1 person seek the help they need I will be overjoyed. If you read this and feel you might need some help you can check out MentalHealth.gov/get-help or NAMI.

Image: An infant in a stroller in front of a white board that reads, "Make you ife a masterpiece. Imagine no limitations on what you can be, have or do." --Brian Tracy
When I signed up for voluntary outpatient mental health services at Mercy Hospital. I would go in 3 times a week from 9 am – 12 pm for 2 months with my 6-month baby girl in tow.

Mental health does not always look the same to everyone. Even someone who has the same exact diagnosis and background can present different symptoms.

I will use myself as an example. Like I said before I have high-functioning depression and anxiety and I also have ADHD. I have struggled with these illnesses while graduating with my bachelor’s degree with a 3.7 GPA. I struggled while being pregnant and having the cutest and smartest baby girl. I struggled while being in the most stable, amazing, and happy relationship I have ever been in. I struggled while getting up to feed the baby, visit the baby in the NICU, or while taking one of my kids to therapy to help them with their future. I even continue to struggle while having a fantastic job, great friends, happy and healthy kids, the best grandfather in the world and so many more blessings.

Mental illness presents itself in different ways and is different from one person to the next.

For me, it means that even if I struggle to get out of bed I need to because my kids need me, and I have to take them to school. What everyone does not see is I then throw myself back in bed not wanting to do anything else.

It means people see me smiling out at an event for Miami Mom Collective. But they do not know that I have canceled 2 other events just because I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house unless my kids needed something. It also means that I look flakey to people even though I am trying my best just to get through the day.

Image: 3 selfies of Minnie having fun with friends
3 Miami Mom Collective events with some amazing friends

Do you know what these 3 photos have in common?

They were all taken at a Miami Mom Collective event. They were also all taken on days that I tried canceling multiple times. My mental health was so bad at the time that I barely wanted to get out of bed let alone leave the house. Did I tell my friends that? Nope, I made up random excuses until they convinced me.

Look at this photo. What do you think I was feeling this day?

Image: Minnie and a friend at a Miami Mom Collective Bloom event
The day when I felt so hopeless I had to ask for help and signed up for an outpatient mental health program at the hospital.

Not many people know that from this photo, taken at an amazing Miami Mom Collective Event. There where I made some amazing friends, I was at the lowest point in my mental health journey. During this event, I pulled one of the NICU nurses that had taken care of my daughter to the side. I told her, “I need help. I can’t keep going on like this and I can’t find help. I feel hopeless.”

Thankfully, I am lucky enough that I have people around me who understand me and are there for me in so many ways. It can be as simple as an email reminding me that they are not mad at me even if I have not been able to keep up with my commitments. A text letting me know she is praying for me even during her busy life. A phone call to force me out of the house from a friend who figured out that I have been canceling on plans–not because of all these random reasons I have come up with but because I am struggling. Or a partner who has gone above and beyond by growing from a selfish child that didn’t really believe in mental illness to a supportive and encouraging partner who is always by my side and a great cheerleader.

Image: Minnie with her good friend
This was one of the most difficult nights in the last 13 years. I had been crying for 8 hours at that point & it was 5 am. My good friend literally did not leave my side for the entire 8 hours. Then she slept over to make sure I wasn’t alone and helped me keep distracted after to help me get through everything. That is the importance of a good support system that loves and understands you.

Want to know another mom’s point of view on her mental health journey?

You can check out these 2 articles from my friend Rachelle:

Mental Illness Awareness Week 2020
Maternal Mental Health Week: Supporting the 1 in 5 

High-functioning mental illness is a double-edged sword because people see me and think I can juggle it all effortlessly. Anyone that knows me knows that that is not true.

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Minerva Roca
Minnie is an outgoing, sweet, caring, and trustworthy 30-year-old Miami native of Cuban nationality. She is a mommy of 3, a 14-year-old girl, a 9-year-old boy, and a 3-year-old girl. She is a special needs mom. She loves everything having to do with self-improvement for the mind, body, and spirit. She has struggled with and currently has depression and anxiety. She is book smart, loves school and learning, and has a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources and Marketing. She is a Mompreneur! She is the owner of Minnie Roca – The Digital Marketing Mama Digital Marketing Agency, where she focuses on helping fellow Mompreneurs or Mom Business Owners show up properly on social to build their brand and drive sales while they focus on the revenue building portion of their business while still having time for their families. She is also the owner of Learning with Ms. Minnie where she makes educational printables for busy moms and therapists. To stay connected you can check her out at minnieroca.com or connect with her on her socials!

3 COMMENTS

  1. How brave you are for sharing your story and putting yourself out there. Thank you for leading the way for others who like you may need a beacon and a voice to take a step to heal. I pray that you find peace in your heart so the pain you carry is never to unbearable. May God bless you in your journey.

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